Butternut Squash Salad

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Delicious and easy-to-make Butternut Squash Salad — a great holiday side dish or seasonal salad. This salad is 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 doused 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. It costs a bit more, but can be a lifesaver if you’re in a hurry!

How to roast butternut squash

  • Preheat the oven to 400° Fahrenheit.
  • 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 on a large sheet pan olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  • Cook in the preheated oven and toss 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 this Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

  • Start by roasting the butternut squash (see previous section) and letting 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 cut it to avoid any possible injury and to make the process easier. Here are step by step photos for how to cut a squash.
  • Use pure maple syrup (not fake or pancake syrup) for the dressing. Pancake syrup will be overly sweet and is not the right flavor we’re going for.
  • When serving this 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 throughly chill and for the flavors to intensify.

Images 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 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.

Since it’s a bit impractical to make a tiny batch of candied pecans for this butternut squash salad, the recipe above does make about 1 pound of candied pecans. You can certainly half the recipe OR purchase pecans that have already been candied (or sugar roasted) at the store.

Below are some of our favorite ways to use up leftover candied pecans after adding to this butternut squash salad:

You can store leftover 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.)

Overhead image of the butternut squash salad dressed and ready to be eaten

Butternut Squash Salad Storage

Unfortunately this salad doesn’t sit or store well once being made. Once assembled, the salad needs to be eaten soon after otherwise the maple dijon dressing wilts the spinach, squash will get mushy, and pecans will soften.

If making this butternut squash salad in advance, store all the components of the salad separately and cook the squash and assemble right before eating.

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Butternut Squash Salad

5 from 1 vote
Delicious and easy-to-make Butternut Squash Salad -- a great holiday side dish or seasonal salad. This salad is 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 1 vote
Delicious and easy-to-make Butternut Squash Salad -- a great holiday side dish or seasonal salad. This salad is 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
Keyword butternut squash salad
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 277kcal
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 real full fat mayo (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 OR honey roasted pecans, coarsely chopped (Use store-bought or for homemade see Note 1)
  • 3/4 cup (95g) dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup (46g) feta 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 into an even layer on the tray. Bake for 15 minutes then 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 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 store in the fridge 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) and toss the salad. Enjoy immediately.
  • STORAGE: This salad doesn't sit well with the dressing, so only dress what will be enjoyed 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
  • 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 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.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 6servings | Calories: 277kcal | Carbohydrates: 38.2g | Protein: 6.9g | Fat: 13.4g | Cholesterol: 27.8mg | Sodium: 264.8mg | Fiber: 5.1g | Sugar: 26.3g

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One Comment

  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. 🙂

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