Butternut squash salad is a perfect sidekick to have with your weeknight dinner or to make for lunch or a mid-afternoon snack. You can also make this festive Fall and Winter salad for your holiday menu (Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year's Eve). Or, share it with your family and friends at picnics, potlucks, and parties.
Tossed with a mustard honey-lime dressing, butternut squash salad will add fresh greens, veggies, and nuts to any dinner. This crowd-pleasing Fall recipe takes only 30 minutes and requires just 6 ingredients for the salad and 4 ingredients for the homemade salad dressing. It's so easy to make, yet it creates a stunning presentation with minimal effort. Perfect for Autumn and Winter holidays - Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's simple enough to serve with your weeknight dinner or to make for lunch and snack. At the same time, the salad looks sophisticated enough to share with your family and friends at parties or during holiday celebrations.
Butternut squash salad recipe - in a nutshell
- The peeled and cubed butternut squash is first roasted in the oven.
- Then, it's combined with baby spinach, roasted cashews, pumpkin seeds, feta cheese, and pomegranate seeds.
- Make the salad dressing with honey, lime juice, Dijon mustard, and olive oil. Toss with the salad to combine.
- The salad pairs well with all kinds of meat, chicken, lamb, pork, pasta, and seafood.
Why make it
- Healthy salad. This recipe is packed with nutrient-dense ingredients that are packed with fiber, minerals, and vitamins. The salad dressing is made completely from scratch (with only 4 ingredients!) so you know exactly what goes into it!
- Make it for the holidays. This butternut squash salad features spinach, cashews, pumpkin seeds, feta cheese, pomegranate seeds, and mustard honey-lime dressing - festive ingredients that are perfect for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve, or any other Fall and Winter holiday menu!
- Side salad, dinner, snack, or lunch! This salad makes a great meatless dinner option, or you can eat it for lunch. Add simple protein, if you like, such as rotisserie chicken, baked salmon, seared shrimp, sliced steak, etc.
Butternut squash nutrition
Butternut squash is a delicious vegetable known for its subtly sweet and nutty flavor. It's an excellent source of vitamins A, B6, C, and E, as well as several minerals, including magnesium, manganese, and potassium. Butternut squash is also rich in dietary fiber.
Is butternut squash a fruit or vegetable?
Did you know that botanically speaking, butternut squash is considered a fruit? Why? Because, by definition, fruit contains seeds and develops from the flowers of a plant. And, since all types of squash have seeds and come from the flowering part of plants, butternut squash is considered fruit! So, when you serve it to your family and friends, you can actually present this recipe as a fruit salad!
You need only 6 ingredients for the butternut squash salad.
- Butternut squash is the star ingredient in this salad. I used pre-cut cubed butternut squash which made this recipe really easy!
- Spinach is packed with nutrients and antioxidants. It’s high in fiber and a good source of many vitamins and minerals. Spinach is a great source of vitamins A and C, as well as folic acid, iron, and calcium. I used baby spinach.
- Cashews are packed with fiber and are rich in many nutrients. They are a great source of antioxidants, such as polyphenols and carotenoids. They are rich in many minerals, including Copper, Magnesium, Manganese, Zinc, Iron, and Selenium. These tasty nuts add crunch and texture to any Fall or Winter salad. I like to lightly toast them in the preheated oven at 350 F for about 10 minutes to add more crunch.
- Pumpkin seeds add crunch and texture. I like to toast them briefly for about 10 minutes in the preheated oven at 350 F. Watch the seeds carefully to make sure they don't burn.
- Pomegranate. Sprinkle the butternut squash salad with the pomegranate seeds (or arils) to add tangy and sweet flavor, creating a beautiful presentation at the same time.
- Feta cheese adds a salty and tangy flavor. This brined cheese is usually made from sheep's milk or from a mixture of goat and sheep's milk. It's easy to crumble and works great in salads.
There are only 4 ingredients in the simple homemade salad dressing. Whisk them with the fork in a small bowl or in a mason jar.
- Honey adds a sweetness that pairs well with the butternut squash salad. You can also use maple syrup.
- Dijon mustard adds so much flavor, color, and creaminess to this salad dressing.
- Lime juice - I used freshly squeezed lime juice. You can also use lemon juice.
- Extra virgin olive oil is the best for use in salad dressings.
How to roast butternut squash
- Preheat the oven to 400 F.
- In a large bowl, toss cubed butternut squash with olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh herbs (optional). Spread the squash on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet in one layer, without overcrowding.
- Roast in the preheated oven on the middle rack at 400 F for 20 or 30 minutes.
How to make it ahead
Lots of ingredients can be prepped in advance for this butternut squash salad so that you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your family and friends, especially during the holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. Here are some tips:
- Roast butternut squash up to 3 days in advance. Keep it refrigerated in an airtight container and warm it up slightly when ready to use.
- Roast cashews and pumpkin seeds in the oven up to 3 days in advance. Cool them completely and keep them separate from other ingredients to prevent them from getting soggy. Store them in a Ziploc plastic bag.
- Prepare the salad dressing up to 3 days in advance and store it refrigerated in a glass mason jar.
- Remove pomegranate arils from the shell. Keep them in a Ziploc plastic bag.
- The assembly should take only 10 minutes before serving for the best results and freshness.
- Tip: don't add the cashews, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), feta cheese, and salad dressing until right before serving to keep the salad fresh and to prevent the nuts and the seeds from getting soggy.
- Purchase peeled and pre-cut butternut squash at your local grocery stores. Many stores carry it during the holiday season and also in the Fall and Winter. This will save you a ton of time in prepping this recipe.
- Toast the nuts. If you're using raw cashews, toast them in the preheated oven at 350 F for about 10 minutes until the nuts acquire a beautiful golden color. Watch the oven carefully - the nuts can burn quickly. If you bought roasted or flavorful cashews, you don't need to toast them although roasting them briefly in the oven does freshen them up!
- Buy pomegranate arils in a container at a grocery store. This will save you time and you will not have to remove the seeds from a whole pomegranate.
- Use high-quality olive oil. I prefer to use extra virgin olive oil, labeled as first cold-pressed, and packaged in a dark bottle. Such olive oil usually has a distinctive peppery or fruity taste.
Variations, substitutions, add-ins, and helpful tips
You can easily customize this butternut squash salad with your favorite greens, veggies, fruits, nuts, cheese, or other add-ins or substitutions.
- Veggies. If you can't find butternut squash, you can use sweet potatoes instead. Sweet potatoes are usually available year-round so you can make this salad even when the butternut squash is out of season!
- Greens. Use your favorite greens - spinach, arugula, mixed greens, etc.
- Nuts. I recommend using cashews, pecans, or walnuts. If using raw nuts - toast them briefly in the oven to make them crunchy. You can also buy salted, roasted, candied nuts or flavored nuts.
- Seeds. Add pumpkin seeds (pepitas) or sunflower seeds. If using raw seeds, toast them briefly in the oven to make them crunchy.
- Cheese. I recommend using the following varieties: feta cheese, goat cheese (any flavor), gorgonzola, and crumbled blue cheese.
- Add fruit. You can add diced apples, pears, mango, orange slices, or mandarin oranges.
- Add bacon. Use regular bacon, turkey bacon, or bacon bits. Toasted (crisped up) prosciutto or pancetta will work great, too.
- Add protein, such as chicken, steak, shrimp, or salmon to turn this butternut squash salad into a complete meal rich in protein. Grilled chicken, leftover chicken, seared shrimp, and rotisserie chicken work especially well.
What to serve with it
Butternut squash salad will make a great side to any main course, adding freshness and healthy ingredients to any dinner. Serve it with cooked chicken, steak, pork chops, lamb, seafood, or pasta - just about anything. Here are some of my current favorites:
- Creamy Chicken Pasta with Green Beans and Bacon
- Vegetarian Enchiladas with Butternut Squash and Black Beans
- Creamy Ham Pasta with Asparagus
- Creamy Acorn Squash Pasta with Sausage
Other butternut squash salads you might like
If you want to discover other colorful and festive salads that you can make during the colder months of Fall and Winter or for Thanksgiving and Christmas, check out these recipes:
- Butternut Squash Pasta Salad with Brussels Sprouts, Pecans, and Cranberries
- Christmas Green Beans with Butternut Squash, Pecans, and Cranberries
- Fall Harvest Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash, Apple, Pear, Pecans, Pumpkin Seeds, Pomegranate, and Spinach
- Butternut Squash and Spinach Salad with Pecans, Cranberries, Pomegranate Seeds, and Poppy Seed Honey-Lime Dressing
- Fall Salad with Butternut Squash, Arugula, Dried Figs, and Almonds
- Roasted Butternut Squash and Brussels sprouts with Pecans and Cranberries
Butternut squash salad
- 1 lb butternut squash peeled, seeded, and cubed into 1-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- salt and pepper
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup honey
- 2 limes - juice freshly squeezed
- 1 cup cashews toasted, some of them chopped finely
- ½ cup pumpkin seeds toasted
- 8 oz baby spinach
- ½ cup feta cheese crumbled
- ½ cup pomegranate arils
How to roast butternut squash
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Toss cubed butternut squash (peeled and seeded) and 1 tablespoon of olive oil together on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper.
- Arrange butternut squash in a single layer (without overcrowding) on the baking sheet. Roast for 20-30 minutes, until softened.
- Proceed with the rest of the recipe while the butternut squash is in the oven.
Make salad dressing
- Combine all salad dressing ingredients in a mason jar. Whisk well with a fork, until emulsified. Add more lime juice to taste.
Assembly - Option 1
- I prefer to arrange the salad in individual bowls for presentation purposes.
- Add spinach to each individual salad bowl. Top with the remaining salad ingredients, including roasted butternut squash.
- Drizzle with the salad dressing.
Assembly - Option 2
- Alternatively, you can combine all the salad ingredients in a large serving bowl, add the dressing (just enough, you don't have to use all of it). Toss to combine.
- Roast butternut squash. Many stores sell precut cubed butternut squash when it's in season. That's what I used in this recipe and it saved me a ton of time! Roast it in the oven per recipe instructions and refrigerate it for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
- Toast cashews and pumpkin seeds in the preheated oven at 350 F for about 10 minutes. This is especially recommended for raw nuts and seeds. But even if you bought already roasted or flavored nuts, freshen them up by toasting them for about 5 or 10 minutes. Once, the nuts and seeds are cool, keep them in small sandwich bags until ready to use.
- Make salad dressing and refrigerate it in a mason jar with the lid for up to 7 days.
- Remove the pomegranate seeds from the shell. Or better yet, buy shelled pomegranate seeds in a container so that you don't have to do it.
The nutritional information on this website is only an estimate and is provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed. It should not be used as a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.