This ultimate Fall Salad is loaded with roasted butternut squash, toasted pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, baby spinach, creamy goat cheese, and bow-tie pasta. The Autumn-style homemade salad dressing combines together just 4 ingredients: olive oil, Dijon mustard, maple syrup, and lime juice. This is a must-try recipe to make in the Fall and Winter. It also makes a festive side dish for the holidays (Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, and Christmas).
Fall salad with butternut squash and pumpkin seeds
If you're looking for the ultimate Fall salad that uses seasonal Autumn harvest ingredients, you'll love this crowd-pleasing festive recipe. Loaded with roasted Butternut squash, spinach, toasted pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, spinach, goat cheese, and bow-tie pasta, this Fall harvest salad combines sweet, savory, and tangy flavors. It tastes like comfort food yet features so many healthy, fresh, colorful, and nutrient-dense ingredients. You can customize it to your preferences and use your favorite veggies, greens, fruit, nuts, and cheese - the recipe is very flexible and easily adjustable. The homemade Maple-Lime dressing can be used with any other Autumn and Winter salads. It's a must-try holiday salad to share with your friends and family during Thanksgiving (or Friendsgiving) and Christmas. Because this salad is packed with so many nutritious ingredients, you can serve this as a side dish with a Fall meal, such as this creamy butternut squash pasta with sausage and spinach, or with a delicious Autumn chicken dinner.
Why make it
- Simple recipe. This is one of those salads that are really easy to make (perfect for those busy weekdays!) even though it looks sophisticated enough to serve a company. The only time-consuming part is roasting the butternut squash but this can be done a day or 3 days in advance. Once you have roasted the butternut squash, the recipe takes only 20 minutes to assemble!
- Side dish, lunch, or snack. Because this Fall salad features pasta, you can serve this not only as a side salad, but turn this into a side dish, make it for lunch or a midday snack.
- Holiday showstopper. Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Spinach, Pumpkin Seeds, Cranberries, Goat Cheese, and Pasta will make a festive and delicious addition to your holiday menu on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
- Make something different. This recipe not only features traditional Fall salad ingredients, such as butternut squash, pumpkin seeds, and dried cranberries, but it also includes bow-tie pasta. All these ingredients pair really well with the maple-lime mustard dressing.
This recipe features a lot of healthy and nutritious ingredients that we often associate with the Fall harvest.
- Roasted butternut squash. This is the only time-consuming part of the recipe, but it can also be done 1 or 3 days in advance. Butternut squash is the ultimate Fall vegetable and can be hard to find outside of its growing season.
- Spinach is a delicious and beautiful vegetable - a perfect choice of green for a Fall salad. You can also use peppery arugula, kale, or your favorite greens instead.
- Dried cranberries - their sweetness pairs perfectly with the butternut squash and spinach.
- Roasted pepitas. Lightly roasted hulled pumpkin seeds add crunch and nutty flavor to this Autumn salad.
- Goat cheese adds creaminess.
- Bow-tie pasta goes really well with the Maple-Lime Mustard dressing and the butternut squash salad, also creating a beautiful presentation.
- Fresh thyme. Just a small amount of this fresh herb goes a long way!
- Simple maple-lime vinaigrette. To keep everything simple, the salad is dressed with a basic homemade vinaigrette made with just 4 ingredients: maple syrup, lime juice, Dijon mustard, and extra virgin olive oil.
How to roast butternut squash
- First, make sure you have peeled, seeded, and cubed butternut squash. (Check out my very detailed basic recipe for roasted butternut squash.)
- Toss peeled cubed butternut squash with olive oil, salt, ground black pepper, and optional fresh thyme (leaves only, no sprigs) on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet in one layer, without overcrowding.
- Roast on the middle rack in the preheated oven at 400 F for about 20 or 30 minutes. Remove from oven.
How to toast pumpkin seeds
When I use the word pumpkin seeds, I mean seeds without shells on. Sometimes, they are called pepitas. I often buy raw pumpkin seeds and then toast them in the oven. This adds richness and depth of flavor. You don't need olive oil or salt to do it - just toast the shell-less seeds as is - the flavor is rich enough to stand on its own.
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Spread hulled pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet.
- Toast them in the oven for about 10 minutes until they turn a little bit brown but still retain their green color somewhat.
How to make Fall salad
- In a large bowl, combined roasted cubed butternut squash, fresh baby spinach, roasted pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, cooked bow-tie pasta, and goat cheese.
- In a mason jar, combine the salad dressing ingredients (maple syrup, lime juice, Dijon mustard, and olive oil) and whisk with the fork to emulsify.
- Add salad dressing to the bowl with the salad and toss to combine.
You can easily customize this Fall 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 Fall salad even when the butternut squash is out of season, for example, in the Summer!
- Add nuts. You can add toasted pecans or walnuts. Candied nuts would work great too.
- Dried fruit. You can use dried cranberries, blueberries, figs, or cherries.
- Greens. Use your favorite greens - spinach, arugula, mixed greens, etc.
- 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.
- Buy pre-cut butternut squash in the store. Many stores carry that, especially during the Fall and Winter seasons. Peeling and cutting the squash can be quite time-consuming, so finding precut squash is a huge time saver!
- Line the baking sheet with parchment paper. The parchment paper keeps roasted butternut squash nice and crispy. It also minimized the cleanup.
- Avoid overcrowding when roasting. When adding cubed butternut squash to the parchment-lined baking sheet, do not overcrowd the cubes. Keeping the cubes separate will ensure they get crispy and crunchy.
- Toast pumpkin seeds. If you're using raw pumpkin seeds, toast them in the preheated oven at 350 F for about 10 minutes until they turn a little bit brown. Watch the oven carefully - the seeds can burn quickly. If you bought roasted or flavored pumpkin seeds (or pepitas), you don't need to toast them although roasting them briefly in the oven does freshen them up!
- Serve it warm or cold? Serve this Fall salad warm or at room temperature (not refrigerator cold).
Make ahead tips
- Fall salad can be made up to 2 days in advance. It keeps well refrigerated.
- If making this in advance, you can make everything in advance and combine it in a salad, except the pumpkin seeds and the salad dressing. Add the pumpkin seeds right before serving to preserve their crunch.
- Refrigerate the leftover Fall salad in an airtight container for up to 4 days. For best results, don't mix the pumpkin seeds and salad dressing with the salad, and add them only right before serving to prevent them from getting soggy.
What to serve with it
Roasted butternut squash and spinach 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. Because this Fall salad features butternut squash, here are my favorite Autumn main dishes that also feature this ingredient:
- Creamy Chicken Orzo with Butternut Squash and Spinach
- Creamy Butternut Squash Stuffed Pasta Shells with Sausage, Spinach, and Tomatoes
- Creamy Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Sausage, Thyme, and Sage
- Vegetarian Enchiladas with Butternut Squash and Black Beans
- Autumn Dinner with Sausage, Pasta, Brussels Sprouts, and Butternut Squash
Other Fall salads you might like
- 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
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts Salad with Maple Butternut Squash, Pumpkin Seeds, and Cranberries
- Winter Vegetable Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprouts, and Beets
Fall Salad with Maple-Lime Dressing
Roasted butternut squash
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.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to the package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water.
- 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.
- When serving, top with fresh thyme (leaves only, no sprigs).
- 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 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 seeds or 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.
- Assemble the Fall salad right before serving.
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.