Rice Pilaf with Almonds and Cranberries

Rice Pilaf with Almonds and Cranberries is perfect for your holiday dinner. An easy, make ahead side dish recipe that goes with turkey, chicken or ham or beef.

Sometimes side dishes get overlooked and sometimes they can steal the show. Be sure to try our Spicy Mushroom Rice and this tasty Cilantro Lime Rice for more delicious rice recipes!

rice pilaf in serving dish with spoon

Why You’ll Love This Rice Pilaf Recipe

We love making sides like this rice pilaf that everyone goes crazy for. This Rice Pilaf with Cranberries and Almonds is NO exception. It’s just as delicious served with your Thanksgiving turkey or your Christmas ham as it is a Simple Roast Chicken dinner.

What we love about this recipe – besides how it tastes, is that you can make it ahead of time and reheat it right before your holiday meal! Time saving recipes like this rice are life savers around the holidays, so we try and keep a lot of them on hand.

What Is Rice Pilaf?

Rice pilaf is a rice recipe that’s cooked in broth or stock instead of using water to make traditional rice. In American rice pilaf, we use a small pasta like orzo (as we do in this recipe) to add another layer of texture and flavor.

In addition to the toasted orzo, we’re adding slivered almonds for crunch (and flavor!). We’re also adding a touch of sweetness with dried cranberries – also festive for the holiday season.

rice pilaf with slivered almonds in skillet

How Do You Make Rice Pilaf?

For a complete list of ingredients and instructions, scroll to the end of the post to the recipe card.

  • STEP 1 – Start by cooking onion and garlic in butter in a large skillet. Add the rice and orzo and stir to combine with the onions and butter. Once the rice and orzo are toasted and light brown in color, stir in the almonds and then slowly add the chicken broth.
  • STEP 2 – Bring the broth to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes until the rice and orzo are tender. Fluff with a fork and stir in the dried cranberries and fresh parsley.

If you’re making this rice ahead of time for a party or holiday, it will stay warm covered on the stove top for about 30 minutes.

rice pilaf in skillet with spoon for serving

What Main Courses Go Well With Rice Pilaf?

We’ve already mentioned how delicious this rice recipe is with chicken, turkey and ham, but we’ll list a few more main course ideas here for you! Rice pilaf is perfect for your holiday dinner and for your every day dinners during the week or on the weekends!

cornish hens on bed of rice pilaf

Can You Make This Recipe Ahead Of Time?

Yep! If you need some extra time for your meal planning, especially if you’re making this rice around the holidays, you can make it a day ahead of time. When you reheat the rice, either in the microwave or the oven, add a splash of chicken broth to help moisten the rice again.

Don’t add the additional toppings to the rice until after it’s reheated, right before serving.

rice pilaf on serving spoon over skillet


Of course there are always ingredient swap outs if some of these ingredients aren’t your thing, or you don’t want to run bak out to the store – again. You can swap out different nuts like pignoli nuts (pine nuts) or chopped walnuts instead of the almonds.

Dried cranberries really give this rice pilaf tons of flavor but if dried fruit isn’t your thing you can leave them out. Or try using chopped apricots, raisins or dates.

Looking For More Thanksgiving Sides?

rice pilaf on serving spoon over skillet

Rice Pilaf with Almonds and Cranberries

  • Author: Dan
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x

This delicious Rice Pilaf with Cranberries and Almonds is going to be perfect on your holiday table! This rice recipe goes with both turkey and ham!



  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup diced onions
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup orzo
  • 1 cup long grain white rice
  • 1 cup toasted slivered almonds, divided (*see note)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh black pepper to taste
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, divided
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley


  1. Melt the butter in a large (12-13 inch) skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until softened, then add the chopped garlic, cooking 1 minute longer.
  2. Add the orzo and rice, stirring in with the onions and cook until the rice and orzo are toasted and slightly brown in color. This should take between 8-10 minutes, don’t skip this step as toasting the rice and orzo give the pilaf it’s delicious flavor and texture! Add 1/2 cup of the toasted almonds along with 1/4 cup of the dried cranberries and stir to combine.
  3. Season the rice with salt and pepper and then pour in the chicken broth and stir. Bring the broth to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the skillet and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the rice and orzo are tender and the chicken broth is absorbed.
  4. Remove from the heat and fluff the rice with a fork. Stir in the parsley and pour into a serving dish. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup of almonds and the remaining 1/4 cup of dried cranberries.

Recipe Notes

To make this pilaf ahead of time: Cook the recipe as written, without adding the additional toppings. Cool and transfer to a glass dish or container and refrigerate until ready. Remove from the refrigerator and warm in the microwave or the oven until warmed though. If warming in the oven, cover with foil and warm at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Once the pilaf is warm, transfer to a baking dish and garnish with the additional toasted almonds and cranberries.

This rice pilaf recipe can be made up to 2 days ahead of time.

  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: American

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