Full of fall flavors, this Roasted Butternut Squash Salad features the natural sweetness of winter squash, earthy kale, nutty chickpeas, and honey apple vinaigrette to tie it all together.
I’ve taken to calling our kitten (Elsa) butternut-butt.
What can I say? It’s catchy and she’s a butternut fiend.
Even though she makes the cutest little bird noises and climbs the walls like a spider, she’s really a bit of a piggy.
Any time I’m in the kitchen it doesn’t matter where she is; she comes running in to see what I’m up to. At dinner she tries to walk the length of the dining table sniffing around our plates and looking for a stray piece of food to snag. And when I try to grab a quick lunch at my desk she’ll get up in my face for a piece of the action.
When I roasted the butternut for this salad (it was actually months ago when Mike and I were still living in Kuwait and I was trying to simulate how I’d be eating if we had a change of seasons in that climate. Oh how I missed cold-weather food back then!), Elsa went completely nuts for it.
She was literally howling at the smell as if it was driving her insane. (Which I totally get; roasted butternut squash is enough to drive me wild too.) So after that, butternut-butt got added to the ever-growing list of her nicknames.
The Best Roasted Butternut Squash Salad
This salad is one of my favorites as well as Elsa’s. Chickpeas and pearl couscous make a cute looking combo, but there’s nothing cute about how hearty this dish is. It has some serious staying power. Plus it’s perfectly fall-ish with roasted butternut and kale.
I know it’s a little early, but if you’re a planner, no doubt you’ve realized that Thanksgiving is just around the corner. And on the off chance that you’ve started to at least fantasize about your menu, think about adding this pretty little number to the salads part of your festive spread.
Or invite a couple friends over for lunch (ladies always adore a festive salad for lunch!).
Or bring it to your next potluck.
You get it. Just make this salad and you won’t be disappointed.
What You’ll Love About This Recipe
- It’s full of nutrition. You know how we’re supposed to eat the rainbow? This salad will help you do that. It’s a satisfying full meal that’s jam-packed with healthy ingredients, and it also happens to be vegan friendly with one easy swap. This butternut squash salad is the type of thing that you feel really good about eating because it’s so nourishing.
- It’s easy. The hardest part about making this salad is peeling and cutting the butternut squash. And even that isn’t really hard once you figure it out! But if you’re really pressed for time, you can always buy peeled and cut butternut squash in the freezer or produce area of the grocery store.
- You can make it ahead of time. You can roast the squash up to 4 days ahead of time if you want. That means you can roast it and store it in the fridge on its own, or you can fully assemble the salad and pop that in the fridge for up to 4 days. Either way, it’s nice to have a side dish that you can make in advance. (I’m thinking about holiday meals in particular when being able to make things ahead of time is such a help!).
- It’s delicious served hot or cold. This means that leftovers are every bit as delicious!
Butternut Squash Salad Ingredients
- Butternut squash
- Olive oil
- Black pepper
- Pearl couscous
How to Peel and Cut Butternut Squash
- Trim both the ends off the squash.
- Cut the squash horizontally at the top of the bulbous part.
- Peel the skin off the squash. I like to use a vegetable peeler for this; use a sharp peeler and be very careful.
- Cut the bulbous part of the squash in half.
- This is where the seeds are!
- Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds.
- Once the seeds are removed, slice the squash.
- Cut the sliced squash into cubes. And now it's ready to roast!
How to Make This Roasted Butternut Squash Salad Recipe
- Make the salad dressing. This couldn’t be any easier! Simply whisk together all ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl.
- Prepare and roast the butternut squash. Peel the butternut squash, and then cut the bulbous part in half and scoop out the seeds. Cut the squash into cubes, toss it with olive oil, salt, and black pepper, and spread it out onto a baking sheet. Roast at 425F until the squash is tender and starting to turn golden in spots, tossing once halfway through.
- Cook the couscous. Bring water to a boil and add the pearl couscous and salt. Bring it back up to a boil, turn it down to simmer, cover the pot and cook until the water is absorbed.
- Toss everything together. And it’s ready to serve!
How to Store This Recipe
Store roasted butternut squash salad in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Variations on This Recipe
- Swap out the squash. If you don’t have butternut squash (or if you prefer something else), you can substitute with sugar pumpkin, acorn squash, delicata squash, buttercup squash, or sweet potato.
- Change up the salad dressing. You can use any kind of salad dressing you like, whether it’s homemade or store-bought.
- Use whatever type of pasta or grain you like. Instead of couscous, you can use orzo pasta, wild rice, barley, etc.
- Go with your favorite type of beans. If chickpeas aren’t your thing, feel free to swap them out. White beans are another favorite of mine.
- Make it vegan. For the dressing, use maple syrup instead of honey.
Tips for Making Roasted Butternut Squash Salad
- Master the art of preparing butternut squash. The hardest part of making this recipe is preparing the squash! Just be careful and take your time.
- Rinse the couscous after it’s cooked. Like other types of pasta, if you rinse it after it’s cooked, couscous won’t stick together in a large lump.
- Add your own finishing touches to the dish. This butternut squash salad is delicious topped with a handful of your favorite nuts (almonds or pecans are both delicious!). Or for a little creamy texture, add a little crumbled feta or goat cheese on top. And another great idea is to add fruit, such as pomegranate arils, sliced apple, or sliced pear.
Butternut Squash FAQs
What Does Butternut Squash Taste Like?
Butternut squash tastes like a cross between sweet potatoes and pumpkins. It has an earthy sweetness with natural flavor notes of caramel and brown sugar, and a subtle nuttiness.
What Does Butternut Squash Pair Well With?
Butternut squash is one of those vegetables that’s great with a lot of different things.
It goes well with leafy greens. In this salad we use kale, but feel free to swap it out for baby spinach, Swiss chard, or whatever your favorite type of salad green is.
Butternut also pairs well with a variety of different grains or pastas. Rice, barley, orzo, and other types of pasta are all delicious.
The sweet earthy flavor of butternut is also a lovely complement to nuts. And nuts also adds crunchy texture, which is a good contrast to the soft texture of butternut squash.
To play on the natural sweet, slightly brown sugary notes in butternut, I also like pairing it with honey. Maple syrup is another great choice.
Can You Prepare Butternut Squash in Advance?
Yes. You can roast butternut squash up to 4 days ahead of time. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge.
Alternatively, you can prepare the squash (peel it, de-seed it, and chop it), and store it raw in the fridge for up to 3 days before roasting it.
Can You Roast Butternut Squash Seeds?
Yes! Butternut squash seeds are very easy to roast. Here are the steps:
- Once you scoop the seeds out from inside the squash, rinse them and remove any of the fibrous membranes from the squash. Pat the seeds dry with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel.
- Toss the seeds with a drizzle of avocado or olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and black pepper.
- Spread the seeds out onto a large baking tray at bake at 325F until golden, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
More Butternut Squash Recipes to Make
- Instant Pot Butternut Squash Soup
- Cheddar and Thyme Butternut Squash Gratin
- Butternut Squash Puree with Fontina Cheese, Fresh Thyme, and Brown Butter
- Sweet and Spicy Beef, Butternut, and White Bean Stew
- Caramelized Butternut Squash with Cacao Butter and Coconut
Roasted Butternut Squash Salad
Honey Apple Vinaigrette Dressing:
- 1 ½ pounds butternut squash peeled, de-seeded, and cubed into ½-inch pieces (about 1 medium-large squash; about 5 cups cubed)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt divided
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 ½ cups water
- 1 cup pearl couscous
- 1 medium sweet onion diced
- 5 cups chopped fresh kale
- 15.5 ounce can chickpeas rinsed and drained
- Whisk together all ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 425F. Toss together the cubed squash, olive oil, ¾ teaspoon salt, and black pepper on the baking sheet and then spread the squash out in a single layer. Roast the squash until tender and golden in places, about 20 to 30 minutes, tossing the squash once halfway through. Cool.
- Meanwhile, bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan, then add the pearl couscous and the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Bring back up to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer; cover the pot and cook until the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.
- Add the butternut squash, pearl couscous, onion, kale, chickpeas, and salad dressing to a large bowl and gently toss to combine.
- How to Store Butternut Squash: Store roasted butternut squash salad in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Vegan Version: To make this vegan, use maple syrup instead of honey in the dressing.
- Serving Suggestion: Top this salad with fresh pomegranate arils to make it colorful and festive.
This post was first published on An Edible Mosaic on October 10, 2014. I updated it with more information on November 1, 2021.