Recipes > Lunch/Dinner > Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad

Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad

This butternut squash quinoa salad features butternut squash, cranberries, apples, and an apple cider vinaigrette - the flavors of fall!
Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad

This is a variation of our grain salad base recipe. Quinoa is a versatile grain; it’s as easy to make as rice, has great texture, and is full of fiber and protein. This butternut squash quinoa salad features fall flavors and would be a great addition to a healthy Thanksgiving table

Learn How to Make the Base Recipe

Three Must-Know Cooking Skills

For recipe success, learn how to:

Culinary Tips for the Best Quinoa Salad

Never cooked quinoa before? There’s a first time for everything! Use our fluffy quinoa base recipe for more guidance.

For extra flavor, toast the quinoa in the pot before adding the water.

To speed up prep time, use pre-chopped butternut squash.

Be sure to toast the pecans for best flavor.

Ingredient Substitutions

  • Quinoa: any whole grain will work, but we don’t recommend using oats. Choose intact whole grains that keep their shape – brown rice, farro, wild rice, bulgur, wheat berries, or barley.
  • Butternut Squash: diced pumpkin, sweet potato, acorn squash, kabocha squash, or red kuri squash all make great substitutions.
  • Red Onion: substitute shallot.
  • Fresh Parsley: substitute regular curly parsley, but note that Italian parsley is more flavorful. Chives would also work. We don’t recommend using dried herbs in this recipe; fresh herbs add a brightness that can’t be matched.
  • Feta Cheese: substitute goat, blue, parmesan, or asiago cheese. 
  • Cranberries: substitute any dried fruit. Dice larger dried fruits such as prunes, apricots, or figs into smaller pieces.
  • Pecans: any toasted nut will work. Use sliced, slivered, or chopped nuts for best texture.
  • Vinaigrette: any vinaigrette dressing can work, but keep in mind the flavor you’re trying to achieve. If using store bought vinaigrette, select a kind with ingredients that you recognize. Use our ingredient guide for direction.

Recipe Variations

Want a vegan grain salad? Leave out the feta cheese.

Want more plant-based protein in this grain salad? Add a cup of drained and rinsed garbanzo beans.

Want some grain salad recipe inspiration?

Use our grain salad base recipe as a guide, or check out these tasty variations!

Grain Salad Base Recipe

Pesto Quinoa Salad

Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad

Mediterranean Barley Salad

Warm Farro Salad with Spring Vegetables

Equipment Recommendations

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Are Grain Salads Healthy?

This grain salad features quinoa, butternut squash, fresh and dried fruit, and an apple cider vinaigrette – all healthy ingredients!


Quinoa is technically a pseudo cereal grain, but because it is nutritionally comparable to whole grains, we group it alongside brown rice, farro, millet, etc. It is a unique plant food because it is a complete protein, which means it contains all 9 of the essential amino acids we need to get from food. Further, quinoa has a higher protein-to-carbohydrate ratio compared to other grains. 

Whole grains such as quinoa are good sources of fiber, phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Fiber is important for digestion, satiety, stable blood sugar, good cholesterol, and healthy gut bacteria. Phytonutrients work as antioxidants to help fight off diseases and keep us well. 

Butternut Squash

Butternut squash contains disease-fighting phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Different colored vegetables provide different benefits; consuming a variety of colors is ideal. 

Fresh & Dried Fruit

Fresh and dried fruits contain carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Dried cranberries usually contain added sugar to counteract their bitterness, which is okay. Do not purchase low-sugar varieties, as these contain artificial sweeteners.

Apple Cider Vinaigrette

A healthy apple cider vinaigrette dressing adds flavor and nutrition. Extra virgin olive oil provides heart-healthy fats. Vinegar provides probiotics, vitamins, minerals, acids, and antioxidants. These nutrients may help fight disease and control blood sugar levels. When purchasing apple cider vinegar, look for unfiltered varieties “with the mother”.

Learn more about health benefits of different foods and ingredients in our book, To Your Taste!

Serving Suggestions

Served warm or cold, this butternut squash quinoa salad can be a light, plant-forward meal on its own. It’s also a great side to another dish, such as roasted fish or simple turkey meatballs to make a beautiful Whole Life Plate.

Storage Recommendations

Want grain salads for lunch all week? Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days for best quality. 

Want more healthy fall recipes?

Check out these easy recipe ideas! 

Roasted Sweet Potato and Banana Casserole

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes

Apple Cinnamon Granola Clusters

Stovetop Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad

Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad

This is a variation of our grain salad base recipe. This butternut squash quinoa salad features butternut squash, cranberries, apples, and a homemade apple cider vinaigrette and is sure to satisfy!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Main Course, Salad
Cuisine Mediterranean
Servings 6 cups


  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup + 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 cup butternut squash, diced ½"
  • ¼ small red onion, diced (~¼ cup)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • 1 medium apple, diced (~1 cup)
  • ¼ cup toasted chopped pecans
  • Salt & pepper to taste


  • Prepare the dressing. Add the vinegar to a large bowl. Slowly add ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, whisking continuously. Set aside.
  • Using a fine-mesh strainer, rinse and drain quinoa. Place in a pot with water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed (~15 minutes). Look for a white ring that pops out when the quinoa is cooked. Remove from heat and let rest, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and transfer to the bowl with dressing.
  • While the quinoa is cooking, heat a sauté pan over medium heat. Add remaining oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add the diced butternut squash. Stir occasionally at first, then more frequently as the squash browns, ~10 minutes. Add the diced onion and cook for 5 more minutes, or until the squash is tender and the onion is translucent.
  • Add butternut squash, onions, and remaining ingredients to the bowl with the slightly cooled quinoa. Using a spatula, fold until well-combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!


For extra flavor, toast the quinoa in the pot before adding the water.
To speed up prep time, use pre-chopped butternut squash.
Keyword Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad

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