Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad
If Thanksgiving weekend is the glorious, eat-all-the-things slow down, the week after it feels more like the hectic, eat-all-the-salads catch up. Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad is here to meet the demand. Wholesome, flavorful, and filling, it offers the healthy reprieve we crave after a long weekend of happy indulgence but doesn’t sacrifice on taste (it is SO YUMMY) or leave you hungry.
The ingredients in this roasted butternut squash salad recipe are straightforward, but once combined, they create the complete, colorful, and glow-giving salad I associate with shiny gourmet grocery store cases. You’ll love opening your refrigerator and seeing a container of it waiting to be your lunch or dinner.
How to Make the Best Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad
The ingredients you’ll need for this tasty butternut squash recipe are:
- Roasted Butternut Squash. Adding a touch of maple syrup to the butternut squash prior to roasting gives it a subtle sweetness and autumn coziness. If you want to save time, you can purchase the butternut squash precut into cubes, though I find that a Y-shaped vegetable peeler like this one or basic vegetable peeler like this one makes the job fairly quick and easy.
- Quinoa. Cooked quinoa gives the salad a pleasant nuttiness, along with filling protein and fiber.
- Dried Cranberries. A salad with cranberries is a happy salad. They add pleasant sweetness, good texture, and tang.
- Pepitas (a.k.a. pumpkin seeds). A win for crunch, toastiness, and savoriness, plus healthy fats and protein.
- Fresh Thyme. It’s here for warmth, color, and distinct fall-ness that is right on time for the change in seasons. It also makes the salad taste really special. Don’t be tempted to use dried. Fresh is where it’s at here!
Once you have your ingredients prepped, it’s time to toss them with:
- Maple Dijon Vinaigrette. It’s super quick and easy to stir together and plays harmoniously with the maple notes in the squash. A touch of apple cider vinegar cuts the sweetness and gives the salad a lightness and brightness that will keep you wandering back to the fridge to snitch an extra bite.
I’m loving this salad for lunch this week specifically, because Ben and I spent our Thanksgiving in Barcelona, Spain, where we took full (dare we call it excessive?) advantage of the tapas culture and late-night hours, squeezing in at least three places every night.
That said, this is also a butternut squash recipe I make regularly because I love its feel-good ingredient list, comforting flavors, and the fact that it keeps me full all afternoon. Here are a few of my other favorite ways to enjoy it!
- Change the Temp. You can enjoy this Butternut Squash Salad warm or cold. Try it both ways and see which is your favorite. It depends on my mood!
- Add Extra Veggies. If you have extra roasted veggies from another recipe or even leftover butternut squash (this Cinnamon Roasted Butternut Squash and this Roasted Butternut Squash Parmesan are great examples), feel free to add them in. Crispy Roasted Brussels Sprouts are another add-in I really like here.
- Add Some Green. I’ll often make extra dressing so I can mix the salad with greens. Butternut Squash Kale Salad and Butternut Squash Arugula Salad are two faves, and Butternut Squash Spinach Salad is good too, though I don’t think it has as much flavor as the first two. (If you use kale, be sure to finely chop and massage it first.)
- Make It Fancy. A sprinkle of pomegranate seeds is delicious and pretty. You can use them either in place of or in addition to the cranberries. This roasted butternut squash salad recipe is perfect for packable lunches, can be a dinner side dish or a main dish, and is elegant enough to bring to a holiday party as well, especially if you add the pomegranate seeds and/or goat cheese.
- Make It Cheesy. A handful of feta or goat cheese is ultra yummy if you have some on hand or want to add a dimension of creaminess.
Or you can enjoy this Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad just like it is ♥.
Make Ahead and Storage Tips
- To Make Ahead. Feel like a meal prep maven by making a big batch at the beginning of the week, or get a head start on your holiday meal by making it a day or two in advance.
- To Store. This salad will last in the refrigerator up to 3 days.
Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad
FOR THE BUTTERNUT SQUASH SALAD:
- 1/2 small red onion - diced (about 1/4 cup)
- 1 small 2-pound butternut squash - peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4-inch chunks (about 3 1/2 cups)
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock - or vegetable stock or water
- 3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
- 1/2 cup reduced-sugar dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup toasted pepitas - pumpkin seeds, or roughly chopped toasted walnuts or pecans
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme - or 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
FOR THE DRESSING:
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar - or white wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the red onion in a small bowl and cover with water. Set aside. (This keeps the onion’s flavor but helps soften its harsh bite…and endless onion aftertaste.)
- Place the butternut squash in the center of a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and maple syrup, then sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Toss to evenly coat, then spread the squash into a single layer. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until tender. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- While the squash is baking, bring the broth (or water) and quinoa to a boil in a medium pan. If you are using water, add 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and let cook 15 minutes, until the water is absorbed. Remove from the heat and let stand with the lid on for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork, then transfer to a large serving bowl.
- In a small bowl or large measuring cup (or a mason jar with a tight-fitting lid), combine the dressing ingredients: olive oil, vinegar, mustard, maple syrup, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Drizzle enough of the dressing over the warm quinoa to moisten it, then stir to combine.
- Scrape the roasted butternut squash and any pan juices into the bowl with the quinoa. Add the cranberries, pepitas, and thyme. Drain the red onion then add it to the bowl. Toss to combine, adding more dressing as desired. (I like to reserve a little of the dressing for adding to leftovers.) Serve warm or at room temperature.
- You can enjoy this salad on its own or try mixing it with arugula or spinach for an extra serving of greens. For the sake of streamlining the ingredients, I omitted the cheese, but if you feel so called, feta, goat cheese, or even a mild blue cheese such as gorgonzola would be delightful additions too.
- No butternut squash? Try swapping diced, cubed sweet potatoes (note that they may need a little longer in the oven to roast).
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
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