Fall Harvest Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette
This Fall Harvest Salad is filling, nutritious, and packed with seasonal flavors, including roasted butternut squash, sweet apples, and crunchy pecans.
It’s a perfect accompaniment to your Thanksgiving turkey, adding a touch of vibrant color to your holiday table. Alternatively, it pairs well with a bowl of creamy cauliflower soup for a cozy weeknight dinner.
I have the best harvest salad to share with you today. Check out the colors in this bowl; don’t you want to dive right in?
This seasonal salad is a delicious and nutritious way to enjoy the flavors of autumn. It features roasted butternut squash, sweet apples, crunchy pecans, and a tangy apple cider vinaigrette. Serve it as a side dish at your next fall gathering or holiday feast; your guests will be asking for more!
Why you’ll love this harvest salad
- Packed with autumn flavors: it’s a great way to enjoy the best of seasonal produce.
- Quick and easy: perfect for a healthy dinner on busy weeknights.
- Party favorite: whether it’s a potluck or a party, this salad is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Just check out the rave reviews on Instagram and Pinterest—everyone will be asking for the recipe!
- Meal-prep friendly: prepare it in advance and enjoy a week’s worth of nutritious and delicious lunches.
Here are some ways to enjoy this apple salad:
- Serve it 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.
- This salad is a great side dish for your next fall gathering or holiday feast. Serve it with freshly baked cloverleaf rolls or zucchini cheddar muffins.
Ingredients & substitutions
Here are some helpful notes about the key ingredients for this simple salad:
- Butternut squash: peel, cube, and roast it in the oven until it’s tender. Alternatively, you can use pre-cut squash or other winter squash varieties, such as sweet potatoes.
- Kale is my go-to, but feel free to switch to arugula, baby spinach, or your favorite greens.
- 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. Pears, figs, or pomegranate seeds are also good substitutes.
- Dried cranberries: add sweetness and color to the salad. Dried tart cherries or raisins work too.
- Nuts and seeds: pecans and roasted pumpkin seeds provide a satisfying crunch and healthy fats. Walnuts, pistachios, or candied pecans are also good options.
- Crumbled feta cheese: this gives the salad a creamy, salty flavor. You can also use blue, goat, cheddar, or Emmental cheese.
- Apple cider vinaigrette: is a simple yet flavorful dressing made with 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.
How to make the ultimate harvest 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 and cook it following the package instructions. Fluff it with a fork and let it cool.
- Whip up the dressing: in a mason jar, combine honey, Dijon mustard, garlic, apple cider vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil. Shake it vigorously until everything is well combined.
- Massage the kale: kale can be a bit tough and bitter. Place it in a large bowl and pour half of the dressing over it. Use your hands to gently massage the dressing into the kale for about 30 seconds until it softens.
- Assemble the salad: add the quinoa, roasted butternut squash, and chopped apples to the bowl with the kale. Mix everything together.
- Serve: divide the salad between 3 plates and sprinkle with dried cranberries, pecans, pumpkin seeds, and crumbled feta cheese. Finish it off with a drizzle of the remaining dressing, and serve!
There are so many delicious ways that you can customize this fall harvest salad recipe:
- Add protein: toss in some chickpeas, leftover grilled chicken, shrimp, bacon, sliced steak, or tofu for a more filling meal.
- Add extra veggies: for added flavor and textures, add beets, green beans, bell peppers, roasted Brussels sprouts, or sun-dried tomatoes.
- For a different twist, try using another dressing, such as my pumpkin turmeric dressing.
- Make it vegan or dairy-free: leave out the cheese and sprinkle nutritional yeast over the top.
Tips for success
- Chop your ingredients into bite-sized pieces. This will make the salad easier to eat and mix.
- Massage the kale leaves with half of the dressing to help tenderize the kale and make it more palatable.
- Rinse the quinoa thoroughly before cooking to remove any bitter taste that may be present.
- 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 & storage instructions
Storage: store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
To make ahead, store 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 to prevent the salad from wilting.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I add protein to the salad?
Grilled chicken, tofu, or chickpeas 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.
Have you tried this harvest salad recipe yet? Share your feedback, variations, or any questions you have in the comments below. We’re 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 it from the oven and let it cool completely.
Cook the quinoa
- Rinse and drain the quinoa. In a small saucepan, combine the quinoa and water. Bring to a boil over high heat, uncovered.Reduce heat to low, cover the saucepan, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the quinoa is light and fluffy and all the water is absorbed.
Make the dressing
- Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl (or shake them together in a mason jar) until combined. Taste and adjust the 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 softens.
Assemble the salad
- Add the quinoa, roasted butternut, and apples to 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 as needed to serve more or less people.
- Butternut squash: for a time-saving option, you can purchase pre-cut butternut squash.
- Apples: use a crunchy apple, chopped or sliced. Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Fuji, and Jazz apples work well.
- Vinaigrette: you can prepare it 2 or 3 days in advance and store it in the fridge. Shake the jar before using.
- Quinoa: 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.