Harvest Salad with Quinoa and Butternut Squash


This delicious harvest salad comes together easily and features a seasonal and festive mix of roasted butternut squash, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, pecans, diced apple, celery, kale, pomegranate seeds, and savory feta cheese. It’s all tossed in a simple apple cider vinaigrette, which compliments the flavors so nicely. This Butternut Squash Harvest Quinoa Salad is a perfect side for fall and winter and will make a great addition to your holiday table, too.

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Nutritious and Delicious, This salad satisfies!

Many assume that salads are not satisfying, but this one certainly disproves that! You and your guests will be so impressed by the pleasing flavors and satiating ingredients in this Harvest Quinoa Salad with Butternut Squash. It’s full of flavor, it’s hearty, and every bite comes with sweet, salty, and savory notes. We have a feeling this salad will be the talk of the table whenever you make it!

Recipe Highlights: Harvest Quinoa Salad

  • Incredible flavor that will be the talk of the table, whether you’re a salad lover or not
  • A simple and oh-so-delicious Apple Cider Vinaigrette
  • Contains heart-healthy fats from olive oil, nuts, and seeds
  • A naturally gluten-free salad, and can be made dairy-free and nut-free with modifications
  • Chock-full of nutritious ingredients, including butternut squash, kale, quinoa, apple, celery, olive oil, pecans, pomegranate seeds, and roasted pumpkin seeds
  • The perfect beautiful side dish for your Thanksgiving menu

Ingredients to Make Harvest Salad

Here’s what you need to make this beautiful butternut squash salad today:

  • Butternut squash – you may substitute any winter squash of your choice (delicata, acorn, kabocha, or hubbard would all work well)
  • Avocado oil or olive oil
  • Quinoa – save time by substituting frozen pre-cooked quinoa that’s been prepared according to the package directions
  • Curly kale leaves – may substitute baby spinach leaves
  • Apple – we love Honey Crisp apples for this recipe but any sweet-tart variety will do
  • Celery
  • Red onion
  • Feta cheese – omit for dairy-free or use a vegan feta cheese
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds
  • Pecans – omit for nut-free
  • Pomegranate seeds – may substitute dried cranberries or dried cherries

For the Apple Cider Vinaigrette: 

  • Avocado oil or olive oil
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Pure maple syrup
  • Dijon mustard
  • Garlic
  • Fine salt and black pepper

Ingredient Spotlight: Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash is a winter squash with pale orange skin and a bright orange interior. It’s a hard and firm vegetable that resembles an oversized elongated pear. One cup of winter squash contains 60-70 calories and 3 grams of fiber. Here are a few reasons why butternut squash is good for you:

  • Great for immunity – the bright orange color of butternut squash comes from the beta-carotene and alpha-carotene. This is converted by the body to vitamin A, which is important for immunity.
  • Supports eye health – lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants found in yellow fruits and vegetables. These antioxidants support eye health.
  • Good source of fiber – butternut squash contains a good source of fiber which is known to help with digestion and maintaining stable blood sugars.


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How to make harvest quinoa salad

These simple steps are all it takes to being this colorful salad to your table:

  1. Roast the squash: Peel and cube the squash. If you’re unsure of how to do this, you can see our step-by-step guide – How to Cube Butternut Squash
  2. Cook the quinoa, make the vinaigrette, and toast the pecans: While the squash is roasting, cooking the quinoa then let it cool, whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together and set it aside, and toast the pecans
  3. Assemble the salad: In a large bowl add the kale with a pinch of salt. Massage the kale for 1 minute to help break down the leaves and make the kale more enjoyable to eat. Then add the quinoa, butternut squash, apples, celery, onion, feta cheese, pumpkin seeds, toasted pecans, and pomegranate seeds. Just before serving, add the vinaigrette, and toss gently to coat.

A Beautiful Bowl For Serving

We love this beautiful dark wood bowl for serving salads, like this Harvest Quinoa Salad, at special gatherings and holidays. It comes in two sizes and will make a beautiful addition to your tablescape.

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For the complete directions, ingredient amounts, and nutrition analysis that lists calories, protein, carbohydrates, fiber, sugar, sodium per serving, scroll down to the recipe card below.

Glass storage container with lids stacked on each other.

An Easy Way to Store This Salad

Keep leftovers in these easy grab-and-go containers. Store the leftovers in a glass storage container for up to 3 days in the fridge.

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How to Make this recipe ahead

There are several steps of this Harvest Quinoa Salad recipe that you can complete a day or two in advance. They are as follows:

  • Peel and cube the squash. Roast the squash cubes then let them cool to room temperature. Store in and airtight container in the fridge.
  • Cook the quinoa. Let it cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge.
  • Whisk together the vinaigrette and store it in a small mason jar or container in the fridge.
  • Toast the pecans and store them in a small airtight container or zip-top bag.


Toasting Pecans Is A Step Worth Doing!

Toasting is a great way to enhance the flavor of nuts and add a little extra crunch to them. We think that toasting nuts is always worth an extra 5 to 10 minutes. Our favorite methods are to toast nuts on the stovetop or in the oven. Choose the method you prefer.

How To Toast Pecans On The Stovetop: Place a skillet over medium heat. Add the nuts to the hot skillet. Heat until the nuts give off a toasted aroma, 4-6 minutes. Be sure to stay near the stove, watch them closely, and stir often to avoid burning. Once the pecans are fragrant and golden brown, remove from the heat and transfer to a plate or shallow dish to cool.

How To Toast Pecans In The Oven: Preheat the oven to 400℉. Place the pecans on a small sheet pan. Toast in the oven for 4-5 minutes, watching closely to avoid burning. Once pecans are fragrant and golden brown, remove from the oven.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you cube butternut squash?

For a step-by-step photo tutorial on how to cube squash, check out this post. To make it a little easier to cut a whole squash, use a sharp knife to pierce the squash in several different spots, then microwave the whole squash for 3-5 minutes to soften the skin. Then it will be far easier to peel and cube.

What can I use instead of pomegranate seeds?

Fresh pomegranates are in season from October and January, so if you have a hard time finding fresh pomegranate seeds (arils), you can substitute dried cranberries or dried cherries. Pomegranates can be purchased as a whole fruit and many grocery stores also sell just the pomegranate arils (shelled in containers) during certain times of the year.

More Quinoa Salads to Try

All the Best Quinoa Salads

Harvest Salad: Easy Substitutions To Fit Your Dietary Preference

Make this recipe dairy-free and vegan

Simply omit the feta cheese to make this recipe dairy-free, or use your favorite non-dairy or vegan cheese

Make This Recipe Nut-Free

Make this recipe nut-free by omitting the pecans. Or, if you would still like some crunch, you could use roasted pumpkin seeds in place of the pecans


Harvest Quinoa Salad

Harvest Quinoa Salad with Butternut Squash will impress everyone at your table. It’s full of flavor, hearty, and every bite comes with a mix of sweet, salty, and savory notes. This salad makes a great side dish, is hearty enough for a main-dish salad (with or without added chicken or another protein), and is great for holidays, too! 

Prep: 30 minutesCook: 55 minutesTotal: 1 hour, 25 minutes


For the Salad:

  • 1 medium butternut squash, seeds and pulp removed, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes (4-5 cups)
  • 1 tablespoons avocado or olive oil
  • Fine salt and black pepper
  • ½ cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 45 cups chopped curly kale leaves (stems removed)
  • 1 medium apple, cored and diced 
  • 3 celery stalks, diced (¾ cup)
  • ½ small red onion, thinly sliced (about ½ cup)
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese (omit for dairy-free and vegan) 
  • ¼ cup roasted pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup pecans (omit for nut-free)
  • ½ cup pomegranate seeds (may substitute dried cranberries or dried cherries)

For the Apple Cider Vinaigrette:

  • ½ cup avocado or olive oil
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Fine salt and black pepper


  1. Make the squash: Preheat the oven to 375℉ degrees. Add the cubed butternut squash to a baking pan and toss with oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in the preheated oven for 45-55 minutes or until slightly golden brown on the edges, tossing the squash halfway through the baking time. Allow the squash to cool for 15-20 minutes before adding to the salad. 
  2. Make the quinoa: In a fine mesh strainer, rinse the quinoa. Add the quinoa, water, and a pinch of salt to a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook covered for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Uncover and toss with a spoon or fork. Allow quinoa to cool before adding it to the salad.
  3. Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, combine the oil, vinegar, pure maple syrup, mustard, garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk well to combine and set aside. 
  4. Toast the pecans: Add the pecans to a small skillet over medium heat. Toast the pecans for 6-8 minutes or until pecans give off a nutty aroma, tossing occasionally to prevent burning. Remove from heat and place on a cutting board. Chop and set aside. 
  5. Assemble the salad: In a large bowl add the kale with a pinch of salt. Massage the kale for 1 minute. Then add the quinoa, butternut squash, apples, celery, onion, feta cheese, pumpkin seeds, toasted pecans, and pomegranate seeds. Just before serving, add the vinaigrette, and toss gently to coat.

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Several of the ingredients can be prepared the day before. To save time, we recommend making the quinoa, toasting the pecans, making the vinaigrette, and cubing the squash the day before you plan to serve this salad.

Nutrition Information

  • Serving Size: 1/10th of salad (3/4 cup)
  • Calories: 268
  • Fat: 18 g
  • (Sat Fat: 4 g)
  • Sodium: 184 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 15 g
  • (Fiber: 3 g
  • Sugar: 10 g)
  • Protein: 6 g
  • Cholesterol: 13 mg


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Photo Credit: The photos in this blog post were taken by Rachel of Half Acre House

For ultimate success, we highly recommend reading the tips in the full blog post above. All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words. Link back to the source recipe here on The Real Food Dietitians. Thank you!

Stacie Hassing

Stacie Hassing

Stacie is a Licensed and Registered Dietitian from rural southern Minnesota where she, her husband and daughter reside with their two pups. She’s a co-founder of The Real Food RDs and content creator of simple and wholesome recipes. She loves all kinds of fitness and has a passion to inspire as many as she can live a healthier and happier life both in and out of the kitchen – the driving force behind the co-development of the The Real Food RDs brand.

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