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This fall-inspired roasted butternut salad is loaded with texture and sweet, savory, tangy, earthy flavors, is naturally gluten-free and vegan, and is perfect for impressing this fall, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or year-round on your dinner table!
Table of contents
- Fall-Inspired Roasted Butternut Salad with Apple and Pepitas
- The Ingredients and Substitutions
- What Could I Add to Roasted Butternut Salad?
- How to Make Roasted Butternut Squash Salad
- Pro Recipe Tips
- How to Make Ahead and Store
- More Vegan Butternut Squash Recipes
Fall-Inspired Roasted Butternut Salad with Apple and Pepitas
The holiday season is just around the corner, bringing many opportunities to host, prepare dishes for potlucks, or just impress at your family dinner table. Along with all the heavy dishes this season is known for, why not lighten things up with a crowd-pleasing, vibrant, simple yet elegant roasted butternut squash salad?
Although it’s usually available year-round, butternut squash is technically a winter squash and pairs perfectly with fall/winter flavors like apple and pumpkin seeds, brightened up with a lightly sweetened citrusy orange juice salad dressing that adds heaps or sweet-tart depth (we’re obsessed!).
It perfectly highlights the season’s bounty, looks great, is well balanced, loaded with nutrients, and tastes great, too – what’s not to love?! Plus, it’s simple to prepare and adapt to what you have on hand. You can even roast the butternut squash and prepare the dressing in advance, ready to throw together fresh salads all week.
The Ingredients and Substitutions
The Roasted Butternut Squash
- Butternut squash: Use medium butternut squash. Pumpkin, other winter squash, or sweet potato will also work. Frozen squash should work, too, but won’t caramelize as much. It’s also a great way to use leftover roasted squash.
- Olive oil: Or another cooking oil like avocado oil or coconut oil.
- Cinnamon: To enhance the warmth and sweetness of the squash. Optionally add a pinch of nutmeg.
- Paprika: Use regular or smoked paprika, depending on your preferred flavor.
- Sea salt & black pepper
Optionally add cayenne pepper for heat, ground cumin for earthy flavor, garlic/onion powder for aromatic savoriness, and/or fresh or dried herbs like thyme, sage, or rosemary.
The Orange Salad Dressing
- Olive oil: Using light and fruity extra-virgin olive oil is best.
- Orange: Use unwaxed, as we’ll utilize the juice and zest. Optionally, replace the orange with apple cider vinegar for a tangier dressing.
- Brown sugar: Or unrefined coconut sugar/ maple syrup – add to taste.
- Garlic powder: Or double the amount of fresh minced garlic, if preferred.
- Coriander powder: Add to taste or omit, if preferred.
- Salt & pepper
Optionally, replace 1-2 tbsp of the orange juice with apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar for more tang. Alternatively, use another favorite vinaigrette.
The Other Butternut Lettuce Salad Ingredients
- Leafy greens: We like using a salad mix, though you can use a single lettuce variety (like butterhead) or make an arugula and butternut squash salad if you prefer the added peppery flavor.
- Apple: A crisp, sweet-tart apple (or pear) is most complementary in a butternut salad. E.g., honey crisp apple, Fuji, pink lady, etc.
- Pumpkin seeds: (optional) Use raw or toasted pepitas or roasted pumpkin seeds (or walnuts, pecans, etc.) for added crunch, protein, and heart-healthy fats. Candied nuts would work, too.
What Could I Add to Roasted Butternut Salad?
- Butternut kale salad: Kale is loaded with nutrients and perfect for a fall/winter salad. You’ll need to massage it with the dressing for 2 minutes to tenderize it. You can also make a butternut and spinach salad.
- Beets: Beetroot butternut salad adds complementary earthy beets for color, flavor, and a heap of nutrients/antioxidants. Use roasted/steamed/boiled beets.
- Vegan feta cheese: Make butternut feta salad using homemade tofu ‘feta’ or a creamy vegan feta alternative from a store.
- Grains: Enjoy a heartier, more balanced salad with a grain like butternut quinoa salad, butternut couscous salad, farro, wild rice, bulgur wheat, etc.
- Pomegranate: For tangy-sweet flavor and pops of juiciness and vibrant color.
- Cranberries: (or raisins) To add color, chew, and bursts of tangy sweetness.
- Dates: (or figs) Chopped for sticky sweetness.
- Pulses: Add heaps of fiber and plant-based protein with home-cooked or canned lentils, chickpeas, or white beans.
How to Make Roasted Butternut Squash Salad
- First, preheat the oven to 425F/220C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- Meanwhile, peel and cube the butternut squash into 1-inch pieces.
Start by chopping off both ends of the squash with a sharp knife, then use a vegetable peeler to peel it. Then slice it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and cut it across in 1-inch ‘moon’ slices. Finally, cut the slices into 1-inch pieces.
- Spread it across the tray, drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil and the cinnamon, paprika, salt, and pepper, and toss well. Spread again into a single layer once more.
- Meanwhile, in a jar, combine all the dressing ingredients and whisk/shake thoroughly. Set aside for the flavors to meld.
- To assemble the salad with butternut squash, first combine the mixed greens with half the roasted squash and mix. Optionally, lightly mash some squash so it sticks to the greens.
- Then, add half the diced apples, mix again, and garnish with the remaining apple and squash. Sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds and serve – only add the dressing when serving. Enjoy.
Pro Recipe Tips
- Cut the butternut evenly: To ensure it roasts evenly in the oven. You can also save time by buying it pre-chopped.
- To save time: You may purchase pre-cut butternut squash chunks.
- Save the seeds: Just like pumpkin seeds, you can save butternut squash seeds to clean and then roast as a snack or salad topper.
- Leave the butternut to cool: Otherwise, the delicate leafy greens will wilt. It’s best to roast it the night before if you have time.
- Only dress/garnish when serving: This ensures the salad stays crisp and the seeds don’t become soggy.
How to Make Ahead and Store
You can roast and store the prepared butternut squash and orange salad dressing separately for 4-5 days in airtight containers in the refrigerator.
Once assembled, it’s best to enjoy the salad immediately. If you’d like to store it, keep the dressing separate and only add the apple and dressing when serving. That way, the salad should last in an airtight container for 3-5 days in the refrigerator.
More Vegan Butternut Squash Recipes
- Roasted Curried Butternut Squash
- Butternut Squash Sage Biscuits
- Pasta with butternut Squash Sauce
- Thai Butternut Squash Soup
- Roasted Butternut Squash with Caramelized Onions
- Butternut Squash Mac n’ Cheese
Photos by Alfonso Revilla
Easy Butternut Squash Salad
- 1 medium butternut squash, seeded and sliced
- 2 teaspoons + 1 tablespoon of olive oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon of paprika
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
- ¼ teaspoon of black pepper
- 1 large orange, juiced and zest
- ½ to 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, depending on sweetness preference
- ¼ teaspoon of coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- 5 ounces of mixed greens
- 1 Honeycrisp apple, diced
- ¼ cup of raw pumpkin seeds (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. and line a large baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
- Put the butternut squash slices in the baking sheet and drizzle with 2 teaspoons of olive oil, sprinkle the cinnamon, paprika, salt, and pepper. Mix well and lay the slices so they are in a single layer. Roast for 15 minutes, and then broil for 2-5 minutes until butternut squash is slightly charred. When ready, remove from the oven and place the baking sheet on a cooling rack.
- In a jar, mix the remaining olive oil, juice of the orange, sugar, coriander, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Mix well and set aside.
- To assemble the salad, put the mixed greens in a large salad bowl, add half of the roasted squash and mix well. When mixing, mash some of the squash so it mixes and sticks to the greens. Then, add half of the diced apples and mix again. Garnish with the remaining squash and apples.
- Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds on top and serve immediately. Serve with the dressing on the side to keep the greens fresh and crispy.
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