Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad

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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; it could be a great addition to a healthy Thanksgiving table! 

Are Grain Salads Healthy?

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

Quinoa

While we consider quinoa a whole grain due to its nutrient profile and cooking method, it’s actually a pseudo cereal grain! Quinoa is in the same family as Swiss chard and spinach (1). Whole grains contain fiber, phytochemicals, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Fiber is important for healthy digestion, satiety, blood sugar, cholesterol, and gut bacteria. Phytochemicals help fight off diseases and keep us well. Quinoa has 8 grams of protein per cup and is popular for being a complete plant protein (2, 3).

Butternut Squash

Butternut squash contains disease-fighting phytochemicals, 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 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 diseases and control blood sugar levels (4, 5, 6). When purchasing apple cider vinegar, look for unfiltered varieties “with the mother”.

Culinary Tips

Learn how to make perfect, fluffy quinoa for the best salad!

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, or barley.
  • Butternut Squash: diced pumpkin, sweet potato, acorn squash, or red kuri squash would all make great substitutions.
  • Red Onion: can substitute diced shallot.
  • Fresh Parsley: can substitute regular curly parsley, but Italian parsley is more flavorful. We don’t recommend using dried herbs in this recipe; fresh herbs add a brightness that can’t be matched.
  • Feta Cheese: substitute goat, 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.

Recipe Variations

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

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

Need some grain salad recipe inspiration?

Check out these grain salad variations!

Warm Farro Salad with Spring Veggies

Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad

Mediterranean Barley Salad

Serving Suggestions

This butternut squash quinoa salad can be a light meal on its own. It also makes a great side to another dish, like our roasted fish recipe. Serve warm or cold.

Storage Recommendations

For best quality, store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. 

Want more healthy fall and holiday recipes?

Check out these easy, healthy recipe ideas! 

Roasted Sweet Potato and Banana Casserole

Garlic Parmesan Green Beans

Apple Cinnamon Granola Clusters

Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
40 mins
 

This butternut squash quinoa salad features butternut squash, cranberries, apples, and a homemade apple cider vinaigrette and is sure to satisfy!

Course: Main Course, Salad
Cuisine: Mediterranean, Vegetarian
Servings: 6 cups
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  1. Prepare the dressing. Add the vinegar to a large bowl. Slowly add ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, whisking continuously. Set aside.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. While the quinoa is cooking, heat a sauté pan over medium heat. Add remaining 1 Tablespoon oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add the diced butternut squash. Stir occasionally at first, then more frequently as the squash browns; cook until tender and lightly brown, (~15 minutes). Add the diced onion during the last 5 minutes of cooking.

  5. Add butternut squash, onions, and remaining ingredients to the bowl with the slightly cooled quinoa. Using a spatula, fold until well-combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes

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.

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