Recipe: $10.12 | Per Serving: $1.27 | Yield: 8
When you need a seasonal gluten-free side dish for the holidays that can be served room temperature – start with this butternut squash quinoa salad with wilted kale and spicy maple candied pecans!
It’s got fall flavors and just a hint of spice and crunch from those perfect pecans.
This warm butternut squash and quinoa salad is a spin-off from a previous butternut squash and couscous dish circa 2014. That dish was originally made as part of a “challenge box” and included dried cranberries and chickpeas and pine nuts.
I made a few tweaks here for a more modern version perfect for Thanksgiving. Alterations include protein-packed quinoa in place of couscous, and decadent maple-spiced pecans in place of the pine nuts. Those spicy maple pecans are too good.
Not only are we looking at something delicious and festive, but this dish is also:
- gluten free
- dairy free
Which makes it an inclusive option at your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner! It can be hard to find vegan thanksgiving sides since we tend to love butter around the holidays, but this one just so happens to be vegan without trying.
And it can be served warm or at room temperature, so you don’t have to worry about keeping it at a certain temperature while your oven and burners are at max capacity on holidays.
Although you can definitely serve it cold, it’s much better if you knock the chill off a bit (at least 30 seconds in the microwave).
Warm Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad
There are a few separate steps here, but the method is pretty straightforward.
- Roast the butternut squash – I like salt, pepper, and a little cayenne, but you can totally add some herbs or smoked paprika, or even garlic powder here.
- Cook the quinoa. This is the easiest grain to cook! Just Rinse the quinoa, then add 1 1/2 cups to a pot with 2 1/4 cups of water or broth and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and cook for 15 minutes.
- (More details on cooking quinoa here.)
- Wilt the kale. You can sauté the kale on the stovetop if you want, or you can wilt it with the quinoa. When the quinoa is done cooking, toss all the kale in the pot and cover for 10-15 minutes. The residual steam from the quinoa will soften the kale.
- Make the dressing – you can just whisk the dressing together in a large bowl or shake it in a jar.
- Combine and top with candied pecans. Feel free to add chopped parsley or dried cranberries or even a little feta cheese.
Spicy Maple Candied Pecans
Friends, you will be so glad you took the time to make these! (I.e. definitely take the time to make these.)
I have a recipe for them here, but I’ll give you the TLDR right now.
Combine pecan halves with maple syrup, cayenne powder, sea salt and roast on 375ºF for 5-9 minutes, stirring if needed.
Although it seems like there’s a lot going on, I promise it’s really pretty easy and straightforward, and it absolutely serves a crowd! If you’re not making this for a holiday or potluck, you can easily add some chickpeas or shredded chicken to make it a full meal.
Paleo: Nope! But it is gluten-free.
Vegetarian: Yep – and it’s vegan.
This vegan, gluten-free warm salad is the perfect side for holiday dinner, entertaining, and fall potlucks! Take advantage of seasonal flavors like butternut squash, kale, and pecans.
- 6 cups cubed butternut squash
- 1 Tablespoon oil (avocado)
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1.5 cups uncooked quinoa
- 2 1/4 cup water (or broth)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 6 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tablespoons water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup Maple Spiced Pecans
- Optional: parsley, dried cranberries
- Preheat oven to 400ºF.
- Combine cubed squash, oil, and spices (salt, pepper, cayenne) on large baking sheet. Toss together to coat. Bake on 400ºF for 25 minutes or until soft when poked with a fork.
- Thoroughly rinse 1 1/2 (1.5) cups quinoa. Add to a large pot with 2 1/4 cups (2.25) water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
- When the quinoa is done, remove from heat and immediately add the chopped kale to the pot (just on top of the quinoa, no need to stir) and cover for about 10 minutes, or until the kale has slightly wilted and turned bright green.
- Combine the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously to combine.
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir well to combine. Top each serving with crispy candied pecans (they will lose their crisp if you stir them in too early).
Wait to add the pecans until serving time to ensure they stay crisp.
Stir in dried cranberries or feta cheese if desired.
Nutrition label is based on 8 servings.