This warming and colorful butternut squash and whole grain salad combines sweet roasted squash and sticky dates with a fragrant and spiced freekeh and is perfect for fall and winter lunches. This dish works well with a variety of similar grains. Try replacing the freekeh with the same amount of the following grains—quinoa, millet, or farro. Try using 2 large sweet potatoes in place of the squash, and cook in the same way. You can also use chicory or arugula leaves instead of the radicchio.–Jodi Moreno and Sarah W. Caron
LC Why You Shouldn’t Freak At Freekeh Note
A lotta folks freak at the sight of something new. We understand the discomfort that can attend a new experience of trying, say, a new-to-you whole grain whole grain salad. But in this instance, there’s no need to get unduly worked up over freekeh, the whole grain in this salad. If you don’t care to try it or can’t find it, no worries. You can swap in brown rice or a different whole grain such as farro or barley. Whatever whole grain you fancy gets tossed with the familiar fall flavors of roast butternut squash, spices, and radicchio. (If it’s not autumn where you’re at, crank that AC down and turn that oven up, because it’ll soon taste like it is.) And if you’re the sort who likes to be overwhelmed with flavor, consider doubling the amount of spices in the recipe below.
Butternut Squash and Whole Grain Salad
For the whole grain salad
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium (about 2 lbs) butternut squash seeded and cut into 3/4-inch (2-cm) cubes
- 1 cup cracked freekeh, brown rice, kamut or other whole grain
- 1 small head radicchio coarsely chopped
- 8 dried pitted dates coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
For the dressing
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Make the whole grain salad
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
- Place the cinnamon, ginger, cumin, salt, and oil in a small bowl and mix to combine. Place the butternut squash on a rimmed baking sheet, pour the spice mixture over the squash, and toss to coat. Bake in the oven until the squash is tender, 30 to 35 minutes.
- Meanwhile, rinse the freekeh or other whole grain under running water and place in a large saucepan. Cover with 1 quart (4 cups) water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until almost all the water has been absorbed, about 15 minutes if using freekeh. Remove from the heat, drain any remaining water, and let cool slightly.
Make the dressing
- Whisk together the oil, lemon, and honey in a bowl. Season to taste. Taste and adjust the amounts of oil and lemon juice as desired.
Assemble the whole grain salad
- Place the radicchio and dates in a large serving dish. Add the squash and freekeh and toss lightly to mix. Then pour in the dressing, season to taste, and toss until well combined. Sprinkle with parsley and serve the whole grain salad warm.
Whole Grain Salad With Cheese VariationIf it’s not necessary to keep this whole grain salad vegan or dairy-free, we strongly suggest crumbling some feta or goat cheese on it just after tossing everything together.
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Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
It takes a lot to warrant an expressive response from my boyfriend in the critique of a vegetable dish. Yet this whole grain salad recipe garnered the comment “I was surprised vegetables could have so much flavor.” This recipe packs a lot of flavor while maintaining a simplicity of ingredients and preparation. I like the basics of the recipe, plus it’s highly adaptable ingredient-wise. The flavor combinations really hit the mark—no bite is boring. I substituted sweet potato for the butternut squash (which is a seasonal ingredient not yet available at the markets where I live). I found freekeh at my local grocery store in the natural food department. I boiled the freekeh for 15 minutes, and it seemed cooked. I used turnip greens because they I had them on hand. The spice on the sweet potatoes, the sweetness of the dates, and the bitterness of the greens were a fantastic combination. I also enjoyed the textures in this salad.
This was a very delicious salad. I opted to substitute wheat berries for the freekeh, as that is what I had on hand. The radicchio added a nice bitterness to the whole grain salad that complemented the sweet squash and dates. I also really enjoyed the contrast of the chewy wheat berries with the soft squash. To me, the salad dressing was a bit on the oily side. If I were to make this again, I would use half the oil. The radicchio was really expensive, as I don’t think it was in season. This salad made for a delicious lunch. I topped it with feta, and it was a really nice addition.
Originally published November 02, 2015
I have had issues with a lot of small stones in cracked freekeh, really difficult to tell the difference sometimes between the two. I am wondering if whole freekeh would make it easier to distinguish the stones, or if in general whole freekeh has less or no stones.
Dana, I suspect it may have more to do with the brand or source of your freekeh. Have you tried different sources of freekeh? If so, are you noticing it in all of them?
I love grain salads! In fact, I’ve just been craving exactly that. LC scores again. 😉
I always go for the savory, though, so the dates and sweetened dressing are intriguing I usually use a mix of grains and cook them in my rice cooker, leaving me free to prep other things. Also, I’ll most likely add ground coriander/mace to the spices when I make this and use dried cherries instead of dates, just because that’s what we love here/
Does the contrast between whole grain eaters and non-grain diets ever make you wonder? Planning a dinner for guests is turning into a regular minefield. 🙂
That all sounds good, ruthie. This is sorta a blueprint of a recipe that can be followed as-is or used as inspiration, as you’ve done. And oh, boy, do we know the minefield well! Often the whole grain eaters are very similar to the non grain eaters in terms of sensibilities and health beliefs. Interesting, that. At any rate, even if you just make this salad for yourself and yourself alone, I think you’ll be quite pleased. I have to be careful with grains myself, but when I do have whole grains, I do a mix, much like you, and I typically mix them with some cooked vegetables but I also warm it as I would oatmeal in the morning and toss in a handful of nuts and it’s quite lovely, just in case you ever crave something healthful for breakfast…
Funny you should mention that. I started doing the mixed grains with Kashi pilaf (as it was first marketed). Then they switched to all things breakfast and called it cereal. I grew up with all kinds of grain things but always savory side dishes or salads. I look at the mixed grains and just can’t see “cereal.” 😉 Just can’t Silly really, but that’s my little dietary quirk. I do like rice pudding made with white rice, and I love Bibingka, but that’s it for sweet grains. 😉
To each her own, ruthie! I understand how some things just don’t jive. Makes perfect sense.