Main,  Vegan,  Vegetarian

Forbidden Rice Risotto with Black Beans, Mango, & Cilantro Pesto

It’s amazing how things change between childhood and adulthood. I remember my mom making wild rice for us as kids and my quiet disdain for those dark, chewy grains. Fast forward 20 (or something) years and I remember the first time I saw “forbidden rice” in the bulk bins of my local market. Maybe it was the name, or a challenge to my childhood self, but I was intrigued to buy some of this inky dark rice and turn it into something special. This was the recipe I developed a few years ago, initially as a side dish to some broiled salmon. And while it still makes a great side, I think it’s a stunning meatless main dish as well. It can even be made vegan with a few adjustments. So if you aren’t vegetarian or vegan yourself but you want to invite your meat-free friends over for dinner, this should top your list of options! It easily lends itself to a pre-dinner appetizer of chips and salsa or guacamole, as well as your favorite margarita.

Go ahead, give this a try. And don’t be scared to test out the cilantro pesto either. It’s simple to make, provides a vibrant bright green contrast on the plate and is the best way to use that massive bunch of cilantro you bought from the market but could never use up in one guacamole recipe.

Forbidden Rice Risotto

  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tbs olive oil (plus extra, if needed)
  • ½ medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ c white wine
  • 1 cup forbidden rice (also called black rice)
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 mango, peeled and cubed
  • 1 ½ tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp coriander
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbs butter (optional, omit if vegan)
  • Sour cream, for serving (optional, omit if vegan)

Pour vegetable stock into a small saucepan and heat to a low simmer. Keep stock on low heat but do not boil.

Pour olive oil in large saute pan and heat over medium heat. Add chopped onion and saute for 4-5 minutes, until onions are translucent and just starting to brown. Stir in minced garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in cumin and coriander. If pan is getting dry, add another teaspoon or two of oil. Add rice to saute pan and stir to coat in oil. Toast for 2-3 min, stirring occasionally. Add the white wine and stir gently until white wine is absorbed. Reduce heat to medium-low and ladle in a 1/2 cup of warm stock. Stir rice pretty regularly until stock is absorbed, then repeat the process with another 1/2 cup of stock. Continue to cook the rice in this way until grains are cooked through and are taking longer to absorb the stock. (Note: Risotto made with black rice won’t get as creamy as traditional risotto, but you’ll still get a nice coating on the rice.) Stir in black beans and cook for a few minutes to warm through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If using, stir in butter to melt and remove from heat. Serve with cubed mango, cilantro pesto and a dollop of sour cream (optional).


Cilantro Pesto

  • 1 cup loosely packed cilantro*, roughly chopped (stems included)
  • ¾ cup slivered roasted almonds, unsalted
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

*In my experience, cilantro tends to be sneaky in the way it holds on to lots of extra dirt and grit. To wash it well, fill a bowl with cold water and plunge cilantro into water. Swish around with fingers to loosen dirt. Drain water, refill, swish (this is a technical term), drain, and lay out to dry on a kitchen towel.

Combine cilantro, almonds, garlic, lime zest and lime juice in a food processor. Pulse to finely chop ingredients. Add olive oil and salt, pulse to combine. Taste and add additional salt if needed, as well as a few grinds of black pepper. Pulse one last time. Taste once more and adjust seasonings, if desired. Serve over Forbidden Rice Risotto, as a dip for chips, or with your favorite tacos or nachos.