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Roasted pumpkin salad with spinach (or arugula), pepitas, & cranberries tossed in a tangy vinaigrette is a perfect blend of sweet and savory fall flavors, naturally gluten-free, vegan, and perfect for serving as an appetizer or side all fall/ Holiday season!
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Easy Fall Salad with Roasted Pumpkin and Spinach
Spooky season may have just about wrapped up, but with Thanksgiving around the corner, you won’t see us giving up on delicious vegan pumpkin recipes just yet. We’ve only just recently shared delicious Thanksgiving-worthy pumpkin cake and risotto – now it’s the turn of this light and healthy roasted pumpkin salad.
This salad combines slightly sweetened roasted pumpkin (or butternut squash, to enjoy year-round) with spinach, arugula, or other leafy greens, optional cranberries and pepitas, and a tasty vinaigrette. The result is a crowd-pleasing balance of sweet, savory, tangy flavors, complementary textures, and plenty of nutrients and antioxidants for a simple yet satisfying fall salad.
You can even roast the pumpkin several days in advance, ready to throw this salad together in minutes with minimal effort. Best of all, although this pumpkin salad recipe only requires a handful of ingredients, there are endless ways to adapt it to your liking with all your favorite fall ingredients. Keep reading for our tip-top recommendations to help create the ultimate vegan fall salad.
The Ingredients and Substitutions
The Roasted Pumpkin
- Pumpkin/butternut squash: It’s best to use a culinary pumpkin (not one for carving) for the best flavor. E.g., sugar pumpkin or gray/blue one. Butternut squash will also work or other types of winter squash.
- Olive oil: Or another cooking oil like avocado oil or coconut oil.
- Garlic powder: This is optional but great for adding an aromatic savoy flavor to balance the squash’s natural sweetness.
- Sea salt: To season – adjust the amount according to preference.
- Brown sugar: Or unrefined coconut sugar – just a little to encourage caramelization and bring out the natural sweetness of the pumpkin.
Add more flavor when roasting pumpkin for salad with warming cinnamon or nutmeg, cayenne pepper for heat, smoked paprika for smokiness, or cumin for earthy savoriness.
The Other Thanksgiving Green Salad Ingredients
- Leafy greens: Use a salad mix, spinach (regular or baby spinach), or arugula to pull together this Thanksgiving salad. Massaged kale (with oil) also works.
- Vinaigrette: Use your favorite store-bought or homemade vinaigrette with this pumpkin/ butternut squash salad. We particularly like making a simple balsamic vinaigrette with balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, olive oil, salt, and black pepper.
When making vinaigrette, the standard ratio is 3:1 oil to vinegar (e.g., 3 tbsp oil + 1 tsp vinegar). All the other ingredients can be added to taste.
- Pumpkin seeds: (optional) Use pepitas or home-roasted pumpkin seeds for added crunch, protein, and heart-healthy fats. Other nuts/seeds would also work (raw or toasted), like walnuts, pecans, pistachios, or pine nuts.
- Cranberries: (optional – or golden raisins) To add color, a little chew, and bursts of tangy sweetness. Pomegranate seeds will also work.
What Could I Add to a Pumpkin Salad?
- Roasted vegetables: For extra nutrients – plus, it’s a great way to use leftover veggies from Thanksgiving. Our favorites include:
- Brussel sprouts
- Quinoa pumpkin salad: Turn this spinach and pumpkin salad into a hearty, protein-dense meal with the addition of cooked and cooled quinoa. Other grains will also help bulk the salad, like wild rice, farro, or bulgur wheat. You might also enjoy our pumpkin couscous salad recipe.
- Pasta: Turn this into a simple pumpkin pasta salad with cooked, cooled pasta.
- Beetroot: Beet and pumpkin salad is a popular fall favorite. This earthy, jewel-toned root veg is a delicious pairing with sweet and subtly earthy pumpkin. Plus, it’s loaded with antioxidants. Use steamed or roasted beets.
- Pear/apple: The sweetness of diced or sliced apples/pears works well in this salad with roasted pumpkin. Use crisp apples like honey crisp, fuji, or pink lady.
- Radishes: Thinly sliced for extra crunch.
- Vegan feta cheese: A feta pumpkin salad is very popular, adding a salty, rich, creamy element to complement and balance the sweet flavor of the pumpkin.
- Lentils: Add canned green or brown lentils for a more protein-rich vegan recipe for this pumpkin salad.
- Fresh herbs: Like parsley, basil, cilantro, green onion, mint – to garnish.
How to Make Roasted Pumpkin Salad
- 1) First, preheat the oven to 350F/180C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- 2) Meanwhile, peel and cube the pumpkin (or butternut squash) into 1-inch pieces.
Follow my method here if needed, or save time by buying pre-cubed squash.
- 3) Spread the pumpkin across the baking sheet in a single layer, drizzle it with the oil, and toss with the seasonings using your hands to ensure they’re evenly coated.
Make sure not to overcrowd the tray. Use two if necessary.
- 4) Bake the pumpkin/butternut squash for 25-30 minutes or until it’s tender inside and lightly caramelized on the edges. Then let it cool for 15-20 minutes.
Alternatively, air fry the pumpkin in just 18-20 minutes.
- 5) Then, assemble the roasted pumpkin salad by first adding the leafy greens, half the pumpkin, and 2 tbsp of dressing. Mix well, then top with the remaining pumpkin and, optionally, the pepitas and cranberries. We like to keep the remaining dressing to the side.
- 6) Serve immediately, and enjoy!
Pro Recipe Tips
- Cut the pumpkin evenly: To ensure it roasts evenly in the oven. You can also save time by buying it pre-chopped.
- Save the seeds: And make roasted pumpkin seeds to turn them into a delicious snack or salad topper.
- For added flavor: Lightly toast the seeds in a dry pan until fragrant.
- Warm vs. chilled: We’ve enjoyed a pumpkin and spinach salad (or kale salad) warm before. However, serving it as a fall arugula salad or using other more delicate leafy greens will be best served as a chilled pumpkin salad.
How to Make Ahead and Store
You can roast and store the roasted pumpkin and dressing separately for several days (3-4 days) in an airtight container in the refrigerator, ready to use as needed.
Once assembled, it’s best to enjoy the spinach pumpkin salad immediately. If you’d like to store it, keep the dressing and salad separate in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. Only add the dressing when serving.
What to Serve With Roasted Pumpkin and Spinach Salad
This pumpkin salad is light and delicious yet filling, perfect for serving as an appetizer, side, or light main. Enjoy it alone or alongside:
- Soup (pumpkin soup, broccoli soup, carrot ginger soup, etc.)
- Protein (like pan-fried tofu/grilled tofu, vegan chick’n, seitan roast, etc.)
- A vegan cheese platter/ charcuterie board
- Vegan grilled cheese and other sandwiches
- Avocado pesto pasta, red pesto pasta, or pesto-stuffed mushrooms
- Thanksgiving sides (green bean casserole, cornbread stuffing, mashed potato)
You could also follow it up with this delicious Thanksgiving fruit salad.
More Vegan Salad Recipes
- Wild rice fall salad
- Vegan sweet potato salad
- Chickpea kale salad
- Vegan broccoli salad
- Sesame noodle salad
Or browse through our entire list of budget-friendly vegan salad recipes!
Photos by Alfonso Revilla
Fall Roasted Pumpkin Salad
- 3 cups of pumpkin or butternut squash, cubed in 1-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
- 1 tablespoon of garlic powder (optional)
- 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
- 5 ounces of salad mix, spinach, or arugula
- ¼ cup of pepitas (optional)
- 3 tablespoons of cranberries (optional)
- Storebought or homemade vinagrette
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a sheet pan with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
- Place the cubed pumpkin on the baking sheet and drizzle the oil. Mix well and then sprinkle the salt, garlic powder (if using), and brown sugar. Using your hands, massage the spices and sugar into the pumpkin. Adjust the cubes so they are in a single layer and not touching and bake for 30 minutes or until roasted.
- Once the pumpkin is roasted, allow it to cool for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Then assemble the salad. In a large salad bowl, add the greens, half of the roasted pumpkin and 2 tablespoons of dressing. Mix well and then top with the rest of the roasted pumpkin.
- Optionally, top with pepitas, cramberries and more dressing on the side.
- Serve immediately.
- Cut the pumpkin evenly: To ensure it roasts evenly in the oven.
- For a lighter fall salad: Omit the quinoa and add apple or other fruit instead.
- Play around with add-ins: There are plenty to choose from, all of which pair amazingly with pumpkin to discover your perfect vegan fall salad.
- To mellow the raw onion flavor: Soak it in ice water for 10 minutes before patting it dry and adding it to the salad.
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