Sweet roast butternut squash together with dried cranberries, black rice, arugula and a crunchy toasted pecan crumb makes a delicious vegan salad recipe that will shine throughout Thanksgiving, Christmas and all season long.
Why You’ll Love This Salad
This is a hearty butternut squash salad recipe that I adore during the cooler months.
Butternut squash is one of my favourite ingredients to roast. Roasting butternut squash caramelises the flavours and brings out the sweetness.
As much as I love it by itself, I also enjoy adding roast butternut squash to vegan salads. It helps to bulk up the volume, adds comforting sweetness and fabulous orange hues.
So to complement the caramelised sweetness of roasted butternut squash, I combine it with dried cranberries, nutty black rice, fresh arugula and a toasted pecan crumb. Together the ingredients give unbelievable flavour and a multitude of textures.
This is a fantastic vegan salad recipe to share as it is dairy free, egg free and easily made gluten free with a couple of tweaks. And not to mention, this salad with butternut squash is absolutely delicious! Perfect for feeding a crowd that have different dietary requirements or just friends who love good food.
What Goes Well With Butternut Squash?
Butternut squash is a very versatile ingredient that can be used in our savoury meals and desserts. It is fantastic in comforting soups, stews, roasts, pies and cakes.
Due to its natural sweetness, butternut squash goes well with many savoury ingredients like pecans, walnuts, bacon, chicken and turkey.
It also carries spices like nutmeg and paprika plus creamy elements like buffalo mozzarella and cream cheese well. And to balance the sweetness, you can add acidity like tart cranberries or pomegranate.
You can see why roast butternut squash is a perfect side dish at Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday gatherings! Like some other delicious vegan festive salads, it goes so well with all the classic mains and trimmings.
During Thanksgiving, many roast butternut squash salads include a delicious combination of roasted butternut, spinach, dried cranberries, candied pecans, feta and light honey Dijon vinaigrette. A great balance of sweet, tart, crunch and freshness.
However, for this recipe, I decided to give the roast butternut squash recipe a little twist. First up, I omitted the cheese as I wanted a vegan salad, and then I decided to dial up the textures in the salad with butternut squash.
Flavours/Texture: I love my flavour and texture combination. This salad with butternut squash is hearty with black rice, tart with dried cranberries, peppery with arugula and moreish with a toasted pecan crumb.
Plus, the added orange juice flavours in the vinaigrette creates a fresh citrus aroma. All ingredients go well in this pumpkin squash recipe.
Ease: There are a few cooking components to this vegan salad recipe. However, you can prep and cook at various times depending on your schedule.
Roast butternut squash, black rice and toasted pecan crumb can be prepared ahead of time, and then you just have to assemble when ready to serve.
Time: If you prepare the salad from start to finish, it will possibly take just under 1 hour. This is not a salad to whip up quickly but definitely worth the effort at the end.
These are the ingredients you need in Vegan Salad with Butternut Squash and Cranberries.
Butternut squash: There are varying sizes for butternut squash. Look for a medium-sized one with solid dark beige skin and no soft spots. The butternut squash should be hard and feel heavy to hold for its weight.
Paprika: I love matching paprika to butternut squash. Adding a little spice to the roasting process adds warmth and depth to the roasted butternut squash. Just regular paprika is fine in this recipe—no need for smoky or hot paprika.
Sea salt: To taste
Black rice: Also known as forbidden rice, black rice is a highly nutritious grain with high antioxidants, a good source of fibre and a natural detoxifier. I love the nutty texture of black rice, and it is fantastic in salads as it does not become mushy and carries other flavours well.
Dried cranberries: My kids love dried cranberries as a snack. Not as sweet as dried sultanas and plumper than dried blueberries. Perfect for adding to this roast butternut squash salad to balance the sweet-tart flavours.
Arugula: Peppery salad leaves, also known as rocket. I love to use arugula rather than spinach to give the extra bite.
Pecans: I was lucky enough to get some fresh pecans in the shell—so much fun opening them with the kids. However, you can buy also crushed pecans to help speed up the time.
Breadcrumbs: Toasted breadcrumbs is so lovely to include in this recipe. Not only for the texture but to absorb the extra virgin olive oil and give a delicate toasted aroma in the butternut squash salad.
Extra virgin olive oil: In the toasted pecan crumb, I used a good quality extra virgin olive oil to add sharpness and depth. You can, of course, use regular olive oil if you don’t have any EVOO on hand.
Maple syrup: I used maple syrup as my sweetener in this recipe as it is suitable for vegan diets. For a deep caramel sweetness, use a good quality maple syrup that does not have added sugar or corn starch.
Apple cider vinegar: This is a pantry staple for salad dressings. Apple cider vinegar is one of the most versatile vinegars.
Orange juice: I used orange juice in the salad dressing to add a slightly different citrus flavour. The vinaigrette has a lovely orange aroma throughout.
Salt & pepper: To taste
Follow these instructions on how to make Vegan Salad with Butternut Squash and Cranberries.
Preheat the oven to 200°C or 400°F.
Trim the top and bottom of the butternut squash, peel the butternut squash and dice it into 2cm cubes. You can use a sharp knife or even a potato peeler to peel your butternut squash.
Place butternut squash cubes on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, paprika and sea salt, roast in a preheated oven for 20 minutes.
Check the butternut squash cubes, flip them to the other side, and roast for another 5 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and set aside for assembly.
Whilst the butternut squash is roasting in the oven, wash the uncooked black rice thoroughly. Add ½ cup black rice and 1 cup water into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium to high heat.
Cover the saucepan and reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes.
Once it’s cooked, turn the heat off and let it sit for a further 10 minutes.
Remove the lid, transfer the cooked black rice into a small mixing bowl, and cool down.
Place ½ cup of raw pecans into a food processor and pulse several times to resemble a chunky crumb. If you don’t have a food processor, roughly chop into small pieces.
In a large frypan, over medium-high heat, add extra virgin olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Then add crushed pecans, breadcrumbs, maple syrup and sea salt.
Toast pecans and breadcrumbs for about 4-5 minutes until golden brown and fragrant. Keep moving the pan and stirring often to avoid them burning.
Remove from the pan and set aside for assembly.
How to Prepare Salad Dressing
This is a super light dressing that is great for other grain salads or leafy green salads. The citrus flavours help cut through any rich ingredients.
I prefer to use a mason jar to mix it all up. It is up to you, as you can mix it in a bowl as well.
Add orange juice, apple cider vinegar, olive oil and maple syrup to a mason jar. Season with salt and pepper and shake well to combine.
How To Assemble Salad
In a large mixing bowl, add roasted butternut squash, black rice and dried cranberries. Add salad dressing to the bowl and toss together.
Add washed arugula and ¾ toasted pecan crumb to bowl and gently mix.
Transfer to a large serving plate, then scatter remaining toasted pecan crumbs on top.
Variations and Substitutions
Butternut squash variations: This vegan salad recipe would work with roasted sweet potatoes or any other squash/pumpkin you like.
Pecan substitution: If you don’t have pecans, you can substitute with walnuts. Alternatively, for a nut free salad, leave out the pecans and use toasted breadcrumbs.
Gluten free option: Omit the breadcrumbs for a gluten free recipe.
Variations for salad: Try these additional ingredients to build your own roasted butternut squash salad:
- candied walnuts/pecans
- feta or goat cheese
- cut apple
- spinach leaves
- mixed salad greens
How to Serve
Here are some main dishes that will go well with Vegan Salad with Butternut Squash and Cranberries:
Vegan mushroom risotto: This vegan mushroom risotto with peas is insanely creamy and decadent without the use of any dairy! It’s rich, comforting and packed with lots of umami flavours. Round it off with this vegan salad with butternut squash for some sweetness and crunch.
Seitan piccata: Seitan piccata is a classic & sumptuous option for an at-home date night. Browned seitan is covered in a silky white wine and lemon sauce, dotted with capers.Serve with this vegan salad with butternut squash for a fantastic meal!
Vegan mushroom & walnut wellington: Our vegan salad with butternut squash is the perfect accompaniment to this vegan wellington recipe. Whether you’re cooking a traditional Sunday roast for your family or wanting to impress your guests this festive season, this delicious Mushroom & Walnut Wellington is a great veggie roast option for vegans, vegetarians and meat lovers alike.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can do either. I served this salad at room temperature which was delicious. However, if you prefer warm roasted butternut squash cubes, then keep the butternut squash in the oven until ready to serve.
You can prepare this vegan salad in advance and transport it for potluck dinners or weekday work lunches. I love to share this salad at festive gatherings.
Prep all the ingredients and store them in separate containers. Assemble when ready to serve.
This roasted butternut squash salad will keep for leftover lunch the next day. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
To open a pecan in its shell, use a nutcracker or pliers and gentle crack the shell. You don’t want to crush too hard that it smashes the pecan meat into pieces as well.
Remove the outer shell from the pecan meat. Then gently break the pecan into two halves and remove the shell material holding the two halves together and in the cracks.
I believe there is a tool you can use to pick the shell out without breaking the two halves, but I preferred the two halves anyway.
To make toasted pecans, you can do it two ways. First is on the stovetop like what I did. It’s a quicker method but you can’t toast a lot in one go, and also, it may not toast as evenly.
The other method for toasted pecans is with the oven. Using the oven, you can toast more pecans and you don’t have to watch it if you have a timer on.
Either way, toasting pecans will bring out the nutty flavours, adding extra crunch to the salad.
Technically pumpkins and squash are not exactly the same fruit. However, the similarities often confuse people. Pumpkin and squash are from the same botanical family and they both grow on vines. To differentiate them, pumpkins have a firm and hard stem, whilst squash has a loose and hollow stem.
So the butternut variety, is it a pumpkin or squash? Or do we like to use different names to confuse people?
As Amy mentioned in her Risoni with Roasted Butternut Pumpkin recipe, it is yes to the latter! What we would typically call butternut pumpkin in Australia is the same as butternut squash in other parts of the world.
Nothing makes me happier than when I see my family devour my salads. Especially ones that do not conform to the usual combinations.
This is a hearty vegan salad with roasted butternut squash, cranberries, black rice and crunchy toasted pecan crumb that belongs on the table during Thanksgiving, Christmas and all the holiday celebrations.
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Vegan Salad with Butternut Squash and Cranberries
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- Preheat the oven to 200°C or 400°F.
- Remove the outer skin of the pumpkin and dice it into 2cm cubes. Drizzle with olive oil, paprika and sea salt, roast in a preheated oven for 20 minutes.Turn the pumpkin around and roast for another 5 minutes until golden brown.
- Wash the uncooked forbidden rice thoroughly. Add ½ cup forbidden rice and 1 cup water into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium to high heat. Cover the saucepan and reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes.Once it’s cooked, turn the heat off and let it sit for a further 10 minutes. Transfer the cooked forbidden rice into a small mixing bowl and let it cool down.
- Place ½ cup of raw pecans into a food processor and pulse several times so that it resembles a chunky crumb. If you don’t have a food processor, roughly chop into small pieces.
- In a large fry pan, over medium-high heat add ½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil and swirl to coat the pan.
- Add crushed pecans, breadcrumbs, maple syrup and sea salt and toast for about 4-5 minutes until golden brown and fragrant.
- Remove from the pan and set aside for assembly.
- Wash rocket leaves.
- Add orange juice, apple cider vinegar, olive oil and maple syrup in a mason jar.
- Season with salt and pepper and shake well to combine.
- In a large mixing bowl, add roasted pumpkin, black rice and cranberries.
- Add salad dressing to the bowl and toss together.
- Add washed rocket leaves and ¾ toasted pecan crumb to bowl and gently mix.
- Transfer to a large serving plate, then scatter remaining toasted pecan crumbs on top.
- This recipe would work with roasted sweet potatoes or any other squash/pumpkin you like.
- If you don’t have pecans, you can substitute with walnuts. Alternatively, for a nut free salad, leave out the pecans and use toasted breadcrumbs.
- You can prepare this salad in advance, including dressing the salad but leave out the arugula/rocket leaves and toasted pecan crumbs until you are ready to serve.
- Omit the breadcrumbs for gluten free recipe.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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