Fall Harvest Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette
Quick and easy to put together, this Fall Harvest Salad is filling, nutritious, and bursting with flavor.
It’s the perfect accompaniment to your Thanksgiving turkey, adding a touch of vibrant color and seasonal flavor to your holiday table, or you can serve it alongside a bowl of creamy cauliflower soup for a cozy weeknight dinner.
I have the BEST quinoa salad recipe to share with you today. Check out the colors in this gorgeous bowl; don’t you want to dive right in?
This salad combines so many great textures and autumn flavors: roasted butternut squash, crunchy pecans and pumpkin seeds, crumbled feta cheese, sweet cranberries, crispy apples, nutty quinoa, and hearty kale. All tossed together with a tangy apple cider vinaigrette.
Great for lunch, as a light dinner, or at your next holiday gathering!
Why you’ll love this recipe
- It’s a great way to use up seasonal produce.
- It can be made in just 30 minutes, making it perfect for a quick and healthy weeknight dinner.
- This salad is a crowd-pleaser and an ideal dish to bring to any potluck or party. With numerous rave reviews on Instagram and Pinterest, you can expect everyone to be asking for the recipe.
- With make-ahead and storage tips, you can easily meal prep this salad for a healthy and delicious lunch throughout the week.
- Serve as a light lunch or dinner on its own.
- Pair it with a warm bowl of soup for a cozy fall meal.
- Add a protein such as grilled chicken or tofu for a more filling meal.
- Serve as a side dish at your next fall gathering or holiday feast, accompanied by freshly baked pumpkin dinner rolls.
Ingredients & easy swaps
Here are a few notes about the ingredients for this recipe:
- Butternut squash: peeled, cubed, and roasted in the oven. You can use pre-cut squash if you’re short on time, or try using sweet potatoes or another type of winter squash instead.
- Kale: I love this recipe with kale, but you can use any salad green you like. Try arugula, baby spinach, or another favorite.
- Quinoa: white, multi-color, or red quinoa — all work well. If you prefer, you can swap it out for wild rice, farro, or your preferred grain.
- Apples: use a crunchy variety, such as Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Fuji, or Jazz, sliced or chopped. If you don’t have apples, try substituting pears, figs, or pomegranate seeds.
- Dried cranberries: add sweetness and a pop of color, but you could also use dried tart cherries or raisins.
- Nuts and seeds: pecans and roasted pumpkin seeds provide a satisfying crunch and healthy fats. Roast your own pepitas or buy them at the store. Walnuts, pistachios, or candied pecans would also make great alternatives.
- Crumbled feta cheese: it gives the salad a creamy, salty flavor. You can swap it out for blue, goat, cheddar, or Emmental cheese.
- Apple cider vinaigrette: a simple yet flavorful dressing made of honey, Dijon mustard, garlic, apple cider vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil.
See the recipe card below for a detailed ingredient list and step-by-step instructions.
There are so many delicious ways that you can customize this fall salad recipe:
- Add protein: toss in some chickpeas, leftover grilled chicken, shrimp, bacon, sliced steak, or tofu.
- Add other mix-ins: extra veggies (such as beets, carrots, green beans, or bell peppers), beans, olives, or sun-dried tomatoes would be other fun options for mix-ins.
- Use a different dressing: I also love making this salad with my pumpkin turmeric dressing for a different spin on the recipe.
- Make it vegan or dairy-free: leave out the cheese and sprinkle nutritional yeast over the top.
How to make the ultimate autumn salad
- Roast the butternut squash: cut the squash into cubes, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast until tender.
- Prepare the quinoa: rinse the quinoa, cook it according to package instructions, fluff with a fork, and let it cool.
- Make the dressing: in a mason jar, combine honey, Dijon mustard, garlic, apple cider vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil. Shake until well combined.
- Massage the kale: kale can be tough and bitter. Place the kale in a large bowl and pour half of the vinaigrette over the top. Use your hands to gently massage the dressing into the kale for about 30 seconds, until it starts to soften.
- Assemble the salad: add the quinoa, roasted butternut squash, and chopped apples to the bowl with the kale and toss to combine.
- Serve: divide the salad between 3 plates, sprinkle with dried cranberries, pecans, pumpkin seeds, and crumbled feta cheese. Drizzle with the remaining dressing and serve.
Tips for success
- Chop your ingredients into bite-sized pieces for easy eating and mixing.
- Massage the kale leaves with half of the dressing to help tenderize them.
- Quinoa has a natural coating called saponin that can give it a bitter taste. Rinse it thoroughly in a fine-mesh strainer before cooking to remove any residue.
- Let the quinoa and roasted butternut squash cool before adding them to the salad. This prevents them from wilting the greens and keeps the salad fresh.
Make-ahead and storage tips
Leftovers: this salad makes the perfect lunch the next day. Store leftovers in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Make-ahead and meal prep: if you want to prepare this salad in advance, I recommend storing the massaged kale, roasted butternut squash, and quinoa together in a sealed container in the fridge. Add the toppings, apple, and remaining dressing just before serving.
Can I add protein to the salad, such as grilled chicken or tofu?
Grilled chicken, tofu, chickpeas, or quinoa would all be great additions.
Can I omit the cheese for a vegan version?
Yes, you can omit the cheese to make a vegan version of this salad. You can also substitute it with a vegan cheese alternative.
Can I use a different type of apple?
Yes, you can use a different type of apple or pear, depending on your preference or what’s available. Just make sure to use a firm and crisp variety that will hold up well in the salad.
More Fall recipes for your Thanksgiving table
Have you tried this quinoa harvest salad recipe yet? Did you make any modifications or put your own spin on it? Share your feedback with us in the comments below. We can’t wait to hear from you! And if you have any questions, we are always here to help!
How To Make It: Fall Harvest Salad
For the salad:
- 1 small butternut squash peeled, seeded, and diced
- ½ tablespoon olive oil
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- ⅔ cup (120 g) raw quinoa
- 1 cup (240 ml) water
- 2 cups (130 g) chopped kale leaves
- 2 small apples cored and sliced or diced
- ¼ cup (30 g) dried cranberries
- ¼ cup (30 g) pecans roughly chopped
- ⅓ cup (50 g) crumbled feta cheese I used reduced-fat
- 1 ½ tablespoon roasted pumpkin seeds
For the apple cider vinaigrette:
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 ½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- ¾ tablespoon honey or maple syrup
- 1 ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 garlic clove minced
- salt and ground black pepper
Roast the butternut
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). On a baking sheet, toss together the butternut squash, olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Transfer to the oven and roast for 16 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking, until the squash is tender. Remove from the oven and let it cool completely.
Cook the quinoa
- Rinse the quinoa and drain. In a small saucepan, combine the quinoa with water and bring to a boil uncovered. When it starts to boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is light and fluffy.
Make the dressing
- Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl (or shake together in a mason jar) until combined. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.
Massage the kale
- Place the kale in a large bowl and pour half of the vinaigrette over the top. Use your hands to gently massage the dressing into the kale for about 30 seconds, until it starts to soften.
Assemble the salad
- Add the quinoa, roasted butternut, and apples into the bowl with the kale and toss to combine. Divide the salad between 3 plates, then top with the chopped pecans, toasted pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, and crumbled feta cheese. Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the top, and serve.
- Servings: this recipe serves 3 as a filling lunch or dinner, adjust the ingredients accordingly if you need to serve more or less.
- Butternut squash: if you want to save time, you can buy pre-cut butternut squash.
- Apples: use a crunchy apple, chopped or sliced. Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Fuji, and Jazz apples work well.
- Vinaigrette: it can be made 2-3 days in advance and stored in the fridge. Shake the jar before using.
- Quinoa: it can be cooked several days ahead of time and stored in the fridge.
- Make it vegan/dairy-free: leave out the cheese and sprinkle nutritional yeast over the top.
- Add protein: toss in some chickpeas, leftover shredded chicken, sliced steak, or tofu.
- Leftovers: store leftovers in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
- Make-ahead: if you are making this salad in advance, add the apple slices + toppings right before serving.
This was delish!! Made this for Thanksgiving!!!
Loved all the textures and flavors. Thank you for a great recipe.
Thank you for the feedback! :) Glad you liked it!
Thanks For Sharing this Amazing Recipe. My Family Loved It.
What a fantastic salad!
What a gorgeous salad perfect for autumn:-)
This salad has it all – texture, flavour, colour – it’s stunning!
I love the squash, quinoa and kale together in this salad with apples ! It was so delicious!
This salad is not only very eye=pleasing but also has the perfect combination of flavors and textures. Awesome!
This salad sounds absolutely lovely! Love the combination of lovely ingredients :)