This delicious butternut squash kale salad has it all! Nutritious greens, roasted butternut squash, tart cranberries, crunchy pecans, creamy crumbled goat cheese and a homemade, sweet cinnamon vinaigrette dressing to die for!
It's easy to make, healthy and delicious. If you need a great side dish for Thanksgiving dinner, I guarantee this salad will be a hit.
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Fall is here, that means it's butternut squash season! I absolutely love this sweet and nutty squash and have found it to be really versatile in the kitchen.
Plus it's loaded with good-for-you nutrients, vitamins and minerals. It's even a great source of calcium (source: healthline).
If you're also a squash-lover, be sure to check out my Butternut Squash Ground Beef Casserole, it's been a serious reader favorite for years!
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Butternut squash: I like to buy a small squash, 1-2 pounds in size. Also, you can totally peel and dice sweet potato for this salad, instead of squash!
- Kale: I generally use curly kale but you can use another variety if you want.
- Extra virgin olive oil: For this recipe, I use olive oil to massage kale leaves and also in my vinaigrette dressing.
- Spinach: Another hearty, leafy, nutritious green!
- Seasonings: Salt and black pepper.
- Dried cranberries: I like to look for reduce sugar craisins at the store, but regular will work fine too.
- Pecans: Roasted and salted! You can also sub walnuts, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds.
- Goat cheese: Or sub blue cheese, feta cheese if you'd prefer.
- Grapeseed oil: This oil is very neutral in flavor and works great for making salad dressing.
- Apple cider Vinegar: Adds a nice, tangy flavor to our vinaigrette.
- Brown sugar: Sweeten things up a bit!
- Cinnamon: You just can't beat a cinnamon flavored dressing. So good!
How To Make Butternut Squash Salad
Keep scrolling for the full recipe card and measurements! We'll start here with a quick overview:
- Time to heat up the oven! Preheat to 400°F.
- Next, peel and cube squash. To save some time, look for pre-cubed squash at the store, it's sometimes available in the produce section. You can also cube your squash a few days in advance and store in the fridge for later.
- Lightly drizzle squash cubes with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt & freshly ground pepper.
- Stir until all cubes are coated and arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet (line with foil or parchment paper for extra easy cleanup, if desired).
- Roast squash for approximately 40 minutes.
- While squash bakes, chop kale and place it in a large bowl.
- Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Use your hands to massage oil into the leaves. Kale will reduce in size significantly when massaged with oil, this is normal.
- Chop spinach and add it to the mixing bowl along with the kale. Add cranberries, goat cheese and chopped pecans.
- Remove squash from the oven, let it cool and then add to the bowl.
Make salad dressing:
- Toss all salad ingredients together and set aside.
- Grab a mason jar or small bowl and add grapeseed oil, olive oil, brown sugar and cinnamon. Shake well or whisk until thoroughly combined.
- Plate salad and serve! You can toss the salad with dressing before serving, but I generally leave it on the side so people can add as much as they want.
- Vegetable peeler: butternut squash is much easier to work with if you have a good vegetable peeler. For the longest time I used an old, dull peeler and dreaded working with thick skinned squash. Finally, I broke down and bought a new, heavy duty vegetable peeler (it was super affordable so I'm not sure why I waited so long)! It's the best purchase I've made in a long time.
- Butternut squash: To save time, look for pre-cubed squash at the grocery store in the produce section. You can also prep squash ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for a few days.
- Feel free to get creative with this recipe, it's very flexible. Try a different type of winter squash or substitute walnuts or roasted pumpkin seeds for pecans. Did you find a fun, fall flavored goat cheese at the grocery store, give it a go! Love the cinnamon flavor in the vinaigrette? Add a little more! It's easy to have fun with this recipe and mix things up.
What To Serve With Butternut Squash Salad
Meatballs: The sweet elements in this autumn salad pair perfectly with my savory Ground Turkey Swedish Meatballs.
Pin it for later!
Butternut Squash Kale Salad With Cinnamon Vinaigrette
- Large baking sheet *Mine is 11x17 inches
Autumn Harvest Salad
- 1 small butternut squash *peeled & cubed *see notes below
- 1 large bunch of kale *chopped *around 4 cups
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups spinach *chopped
- Salt *to taste
- Fresh ground black pepper *to taste
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup chopped pecans *roasted & salted *see note below
- 1 4 oz goat cheese log *crumbled
Sweet Cinnamon Vinaigrette *see note below
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup grapeseed oil *see note below
- ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar *dark or light *packed
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Recipe notes:Butternut squash: I like to buy a squash around 1.5 pounds in size. This will yield about 4 cups once cubed. You can use the little scales provided in the produce section at the grocery store! Pre-cubed squash is usually available at the grocery store (especially when it's in season)! If you don't feel like dicing up a whole squash, or you're trying to save a little time, look for a package in the produce section. Pecans: at the store, look for pecans that are already roasted/salted. Packaging should specify! Buy whole nuts and chop them up or look for pecan "pieces." These work nicely and save a little time since you won't need to cut them up by hand. Grapeseed oil: this is a neutral oil that doesn't have a peppery flavor, like olive oil. Additional olive oil can be used as a substitute, but it will change the flavor a bit. Grapeseed oil is excellent for making homemade dressings, I definitely recommend adding a bottle to your pantry! It should be in the same area as the olive oil at your local grocery store. Vinaigrette: you might also consider trying some Zesty Apple Cider Vinaigrette Dressing on this salad!
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Peel and cube your squash. Drizzle with approximately 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss the cubes in the salt, pepper and oil. Spread them out on a large baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes. *Don't overcrowd your pan or the squash can become mushy.
- While squash bakes, chop up your kale. Place it in a large mixing bowl and drizzle with about a tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Massage the olive oil into the kale leaves for 2-3 minutes. By the time you finish massaging the kale, it will have decreased significantly in size, this is normal.
- Chop spinach leaves up and add them to the mixing bowl along with the kale. Add cranberries, chopped pecans and crumbled goat cheese.
- Once squash is done, take it out and allow it to cool.
- While squash cools, prepare your dressing. Simply combine all ingredients for the dressing in a small mixing bowl and whisk them together. *Tip: for a sweeter dressing you can add more brown sugar or some maple syrup to taste.¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, ¼ cup grapeseed oil, ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- Add roasted butternut squash cubes to the bowl and toss all ingredients together with two forks. This salad is delicious without any dressing at all, so I normally leave dressing to the side so that diners can add however much they prefer. Enjoy!
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