This roasted butternut squash and apple salad is the quintessential autumn salad. It juxtaposes crisp and peppery watercress with spicy roast squash, and sweet softened apples with shaved Parmesan cheese and a mustard vinaigrette.
This satisfying salad showcases autumn staples but in a way we’d never before thought to combine them. Tender roasted butternut squash, sweet and soft baked apples, sturdy peppery greens, salty Parmesan, and a robustly mustardy and tangy vinaigrette all get tossed and tumbled in a stunning and quite spectacular juxtaposition of tastes and textures. Easy, eye-catching, and impressive as heck, whether as a side or an entrée.–Angie Zoobkoff
Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Salad
For the salad
- 1 large (2 to 3 lbs) butternut squash
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 baking apples such as Honeycrisp, Fuji, or Pink Lady, peeled, cored, and cut in half
- 4 cups watercress long stems trimmed
- 3 tablespoons house vinaigrette (recipe follows)
For the house vinaigrette
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar or more to taste
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon grainy Dijon mustard
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 ounces Parmesan cheese shaved with a vegetable peeler
- 2 tablespoons Crisped Quinoa* (optional)
Make the salad
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the butternut squash and discard. Slice the squash across the neck where it meets the bulbous part. Scoop out and discard the seeds and then cut all the squash into 1-inch (2.5-cm) chunks.
- In a large bowl, stir together the olive oil, sugar, cinnamon, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Add the squash and 3 apple halves and toss well to coat. Spread the squash on 1 baking sheet and the apple halves on the second baking sheet. Roast, without touching, turning, or otherwise fussing with the squash and apples, until the apples are softened, 20 to 25 minutes, and the squash is fork tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Let the apples and squash cool completely. (You can thank your lucky stars for the fact that the squash and apples are served at room temperature, which means you can roast them hours in advance of when you’d like to assemble the salad, making it a godsend for dinner parties or even just crazy weeknights.)
Make the house vinaigrette
- While the squash is roasting, combine the onion, oil, vinegar, sugar, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste in a blender and whiz until creamy, about 1 minute. Taste and adjust the ingredients accordingly.
- Chop the cooled apples into bite-size chunks. In a large salad bowl, gently combine the cooked apples and squash.
- Thinly slice the remaining apple half and add it to the salad. Add the watercress and House Vinaigrette and toss gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with Parmesan shavings and, if desired, Crisped Quinoa.
*Crisped QuinoaTo make the crisped quinoa, boil 1/2 cup quinoa (any color or a mix) in 2 cups water, covered, until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes and then drain and cool completely. (Ideally, you’d set this aside at cool room temperature for at least several hours or cover and refrigerate it for up to a couple days.) In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm 3 tablespoons mild oil. Stir in the quinoa and cook until golden and crisp, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and let cool before sprinkling over the salad.
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Recipe Testers’ Reviews
My husband and I both really liked this roasted butternut squash and apple salad. The ingredients were a little different than I’d ever seen in a salad recipe, but combined very well and tasted delicious all together. I loved the seasoning put on the squash and apples, especially the little kick the cayenne pepper added to seasoning for the apples and squash. It was so interesting and tasty.
The vinaigrette was very good, but I think it could have benefited from the addition of just a bit more unseasoned rice vinegar. Not having worked with watercress before, I wasn’t sure how much of the stems to cut off and so left them quite long. Next time I will trim them quite a bit shorter, as the salad is a little hard to eat with all those long stems. The quinoa added a nice bit of crunch to the salad, and the shaved Parmesan cheese over the top was an added treat.
Overall, we really liked this salad!
I couldn’t wait to try this roasted butternut squash and apple salad. In fact, I made it twice. I love a more seasonal salad at this time of year.
I used Cortland apples and found them too mushy so I tried Honeycrisp the second time and they were perfect.
I had a very hard time managing the crisped quinoa and, in fact, never really perfected it. However, if you’re a seasoned quinoa pro, you will likely fare better than I did. I will make this salad many times over the winter and hopefully, by January, I’ll ace the crisped quinoa.
This roasted butternut squash and apple salad is such a lovely dish that uses some of my favorite things to pick up at the farmer’s market in the fall. I like that you can make smaller salads as a starter for a nice dinner (maybe even Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner?) or you could make larger salads for a healthy fall dinner. I will probably try this with a lean protein like chicken or leftover Thanksgiving turkey! Nothing difficult at all but loads of flavor.
To me a salad is something I can prepare easily and fairly rapidly. The dressing is a slightly more complicated process, but, usually, that is something that can be done in advance and pulled from the refrigerator as needed, but spending an hour making a salad did not seem the most effective use of my time. I liked this salad, however. Again, not so much that I would come home from 8 hours at work and think of tackling it, but enough that I would serve it as a side dish to a meal that was itself uncomplicated. It went well with the roasted chicken breast I served it with when I prepared it.
Originally published November 20, 2018
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
This roasted butternut squash and apple salad screams fall! The squash and apple mixture could easily be made on its own as a side. The spices are warm without being spicy or sugary sweet. The dressing was also fantastic and came together so quickly in the blender, and another piece of this recipe you could make on its own merits.
I loved the addition of quinoa, but probably would skip the frying step next time. This salad is impressive and hearty enough to serve as a main and would be a great vegetarian option that doesn’t feel like an afterthought of a dish. Definitely make the squash, quinoa, and dressing ahead of time to make dinner assembly quick and easy!