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.
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!)
SALADASSEMBLY: 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.
Note 1: Here's how to make a batch of homemade candied pecans
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.
In another bowl, whisk the egg whites, vanilla, and 1/2 tablespoon 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.
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.