This roasted butternut squash salad with apples, shaved Pecorino, fresh arugula, and toasted pumpkin seeds is a fall classic. This versatile salad can be a vibrant addition to your everyday dinner rotation or an eye-catching centerpiece on your holiday table.
I’ve been cooking by feel recently, trading my usual methodical approach for something more experimental. We eat a lot of dishes that are good beginnings, maybe too salty, maybe not spicy enough. It feels a little like my first days of learning to cook with seasonal vegetables – unconstrained, imperfect, fun.
This butternut squash salad began with experimentation and less expected flavors, but through testing and tasting, I found myself loving a more classic spin. The process meanders a bit, but in the end, it leaves me even more confident in the resulting flavors.
Roasted Butternut Squash Salad: A Fall Classic
Roasted butternut squash salad is a classic fall dish that’s just right for a weeknight dinner or a showy addition to your Thanksgiving spread. I opted to keep things on the simpler side, with crispy-edged, maple-roasted butternut squash cubes, fresh arugula, sliced green apples, shaved Pecorino, quick pickled red onions, and toasted pumpkin seeds.
The joy of a good fall salad comes from layering the toppings and the variations here are nearly endless. Consider adding seeds or nuts, shaved or crumbled cheese, toasty shallots, quick pickles, shaved vegetables, pears, citrus, or persimmons, herbs, and more!
Swaps and Subs for Butternut Squash Salad
- Shaved fennel bulb, tossed with lemon and sea salt
- Onions, sliced thin or tossed with lemon and sea salt
- Greens, such as arugula, kale, chard, or spinach
- Shallots, fried until golden and crispy or tossed with lemon and sea salt
- Apples, tossed with lemon and sea salt
- Pears, drizzled with chili, lemon, and maple syrup
- Persimmons, sliced and tossed with lemon
- Pomegranate arils
- Citrus segments
- Dried cherries or cranberries, sweetened or not
- Toasted pumpkin seeds, tossed with sea salt or chili powder
- Toasted sunflower seeds
- Fried sage
- Crumbled or shaved chèvre, Pecorino, Parm, or feta, or fried halloumi
Take It with You
Broken into separate elements, this butternut squash salad travels pretty well. Roast the squash ahead and let it cool, and then place each of the elements in a separate container for travel. Allow the squash to come to room temperature, and then toss all the ingredients together just before serving.
More Classic Fall Salads to Try
- Kale Caesar with Parmesan-Roasted Butternut Squash
- Maple Roasted Quince and Brussels Sprout Salad
- Roasted Carrot Salad with Cracked Pepper Crème Fraîche
- 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- Sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground chili or red pepper flakes
- 1/2 red onion, sliced paper thin
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 medium Granny Smith, or other tart green apples, sliced 1/4-inch thick
- 4 cups sturdy greens, such as arugula, baby kale, or spinach
- 1/3 cup raw, hulled pumpkin seeds
- 2 ounces Pecorino cheese, shaved
- 2 tablespoons minced red onion
- Zest of 1 lemon plus 2 tablespoons juice
- Sea salt
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment.
Toss squash cubes with olive oil, maple syrup, and sprinkle all over with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, pepper, and ground chili. Arrange on baking sheet. Roast 20 minutes, toss, and continue roasting until the edges of the squash crisp up and are just turning golden, 10 - 15 minutes more.
Meanwhile, toss the red onions with lemon juice and a big pinch sea salt, and set aside.
To make the dressing, toss the minced red onions with lemon juice, a pinch of sea salt, and Dijon, and set aside 5 minutes. Whisk in the maple syrup and then slowly add the olive oil, whisking until mixture is emulsified.
To toast the pumpkin seeds, set a small skillet over medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and the pumpkin seeds. Toast 1 - 2 minutes, stirring all the while. Remove from heat as soon as the first seeds start to pop. Toss with sea salt and ground chili.
To assemble the salad, toss the apples and greens with a drizzle of vinaigrette. Taste as you go and add sea salt as needed. Arrange greens and apples on a platter, layer with butternut squash cubes and shaved cheese. Top with pumpkin seeds, more dressing, and lots of black pepper. Serve right away.