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Kale and Butternut Squash Fall Salad

Autumn in a bowl.

Fall salad recipes (or any salad recipe, for that matter) just don’t get better than this seasonal kale and butternut squash salad, loaded with flavor, color, and texture. 

Fall salad recipe with kale and roasted butternut squash salad with apple cider vinaigrette on table with pumpkins fall salad

Meet the Best Kale and Butternut Squash Fall Salad Recipe

There are salads, and there are Salads. I prefer Salads with a capital “S,” salads full of good stuff beyond the base greens.

I want salads with crunch from seeds or nuts, and maybe some croutons, a sweet counterpoint from sliced apples or other fruit, plus other interesting ingredients — maybe even warm ones to counter the chilled greens.

This fall salad recipe has it all. This kale and butternut squash salad recipe combines crisp kale with warm roasted winter squash, apples, cranberries, pecans, and pumpkin seeds with cider vinaigrette to hit all the right notes. This may be the most satisfying salad you will have all season.

Thanksgiving fall salad ingredients of butternut squash, cranberries, apple, and kale

Which kale is best for kale salad?

There are two common types of kale: curly kale and lacinato, or dinosaur, kale. Lacinato kale has has a dark green, flat leaf. Curly kale leaves are a bit more tender. Lacinato leaves tend to be tougher. I tend to prefer curly kale for salad, but either will do.

No matter which kale you choose, make sure to slice it into thin strips. If using lacinato kale, slice the kale into narrow strips, then massage it with your hands, scrunching the leaves up tightly to loosen the fibers and soften the texture a little.

Unlike most salads, which should be dressed immediately before serving, kale salad will not wilt terribly quickly. You can add the vinaigrette up to 30 minutes before serving, and note: You may not need to use all the vinaigrette.

And feel free to vary up the ingredients (see below).

Kale and Butternut Fall Salad: Recipe Variations

As with all salads, it is appropriate, and even a good idea, to vary the ingredients depending on your preference and what is available.

  • No apples? Try pears.
  • No pecans? Substitute walnuts.
  • Cornbread croutons would be amazing — and my preference — here, but plain torn croutons are never wrong.

I wrote this salad recipe as vegan, but I certainly think some crumbled bacon or some chopped slices of prosciutto would make an excellent salty counterpoint to the sweet butternut squash and fruit. 

Have fun with it, and make it your own. 

skillet green chile cornbread with butter and cheddar cheese
Cornbread croutons would make an excellent topping for this salad.

Making Homemade Croutons for Salad

I have two go-to crouton recipes, neither of which are really recipes at all. More like guidance. 

The first is for cornbread croutons. I love these because they are more dense and interesting than bread croutons, and stand up well in this hearty salad. 

To make homemade cornbread croutons: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 275°F. 
  2. Spread one-inch chunks of cornbread on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, until golden and crisp. Let cool. You will need about one cup of cornbread cubes total.

To make homemade torn bread croutons:

  1. Cut or tear a four or five-ounce hunk of bread into cubes and toss with three tablespoons of olive oil and a generous pinch of salt. 
  2. Roast on a sheet pan for eight to 10 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit, until golden brown. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

kale and roasted butternut squash fall salad recipe with apple cider vinaigrette on table with pumpkins fall salad

Love a good kale and butternut fall salad recipe? You’ll also like:

kale and roasted butternut squash salad with apple cider vinaigrette on table with pumpkins fall salad

Really Good Kale + Butternut Squash Fall Salad

This fall salad recipe combines the best of both worlds: kale salad and butternut squash salad, plus apples, nuts, seeds, and a cider vinaigrette for a gorgeous, seasonal salad.
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time40 minutes
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keywords:: autumn recipes, butternut squash, butternut squash salad, fall, fall salad recipe, healthy, kale, kale salad, salad, side, thanksgiving salad, vegan, vegetarian, winter
Servings: 6 to 8 people as a side, 3 to 5 as a meal
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Ingredients 

For the Roasted Butternut Squash

  • 1 1/2 pounds diced butternut squash, fresh or frozen
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • fresh black pepper

For the Maple Cider Vinaigrette (Yield: 3/4 cup)

  • 6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (I like Braggs)
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 1 tablespoon French whole grain mustard, such as Maille

Assembly

  • 1 1/2 pounds roasted butternut squash (see above)
  • 2/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 bunches kale, curly or lacinato (flat-leaf)
  • 1 large apple, thinly sliced
  • 2/3 cup pecan halves
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

For the Butternut Squash

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F and line or grease a sheet pan.
  • Toss the butternut squash with olive oil, salt, and some black pepper. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, until soft. Keep warm or at room temperature. (Can be made up to two days in advance and then rewarmed.)

For the Vinaigrette

  • Whisk together all of the ingredients until emulsified. Taste for seasoning.

To Assemble

  • Toss the kale, squash, dried cranberries, pecans, pumpkin seeds, and apples together in a bowl. Add most, but not all, of the vinaigrette by running it around the edge of the mixing bowl. Toss until fully combined. Taste a leaf or two of kale to see if you need more vinaigrette and to check for seasoning.
    PRO TIP: Never dump your salad dressing in the middle of the salad and then stir. Always run the vinaigrette around the rim of the bowl. This helps diffuse the salad dressing more efficiently, and prevents the salad greens from being weighted down. In this case, kale is a little heartier, but this is an especially important tip with delicate greens.
  • Serve, garnishing with an additional sprinkle of seeds or nuts.

10 comments

  • 4 stars
    I riffed on this a bit, but great combo overall. One critical piece of instruction that is missing is YOU MUST MASSAGE KALE. I know this from years of kale salads, but for anyone who hasn’t prepared a kale salad, drizzle olive oil and a few decent punches of good salt over the trimmed and cut greens and massage with bare hands for 5 minutes to break down the fibers and get it nice and soft / so it is edible! Do this like an hour before you dress and serve. Otherwise you have a rough, barely chewable salad. What a shame this would be. And also be mindful of the level of salt in the dressing / salt to taste since you’re adding salt to the greens before dressing them .

  • Christina

    5 stars
    I made this last year for Thanksgiving. I loved that it tasted luxurious and yet clean at the same time. Hit all the right notes just as described and rounded out the turkey and sides just beautifully. I will be making this again, Thanks for sharing!

    • Unpeeled

      Wonderful! So glad you liked it and Happy Thanksgiving.

  • Christina

    5 stars
    I made this last year for Thanksgiving. Loved that it tastes a bit luxurious and clean at the same time. It hit all the right notes just as described and rounds out the turkey and sides just beautifully. I will make again this year. Thanks for sharing!

  • 5 stars
    This is truly a spectacular salad! Thanks Lisa!

    • Unpeeled

      Thanks, Ann! Appreciate this and I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I’m really getting into all the winter squash!

  • J. Phillips

    5 stars
    Excellent flavors and mix of things. The apple cider vinaigrette is so good!

  • 5 stars
    So good. Thanks for this recipe!! I always need salad inspiration 🙂

  • Jenny R.

    5 stars
    Awesome salad. Love all the different components. I will be making this as a Thanksgiving side dish.

  • 5 stars
    OMG this may be the best salad I have ever had. Everything worked, from the vinaigrette to the sweetness from the fruit to the squash and crunchy nuts.

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