Butternut Squash Salad

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

Delicious and easy-to-make Butternut Squash Salad is a great holiday side dish or seasonal salad. It’s loaded with perfectly roasted and caramelized butternut squash, candied pecans, creamy goat or feta cheese, and sweet dried cranberries. A maple-Dijon vinaigrette gives this salad the perfect finishing touch.

 

Overhead image of the butternut squash salad, freshly dressed.

Butternut Squash Salad

This salad is one of our favorites during the fall and winter. It’s comforting, hearty, and loaded with flavor. The maple-Dijon dressing is creamy, tangy, and luscious — the perfect topping for caramelized roasted squash, salty crumbly cheese, crunchy pecans, and sweet dried cranberries. 

We eat this salad often as a side dish or a main course (usually with some cooked and chopped chicken or steak) and it makes a great addition to a holiday table or to bring to a potluck — everyone always goes crazy for it!

Process shots-- images of the squash being chopped and coated in olive oil.

This salad comes together quickly and easily, but the squash does take a bit of preparation. If you’re in a rush, you can usually buy squash that has already been peeled and chopped. These bags of prepared squash are typically in the produce section with other prepared and cut veggies. They cost a bit more, but can be a lifesaver if you’re in a hurry!

How to roast butternut squash

  • Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  • To prepare the butternut squash, slice off the stems at both ends and then peel the entire squash. Slice the squash in half where the thinner end begins to widen around the middle.
  • Slice the thick end in half and with a sharp spoon, scoop out and remove the seeds. (You can save and roast the seeds for a fun snack!)
  • Dice the squash into even 1-inch cubes — the more even your pieces are, the more evenly the squash will roast!
  • Toss the squash in olive oil, salt, and pepper on a large sheet pan.
  • Cook in the preheated oven and stir about halfway through the bake time to get an even roasting.

Overhead image of the roasted butternut squash, fresh out of the oven.

How to make Butternut Squash Salad

  • Start by roasting the butternut squash (see previous section); let it cool to room temperature.
  • Whip together the dressing by combining all the ingredients into a small blender jar and pulsing until combined (emulsified).
  • Add all the salad ingredients to a large bowl: spinach, squash, dried cranberries, goat or feta cheese, and pecans.
  • Toss the salad with the dressing and serve.

Process shots-- images of the dressing in a Mason jar and it being poured over the salad.

Butternut Squash Salad tips

  • Use baby spinach or coarsely chop larger spinach leaves. The bigger the leaves of spinach, the harder this salad is to eat nicely.
  • Use a ripe butternut squash. You can tell a squash is ripe by the color and texture of the outer rind. If there are any green spots, the squash isn’t ready to cook. The skin should be hard (not glossy) and an even color throughout.
  • And while we’re talking butternut squash, you’ll want a very sharp knife to avoid any possible injury when cutting it, and to make the process easier. Here are step-by-step photos for how to cut a squash.
  • Use pure maple syrup (not artificially flavored pancake syrup) for the dressing. Pancake syrup will be overly sweet and is not the flavor we’re going for.
  • When serving Butternut Squash Salad for a party/event or holiday meal, I recommend making the candied pecans and dressing a day or two in advance. This makes the final assembly a breeze! It’s also a good idea to make both in advance as the pecans will have sufficient time to harden and the dressing has a chance to thoroughly chill and for the flavors to intensify.

Image of the salad with all the components compartmentalized over a bed of spinach.

How to make homemade candied pecans

Ingredients:
    • 1 cup white sugar
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
    • Just the whites of 1 large egg (save the yolk and use in these healthy pumpkin cookies!)
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 pound pecan halves

Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the white sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Stir to combine.
    2. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites, vanilla, and water together until frothy. Toss the pecans into this mixture and then remove with a slotted spoon. Put into the sugar mixture and toss pecans until well coated. Spread coated pecans onto a baking sheet.
    3. Bake in the preheated oven stirring every 15 minutes until pecans are evenly browned. This takes about 45-60 minutes. Let stand for 30-45 minutes and allow the pecans to fully cool and solidify. Coarsely chop for the salad.

 The recipe above makes about 1 pound of candied pecans, which is more than you’ll need for this salad. Making a smaller batch doesn’t really work well, but you can certainly halve the recipe or purchase pecans that have already been candied (or sugar roasted) at the store.

Here are some of our favorite ways to use up leftover candied pecans after adding to this Butternut Squash Salad:

You can store leftover candied pecans in the freezer (in an airtight container) for up to 2 months. They only need 10-15 minutes at room temperature to thaw out enough to eat. (At room temperature, candied pecans last for up to 2 weeks stored in a cool and dry space.)

QUICK TIP

Pecans aren’t the only nut that tastes great when candied! Try almonds or walnuts for a change of pace.

Overhead image of Butternut Squash Salad dressed and ready to be eaten.

Butternut Squash Salad Storage

This salad doesn’t sit or store well after it’s made. Once assembled, the salad needs to be eaten soon after; otherwise, the maple-Dijon dressing wilts the spinach, the squash gets mushy, and the pecans soften.

If you’re making this Butternut Squash Salad in advance, store all the components of the salad separately and cook the squash and assemble right before eating.

More seasonal salads

FOLLOW ALONG! Subscribe to my newsletter and follow along on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram for the latest updates, recipes and content.

Butternut Squash Salad

5 from 2 votes
Delicious and easy-to-make Butternut Squash Salad is a great holiday side dish or seasonal salad. It's loaded with perfectly roasted and caramelized butternut squash, candied pecans creamy goat or feta cheese, and sweet dried cranberries. A maple-Dijon vinaigrette gives this salad the perfect finishing touch.
Print Recipe

Butternut Squash Salad

5 from 2 votes
Delicious and easy-to-make Butternut Squash Salad is a great holiday side dish or seasonal salad. It's loaded with perfectly roasted and caramelized butternut squash, candied pecans creamy goat or feta cheese, and sweet dried cranberries. A maple-Dijon vinaigrette gives this salad the perfect finishing touch.
Course Salad
Cuisine American, Vegetarian
Keyword butternut squash salad
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 312kcal
Cost $6.12

Ingredients

Maple Dressing

  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoons (90g) pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (I recommend Best Foods/Hellmans)
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper

Salad

  • 1 medium butternut squash peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces (~4 cups; 558g)
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 ounces (142g) baby spinach
  • 3/4 cup (83g) candied pecans, OR honey roasted, coarsely chopped (Use store-bought or for homemade see Note 1)
  • 3/4 cup (95g) dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup (46g) feta cheese, or goat cheese, crumbled

Instructions

  • ROAST THE SQUASH: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Peel and chop the butternut squash into small bite-sized (1-inch) pieces. Place on a parchment paper-lined large sheet pan and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper. (to taste; I add about 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.) Toss the squash and spread in an even layer on the tray. Bake for 15 minutes; remove from oven and toss. Return to oven and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes longer or until fork-tender. Set aside and allow to cool for a bit before adding to the salad. 
  • DRESSING: Meanwhile, prepare the dressing. Add all of the dressing ingredients into a small blender jar. Season with salt and pepper to taste (I use about 1/2 teaspoon each.) Blend until smooth and emulsified. Transfer to a Mason jar and refrigerate until ready to eat. (Dressing is best cold!)
  • SALAD ASSEMBLY: Add the spinach to a large bowl. Top with coarsely chopped candied pecans, dried cranberries, and feta or goat cheese. Add cooled (to room temperature) squash to salad. Drizzle dressing over the salad. (You may not use it all, depending on personal preference; store any leftover in the fridge for up to 1 week.) Toss the salad and enjoy immediately.
  • STORAGE: This salad doesn't sit well with the dressing, so only dress what will be enjoyed the same day. Store any leftover salad and dressing separately. Pecans and cheese should also be stored separately.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Here's how to make a batch of homemade candied pecans 
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 large egg white (save the yolk and use in these healthy pumpkin cookies!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pound pecan halves
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside. In a large bowl combine the white sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Stir to combine.
  2. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites, vanilla, and water together until frothy. Toss the pecans into this mixture and then remove using a slotted spoon. Put into the sugar mixture and toss pecans until well coated. Spread coated pecans onto a baking sheet.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven stirring every 15 minutes until pecans are evenly browned. This takes about 45-60 minutes. Let stand for 30-45 minutes and allow the pecans to fully cool and solidify. Coarsely chop for the salad.
Nutritional information does not include the candied pecans. This recipe makes much more than you'll need for the salad. View the recipe to see its nutritional information.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 6servings | Calories: 312kcal | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 21mg | Sodium: 263mg | Potassium: 605mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 26g | Vitamin A: 15613IU | Vitamin C: 33mg | Calcium: 161mg | Iron: 2mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?

I love hearing from you when you've made one of my recipes! Tag me on Instagram at @ChelseasMessyApron or leave me a comment below.

 

Our Favorite Products
More Recipes You'll Love

Butternut Squash Curry

50 mins

Butternut Squash Curry

Click the Bookmark Icon to Add to Your Favories

Butternut Squash Soup

55 mins

Butternut Squash Soup

Click the Bookmark Icon to Add to Your Favories

Butternut Squash Tacos

45 mins

Butternut Squash Tacos

Click the Bookmark Icon to Add to Your Favories

Skillet Chicken and Butternut Squash

30 mins

Skillet Chicken and Butternut Squash

Click the Bookmark Icon to Add to Your Favories

FREE BONUS

FREE BONUS

EASY MEAL SECRETS:
How to Make Mealtime Hassle Free!

5 secrets to easy, fast and delicious dinners.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Leave a Comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




3 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This is a delicious salad, and I loved the dressing. The candied pecans are really yummy! I love everything together. Although, I think you forgot to mention how much water to add to the egg white and vanilla. I added 1 Tablespoon, and they turned out great. Not sure if my instincts were right on that. I”m curious to know how much is supposed to be added. I also added some blueberries to the salad which was a great addition. Thanks for another great recipe. 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    This is one of the best salads I’ve ever had. I didn’t have the pecans but next time I’ll add them-and there will be a next time!
    The dressing was delicious with real maple syrup. The squash caramelized around the edges and it was so good.
    Thank you for this recipe.

Never Miss a Recipe

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.