Active time:45 mins
Total time:1 hour 45 mins
Servings:4 to 6 (makes about 7 cups)
This past Christmas, after my mom sent me off with bags of wild rice and bottles of maple syrup, I returned to D.C. with renewed homesickness. As with many troubles in life, the antidote was food. To ease my heartache, I made a creamy wild rice soup, inspired by the many bowls I have eaten through the years.
Puerto Rican bistec encebollado reminds me of a home I barely know
The soup is a symbol of my reluctant love for my adopted state. After we moved to Minneapolis, the summer after kindergarten, I adjusted quickly to my new home, but for years, when people asked where I was from, I would pause before telling them “Minnesota.”
As the name suggests, the key ingredient in the soup is wild rice, which is native to the region and has played an essential role in the diets of Indigenous tribes, such as the Ojibwe, who lived on the land before the arrival of European settlers. Wild rice is actually a grain harvested from a species of aquatic grasses, and, unlike white rice, it has a nutty taste as well as a slight bite.
The traditional version of the soup is rich with butter and heavy cream (Minnesotans don’t do diet food well, but I’m not complaining). It’s also usually full of chicken and ham, grounding the richness with savory, umami flavors.
While I love the most decadent iterations of this dish, I re-created it here without any dairy or meat. My version hangs onto many elements of a more traditional wild rice soup — the vegetables, the roux, the creaminess — but relies on mushrooms and cashew cream in place of dairy and animal products. A couple glugs of dry sherry and a bit of thyme round out the flavors. I like a splash of sherry vinegar at the end to perk everything up even more.
Living in Washington has made me aware of just how round my “Os” are, and how the cold I’ve grown accustomed to year after year is so unfamiliar to the majority of people who live south of Minnesota. I miss the friendliness Midwesterners are known for laced through everyday interactions, the way strangers on the street will stop you just for a chat. I’ve come to realize that perhaps our identities are most sharply felt outside the communities they’re tied to, shaped by differences rather than similarities.
That difference, though, is beautiful to me, and why I was so eager to share this soup with my colleagues, many of whom had never before tried or heard of the quintessentially Minnesotan dish. They all universally loved the simple, hearty flavors and textures — it’s the kind of soup that reminds anyone who tastes it of home, even if they’ve never stepped foot in the state. Knowing that I can access that place through my cooking has made all the difference in the midst of such a big transition.
Now when people ask me where I’m from, there’s no hesitation. With dishes as warm and comforting as this one, I am proud to call Minnesota home.
Vegan Creamy Wild Rice Soup
Make Ahead: The rice can be prepared and refrigerated up to 3 days in advance.
Storage: Refrigerate for up to 4 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.
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- 2/3 cup (4 ounces) wild rice
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups (8 ounces) cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 1 small yellow onion (5 ounces), chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or finely grated
- 3 small carrots (5 ounces), chopped
- 3 ribs celery (3 1/2 ounces), chopped
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves, plus more for serving
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt, plus more to taste
- 4 tablespoons vegan butter, such as Miyoko’s brand, cut into chunks
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup dry sherry, plus more for serving
- 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup cashew cream (see NOTES), plus more as needed
- Splash of sherry vinegar (optional)
- Crusty bread, for serving (optional)
Rinse the wild rice for about 20 seconds. In a small pot over high heat, bring the water to a boil. Add the rice, cover and reduce the heat to low so the liquid is gently simmering. Cook until the rice is tender and cooked through, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from the heat and drain any water that remains in the pot.
In a large pot over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the mushrooms, stir to coat in the oil and cook, without moving, until they release liquid and it evaporates, and the mushrooms start to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are turning golden brown on all sides, about 2 minutes more.
Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions turn translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the carrot, celery, thyme and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, another 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the butter and let it melt completely, stirring occasionally, about 1 minute. Sprinkle in the flour and stir to combine it with the butter and vegetable mixture, until the color starts to darken slightly, about 1 minute. Slowly drizzle in the sherry, stirring constantly, until well-combined and very thick, about 1 minute.
Add the broth slowly, 1 cup at a time if necessary, and whisk or stir vigorously to combine, making sure there are no lumps. Bring to a simmer and decrease the heat to medium-low. Add the cooked rice and cook uncovered until slightly thickened, 15 to 20 minutes, adjusting the heat so the soup stays at a low simmer. Add the cashew cream and stir to thoroughly combine, adding more if desired.
Remove from the heat. Taste, and season with more salt and/or a splash of sherry vinegar and a few fresh thyme leaves, if desired. Ladle into bowls and serve right away, with crusty bread, if desired.
NOTES: To make cashew cream, place 2 cups of raw, unsalted cashews in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium; cook until the nuts begin to plump slightly and soften, about 15 minutes. Drain, then transfer the cashews to a blender along with 1 cup of cold water, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon fine salt. Puree until smooth, stopping to scrape the sides of the blender, as needed. If the mixture seems too thick, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time. The yield is 2 1/4 cups; it can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to 1 week.
You can also reduce the salt to 1/8 teaspoon and use 4 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of a vegetable bouillon concentrate, such as Better Than Bouillon brand, in place of the vegetable stock.
If not using sherry, you can substitute 1 tablespoon of sherry vinegar and 1/4 cup water.
Per serving (1 1/3 cups), based on 6
Calories: 419; Total Fat: 18 g; Saturated Fat: 7 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 419 mg; Carbohydrates: 31 g; Dietary Fiber: 3 g; Sugar: 6 g; Protein: 7 g
This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.
From editorial assistant Anna Rodriguez.
Tested by Ann Maloney; email questions to [email protected].
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