If Shakespeare were a cookbook author, Maple Roasted Butternut Squash Freekeh Salad with Kale would have been his masterwork. This recipe is head-over-heels, make you act like a fool, write a sonnet about it, autumn romance.
I realize I often blab on about my love for certain foods (ahem, last week’s Brussels sprouts declaration), and it is because I truly cherish every recipe I post here—I wouldn’t waste either of our time by sharing a recipe with which I wasn’t smitten. Today’s recipe for Maple Roasted Butternut Squash Freekeh Salad, however, feels especially personal, perhaps because I honestly feel like I could eat some version of it every single day for the rest of my life. It has everything I’m looking for in a well-balanced, all-in-one lunch, and it would make a smash-hit side for dinner too.
This glorious whole grain salad is a fantastic blend of caramelized butternut squash, garlicky kale, whole grains, toasty walnuts, and tart cranberries, tossed together in a maple Dijon vinaigrette. It’s cozy, hearty, and tastes like retreating inside for comfort on a crisp fall day. I’d like to wake up every morning knowing that I have a little container of it waiting for me in the refrigerator.
Our salad sonnet begins with an ingredient I anticipate every fall, and might love even more than Brussels spouts: butternut squash. It’s easy to cook, sweet and buttery in flavor, endlessly versatile, and just generally makes the world a better place to eat. I roasted it in a blend of olive oil and maple syrup, which turned out to be such a good combination, I ate every little cube off of the third of this pan that’s conveniently cropped from the picture before it made it into the salad.
Next, kale! Is kale out of style yet? If yes, I’ll still keep rocking it with the same confidence with which I listen to late ‘90s music and quote old episodes Friends. Never quit with a good thing, especially if that thing is a super green sautéed with garlic and a tiny pinch of nutmeg.
Now, the building blocks and extra flavor: sunny cranberries, crunchy toasted walnuts, and Freekeh, a subtly flavored, pleasantly chewy (no mush!), and quick-cooking whole grain. I’m an ardent believer in using whole grains wherever possible, because they are much higher in fiber and protein than their processed counterparts. Translation: whole grains keep you fuller, happier and healthier too. Bob’s Red Mill introduced me to Freekeh, and now I’m hooked on its lovely texture and lightly smoky flavor—it’s the perfect grain to pair with roasted butternut squash.
To tie all of the flavors together, I shook up a maple Dijon dressing. It’s a little bit of fall packed into a jar: classic maple syrup, zippy Dijon mustard, and a touch of orange juice for brightness. Its flavor is marvelous with the squash and kale. Plus, I feel cool and hipster making it in a mason jar.
Finally, toss and assemble! Lunch, a love story, is served.
So now I have just one final question to ask: To Maple Roasted Butternut Squash Freekeh Salad or not to Maple Roasted Butternut Squash Freekeh Salad?
This is not a real question.
Maple Roasted Butternut Squash Freekeh Salad with Kale
For the Butternut Squash:
- 1 butternut squash (1 1/2-pound) peeled and 3/4-inch diced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
For the Kale and Freekeh:
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt divided
- 1 cup uncooked Bob’s Red Mill Freekeh
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 8 cups chopped kale tough stems removed (about 7 ounces)
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the butternut squash on a sheet pan, then drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Toss to coat, then roast the squash for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until tender.
- Bring 2 1/4 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil. Add Freekeh, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until all liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
- In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium, then add the kale. Cook and stir until wilted, about 5 minutes. If all of the kale will not fit in your sauté pan, add it slowly as it cooks down. Stir in the garlic, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and crushed red pepper and cook 1 additional minute.
- Make the dressing: Whisk together the apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, orange juice, Dijon, salt, and pepper until combined. While whisking, slowly pour in the olive oil and continue stirring until well incorporated. (Alternatively, you can shake all of the ingredients together in a mason jar.)
- Assemble the salad: Stir the Freekeh, butternut squash, cranberries, and walnuts into the skillet with the kale. Pour enough of the dressing to nicely moisten the mixture over the top, toss gently to coat. Transfer to serving plates and drizzle a little more dressing over the top. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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More hearty salads to enjoy:
- Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad with Bacon and Blue Cheese
- Quinoa, Chickpea, Almond Salad with Roasted Scallion Dressing
- Asian Noodle Salad with Sriracha Peanut Sauce
I created this post in collaboration with Bob’s Red Mill, for whom I am a brand ambassador. As always, thank you for supporting the brands and companies I love and that make it possible for me to continue to provide quality content to you!