This warm butternut squash salad with quinoa is mixed with spinach, dried cranberries, walnuts and Parmesan and tossed with an apple cider vinaigrette to give it extra flavor! It’s great as a side dish or vegetarian main dish.
We are *SO* close to Christmas and the excitement is definitely in the air at our house!
My kids (ages 7 and 5) are ALL about all things Christmas and Santa and making gingerbread cookies. We're reading holiday books and watching holiday shows and movies and of course, tracking our Elf on the Shelf.
The countdown is on and it's 5 days away!
(Plus, there's plenty of fun between now and then. We're decorating gingerbread houses, doing some more baking, having brunch with visiting family and all of our Christmas Eve excitement.)
All the festive fun happening! ❤️🎄💚
But amid all the cookies and treats, you know I'm trying to balance things out.
And now that we are into winter (well, officially it starts tomorrow but close enough), I'm all about the winter squash.
Previously I’ve shared my stuffed butternut squash with quinoa, mushrooms and spinach. And we love my turkey taco spaghetti squash boats.
And since you know I'm a veggie lover, I'm all about the winter salads too!
So today I’m taking some of those favorite flavors and making a delicious butternut squash salad with quinoa and spinach.
The quinoa clings to the butternut squash, which helps you get that yummy combo in each bite. I’m all about a bite where you get a bit of everything all together! 😍🙌
The spinach folds in easily, too and slightly wilts down from the heat of the quinoa and the butternut squash.
And finally, the walnuts and Parmesan add a nutty flavor to this salad and help balance the sweetness from the squash.
You are going to be going in for forkful after happy forkful!
Notes on butternut squash salad with quinoa:
- I use a butternut squash for this recipe, but read on below if you need a substitution.
- I use baby spinach and don’t bother to chop it. You certainly can if you want smaller pieces mixed into your salad.
- Walnuts are my go-to nut but you could use pecans here as well. Even slivered almonds would work.
- Feel free to use a store-bought apple cider vinaigrette or whip up the homemade version I included in the recipe card notes.
- I've even skipped the vinaigrette before and this salad was still delicious. It just adds a punch of flavor and tanginess.
I prefer this salad warm, but it’s also really good at room temperature.
I even sneak bites of this salad cold from the fridge, but I don’t think I would serve it that way.
However, it does reheat really well, so you can have leftovers for lunch or make this recipe when you’re meal prepping for the week ahead.
You can also add some rotisserie chicken or leftover turkey if you want some extra protein in this salad. I’ve done that before and it’s delicious all together!
Finally, a few more frequently asked questions about butternut squash.
What is butternut squash?
Butternut squash is a type of winter squash with a sweet, nutty taste similar to that of a pumpkin. It has tan-yellow skin and orange fleshy pulp with a compartment of seeds in the bottom of the squash.
What can you substitute for butternut squash?
If you can’t find a butternut squash, you can substitute another type of winter squash such as acorn squash, buttercup squash or delicata squash. You can also substitute sweet potatoes.
How do you prep a butternut squash?
First, slice off the stem and the bottom end of the squash, so that both sides are flat.
Slice the squash in half where the thinner top of the squash ends and the larger, rounded bottom of the squash starts.
Use a peeler or paring knife to peel the skin of both pieces. (You want to peel it until you get rid of all of the green lines and are down to the orange flesh.)
Cut each part of the squash in half vertically. Remove the seeds from the bottom half with a spoon and discard. (Or, save the seeds and roast them!)
Now you are ready to slice and dice the butternut squash according to your recipe’s instructions.
(Here’s a YouTube video if you want to watch this in action.)
So there you go, now you are a butternut squash expert!
It’s truly so delicious and it’s flavor shines through in this winter squash salad recipe.
I hope you give it a try and enjoy!
Psst, you may also want to check out these yummy butternut squash recipes:
For the squash:
- 1 medium butternut squash
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
For the quinoa:
- ¾ cup quinoa (uncooked)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
For the salad:
- 3 cups fresh baby spinach
- ⅓ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup chopped walnuts (or pecans)
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan or hard Italian cheese
- ⅓ cup apple cider vinaigrette (see notes)
- Preheat oven to 425.
- Cut off the stem and the bottom end of the butternut squash. Cut the neck of the butternut squash off from the bottom, wider part of the squash. Peel the squash. Cut each part in half. Remove the seeds from the bottom part of the squash.
- Chop the butternut squash in about ½-inch pieces. Spread on a large baking sheet (cover with foil or a silat for easier clean-up), then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on the thyme, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine. Spread the squash in an even layer.
- Roast the butternut squash at 425 for 25-30 minutes. The pieces should be tender and browned but you want to take it out before it gets too soft.
- Meanwhile, cook the quinoa according to package directions. Season the cooked quinoa with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
- Combine the cooked butternut squash, cooked quinoa, spinach, cranberries, walnuts and Parmesan cheese in a large bowl and mix well.
- Drizzle with ¼ cup apple cider vinaigrette, adding an additional 1-2 tablespoons, as desired, to get the salad well coated. Season to taste with extra salt and black pepper.
- Serve warm and enjoy!
You can use a store-bought apple cider vinaigrette or make your own (I included a recipe below). I've also skipped this before and the salad was still delicious!
To make your own apple cider vinaigrette in about the right amount needed for this recipe, combine the following in a small jar or container with a lid: ½ teaspoon minced garlic, 1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, ½-1 tablespoon honey (as needed for sweetness) and 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Cover and shake well to combine.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 225Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 8mgSodium: 602mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 3gSugar: 9gProtein: 6g