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A roasted pumpkin salad with quinoa, spinach, and walnuts tossed in a simple zingy balsamic dressing (all super versatile). It’s perfect for serving as a bright, flavorful, hearty appetizer, side, or main at potlucks, & dinner parties, either warm or cold!

completed Fall Roasted Pumpkin Salad on a white plate against a white background

Easy Fall Salad with Roasted Pumpkin and Spinach

When it comes to our favorite Thanksgiving and fall side dishes, we love creamy mashed potatoes, vegan stuffing, and creamy green bean casserole as much as the next person (i.e., a lot!), but we also love to have healthier options on our tables – and throughout fall – for balance. That’s where this simple roasted pumpkin salad comes in.

With just a handful of simple ingredients, this fall harvest salad is nutrient-dense (with plenty of plant-based protein, carbs, and healthy fats), super filling, satisfying, and delicious. It’s also perfect for fall as it’s super simple but loaded with hearty ingredients to transition from light summer salads to heartier fall meals.

More so, since it makes for a great Thanksgiving salad, we’ve also focused on simplicity of preparation. With cooked elements that can be prepped several days in advance, it’s easy to throw a chilled roast pumpkin salad together in just minutes with minimal effort. Alternatively, prep everything at once and enjoy this salad warm.

This fall harvest salad also makes for a great ‘base’ to adapt and add to. Since we’re on a budget, we’ve experimented with ways to create a delicious, easy fall salad that packs maximum flavor with minimum ingredients and cost. However, there are endless ways to play with this recipe (as listed below) all through fall.

Got any leftover roasted pumpkin? Enjoy hearty fall recipes like one-pot pumpkin chili, pumpkin risotto, a creamy pumpkin pasta bake, or 2-ingredient pumpkin soup!

The Ingredients and Substitutions

With just a handful of simple ingredients, this pumpkin salad is packed with flavor and is naturally gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, and vegan!

ingredients for Fall Roasted Pumpkin Salad against a white surface

The Fall Pumpkin Salad

  • Pumpkin: You can use cubed or sliced roasted pumpkin (we recommend sugar pumpkin or another baking pumpkin vs. a carving one) for this easy Thanksgiving salad. Butternut squash, sweet potato, or other types of squash/pumpkin will also work well.

We season it with just a little salt, pepper, and sometimes garlic powder. However, add more warming flavor with some cinnamon, cumin, and cayenne pepper.

  • Spinach: We prefer to use baby spinach. However, there are several options you could use for this Thanksgiving green salad, including:
    • Arugula (aka rocket. We like to use baby arugula)
    • Kale (massaged with a little oil to tenderize it).
    • Chard
  • Onion: You can use red onion, white onion, or shallots, finely sliced or diced. Roast it with the pumpkin, if preferred.
  • Quinoa: Use leftover (cooled) cooked quinoa to make a heartier, more protein-dense vegan fall salad. However, you can also use:
    • Farro
    • Couscous
    • Bulgur wheat
    • Wild rice/black rice
  • Nuts/Seeds: We love to use a combination of chopped walnuts (or pecans) and, optionally, some sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, or pine nuts for added crunch, protein, and healthy fats. For added sweetness, use candied nuts.

The Balsamic Dressing

You can either use a simple balsamic reduction or make more of a balsamic dressing, with:

  • Balsamic vinegar: I love the tart and zingy flavor of balsamic. Use balsamic reduction for a sweeter, richer flavor.

For added brightness, use a small amount of lemon juice too.

  • Olive oil: Use good-quality, light olive oil.
  • Maple syrup: Maple works particularly well with this fall salad, but other liquid sweeteners will work, too.
  • Salt & black pepper: To season to taste.

To add even more flavor, transform it into a maple-mustard dressing with Dijon mustard.

What Could I Add To Pumpkin Salad?

The simplicity of this fall salad makes for a fairly versatile base that you can add to in several delicious ways. This is even easier to do so on a budget if you have a cheap local farmers’ market close by.

  • Dried cranberries: Sprinkle in a handful for little bites of sweet flavor in this thanksgiving salad. Dried cherries also work.
  • Beetroot: This earthy, jewel-toned root veg (roasted) is a delicious pairing in this roasted pumpkin salad.
  • Radishes: Thinly sliced for extra crunch.
  • Vegan feta cheese: To crumble over the salad for a creamy, salty element.
  • Vegan halloumi: In slices, cooked in a grill pan.
  • Pulses: Add extra protein and heartiness with chickpeas, white beans, or green/brown lentils (we use low-sodium canned versions).
  • Pasta: Instead of quinoa, transform this into a delicious pumpkin pasta salad with the cooked pasta of your choice (short pasta shapes are best).
  • Pear/apple: The sweetness of finely diced or sliced apples or pears works very well with the roasted pumpkin in this easy fall salad. Use crisp, sweet apples like honey crisp, fuji, or pink lady apples.
  • Other fruits: Pomegranate seeds and figs are welcome additions to an easy Thanksgiving salad alone, together, or alongside apple/pear.
  • Roasted vegetables: For extra nutrients, texture, and caramelized flavor. Plus, it’s a great way to use leftover veggies from Thanksgiving.

We recommend adding thinly sliced apple, pomegranate seeds, roasted sprouts or beetroot, and vegan feta to the base roasted pumpkin salad for a fully loaded fall harvest salad.

How to Make Roasted Pumpkin Salad

  • 1) First, if you haven’t already prepared the roasted pumpkin and cooked quinoa, then do so now. Also, leave time for the quinoa to cool if you want a chilled salad.

How To Roast Pumpkin for Salad

Peel and chop it into 1-inch cubes (refer to FAQs). Then toss it with a bit of oil, salt, and pepper and spread it across a parchment-lined baking tray.

Bake in a preheated oven at 400F/205C for 25-30 minutes until tender and lightly caramelized.

  • 2) Then, peel and dice or slice the onion and chop the walnuts.
  • 3) Next, transfer everything to a large serving dish and toss gently to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then enjoy!
process shot of adding ingredients to bowl for Fall Roasted Pumpkin Salad

FAQs

What is the best pumpkin for roasting?

For this roasted pumpkin salad, we recommend using a sugar pumpkin, which is smaller, sweeter, and more flavorful. Your grocery store may also label the pumpkins separately as culinary vs. carving pumpkins.

While carving pumpkins are technically edible, they aren’t as flavorful.

How to prepare pumpkin for roasting?

While this vegan fall salad is super simple to throw together, if you aren’t used to prepping pumpkins, this can take some time. Here’s what you need to do:

1) First, rinse the pumpkin and pat it dry. Then, using a sharp chef’s knife, lay it on its side and slice away the stem.
2) Place the pumpkin upright and cut the pumpkin in half going downwards through the middle. It can help to microwave it for a minute.
3) Use a spoon or ice cream scoop to remove the membrane/seedy part.
4) Then, chop each pumpkin half into smaller 1-inch half-moon strips.
5) Use a vegetable peeler to remove the peel from each strip. Then, finally, use the knife to cut each of those pieces into 1-inch cubes.

Alternatively, you can roast it in larger wedges with the peel on, then peel it after baking (it’ll come off super easily) and chop it down to size.

Top Recipe Tips and Notes

  • 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.
  • Adjust the quinoa ratio: Based on whether you want it lightly studded throughout the pumpkin salad or prefer a heartier quinoa-based dish.
  • For added flavor: Toast the nuts/seeds in a dry pan until fragrant.
completed Fall Roasted Pumpkin Salad on a white plate against a white background

How to Make Ahead and Store?

You can store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 1-2 days (3-5 days if you keep the balsamic separate until serving).

To simplify the prep, you can roast the pumpkin and prepare the quinoa up to 3-4 days before preparing this easy fall salad. Then, store them in airtight containers in the fridge until ready to use.

Serving Recommendations

This is a simple, nutritious, and delicious vegan fall salad perfect for enjoying as a light lunch or alongside:

It also makes for a delicious vegan Thanksgiving salad for those who want a lighter option on the table to cut through all the heavy comfort food.

More Vegan Side Salad Recipes

Or browse through our entire list of budget-friendly vegan salad recipes!

Photos by Alfonso Revilla

Fall Roasted Pumpkin Salad

5 from 37 votes
Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Total: 35 mins
Servings: 2 servings
A roasted pumpkin salad with quinoa, spinach, and walnuts tossed in a simple zingy balsamic dressing (all super versatile). It’s perfect for serving as a bright, flavorful, hearty appetizer, side, or main at potlucks, & dinner parties, either warm or cold!

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups of baby spinach
  • 1 cup of cooked pumpkin
  • ¼ of an onion diced
  • ¼ cup of cooked quinoa
  • 1 teaspoon of sunflower seeds (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons of chopped walnuts
  • ½ Tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions 

  • Toss all the ingredients in a large bowl.

Notes

Serve alongside your favorite soup or sandwich.
  • 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.

Nutrition

Calories: 139kcalCarbohydrates: 14gProtein: 5gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 6gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 47mgPotassium: 489mgFiber: 3gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 7755IUVitamin C: 15mgCalcium: 62mgIron: 2mg

Disclaimer: Although plantbasedonabudget.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, kindly note that these are only estimates. Nutritional information may be affected based on the product type, the brand that was purchased, and in other unforeseeable ways. Plantbasedonabudget.com will not be held liable for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information. If you need to follow a specific caloric regimen, please consult your doctor first.

Additional Info

Author: Zhoro Apostolov
Course: Dinner, Lunch, Salads
Cuisine: American
Method: No Cook
Diet: Vegan
Keywords: balsamic, dairy free, dressing, easy salad, fall, Fall Salad, gluten free, holiday recipes, make ahead, quick, soy free, thanksgiving recipes, Vegan Salads, vegetarian
Tried this recipe?Please tag us at @PlantBasedOnABudget! 🙂

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    The pumpkin and spinach are a great combination. I wasn’t sure but wow it worked. I love anything with balsamic too!