If you’re looking for a bright, fresh, and healthy addition to your Thanksgiving or Christmas table (or just need something to detox with when the holidays are over), consider this Roasted Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad. Made with just 8 ingredients and 10 minutes of prep, this gorgeous confetti-colored warm salad is a welcome diversion from all the decadence and is simply loaded with flavor.

closeup hero shot of roasted butternut squash quinoa salad flecked with pomegranate arils and garnished with fresh parsley.

Why I Love This Recipe

As much as I love all the buttery-rich meals this time of year, there comes a point in the holiday season when my body just craves something fresh and light. This lovely fruit-and-veggie-filled grain salad is always high on my list of healthful options.

Made with perfectly caramelized roasted butternut squash, crunchy apples, custardy persimmon, and juicy pops of pomegranate arils, this warm quinoa salad is simply bursting with fall flavors without bursting the seams on your pants. I’ll call that a win!

Aside from being nutritious and delicious, this fall quinoa salad recipe is also:

  • Made With Only 8 Good-For-You Ingredients – A short shopping list is the way to my heart.
  • Quick & Easy – You only need 10 minutes of active prep time to get this showstopping side (or light entrée) on the table.
  • Budget-Friendly – You only need a box of grains, 4 pieces of produce, and some pantry staples to make enough quinoa salad to feed your family.
persimmons on a wooden cutting board with one cut in half.

Ingredients & Substitutions

As promised, you don’t need much to make this beautiful butternut squash and quinoa salad. Here’s what to grab:

  • Butternut Squash – Whole butternut squash are quite inexpensive this time of year, but they do take a bit of prep. If you’re willing to pay for convenience, consider getting a tub of prepped squash cubes in the refrigerated part of the produce section or check the freezer aisle instead. You’re also welcome to swap in your sweet potatoes, yams, or acorn squash.
  • Olive Oil – Just your normal cooking oil is perfect.
  • Quinoa – I used white quinoa because it’s what I had on hand, but you’re welcome to use black, red, or tri-color if you prefer!
  • Chicken Stock – You can also use vegetable broth to make this a vegan dish, or swap in bone broth to amp up the protein.
  • Persimmon – These delightfully custardy orange-hued winter fruits are a real treat. Either Fuyu or Hachiya varieties work well. However, persimmons can be difficult to find, and sometimes pricey. Consider swapping in with a peach, apricot, plum, or an extra apple. You’re also welcome to use golden raisins or chopped dried apricots, though the flavor and texture will be different if you do.
  • Apple – Feel free to use any variety you like to eat out of hand. I prefer a good balance of sweet-tart flavor and crunchy texture, so Pink Ladies and Fujis are my go-tos.
  • Pomegranate Seeds – Also known as “arils,” these ruby-red beauties are sweet, tart, and juicy. Here’s how to remove the seeds from a whole pomegranate; you’re also welcome to buy a cup of the seeds to keep prep to a minimum. Alternatively, dried cranberries will bring the color and tartness with more of a chew.
  • Italian Parsley – This is an optional addition, but I love the bright green color and slightly lemony flavor of parsley. You can also use curly parsley if that’s what you have on hand!
  • Salt & Pepper – For seasoning.
cubes of roasted butternut squash on a baking tray.

How To Make Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad

This yummy quinoa butternut squash salad takes just 10 minutes of active kitchen time. Here’s how it’s made:

Step 1: Prep. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (for easy clean-up!). Wash and chop produce.

Step 2: Roast. Place the butternut squash on the baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Step 3: Toast. Heat the remaining olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the quinoa to the pan and toast for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often.

Step 4: Simmer. Stir in the broth and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn down the heat to low and cover the pan; cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the quinoa has absorbed all of the liquid. Take the pan off the heat and allow the quinoa to rest for 5 minutes covered. Fluff with a fork.

Step 5: Assemble. Transfer the quinoa to a large serving dish. Gently fold in butternut squash, persimmon, apple, pomegranate seeds, and parsley, if using. Drizzle the salad with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

oblong white serving platter filled with roasted butternut squash quinoa salad garnished with a half of a pomegranate and a bunch of parsley.

Optional Variations

I love this fruity quinoa salad with butternut squash just the way it is written, but there is always room for you to put your own spin on things. Here are a few variations to consider:

  • Vegan Quinoa Salad – Make this a purely plant-based dish by swapping in veggie broth.
  • Roasted Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad – Sweet potatoes (or yams) make for a wonderful squash replacement!
  • Optional Add-Ins – Bulk up your salad as needed to make it hearty enough to be an entrée. Here are some of my favorite additions:

Expert Tips

  • Rinse the quinoa, or look for a bag that clearly states the quinoa has been pre-rinsed (e.g. Costco’s Kirkland brand) to cut out a step. Quinoa is naturally coated in a bitter-tasting compound known as saponin to protect it from critters. While it’s effective pest control, it’s not super pleasant to taste, so rinse it thoroughly before toasting and simmering.
  • Toast the quinoa to deepen the flavor. This is similar to what I do for making my arroz and fideo, and it adds so much depth. Plus, it just takes a few minutes!
  • Look for pre-chopped squash in the refrigerated section of the produce aisle or in the freezer section to cut down on prep work. Pro Tip: You can roast veggies directly from frozen!

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I eat this fall quinoa salad warm or cold?

Either! I love it warm (it’s chilly here in Colorado this time of year), but it also tastes great at room temperature, making it an excellent option for packed lunches.

How long should I cook butternut squash in the oven?

You’re looking for some golden-brown caramelization and a texture that is easy to puncture with a fork. For cubes of squash, I’d recommend about 25-30 minutes!

More Healthy Holiday Side Dishes

If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #muybuenocooking.

overhead shot of a white oval serving platter with roasted butternut squash quinoa salad on a wooden cutting board with a halved persimmon to the side.
closeup hero shot of roasted butternut squash quinoa salad flecked with pomegranate arils and garnished with fresh parsley.

Roasted Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad

5 (1 rating)
A hearty warm quinoa salad that can be served as an entree or a Thanksgiving side dish. It is super fulfilling, flavorful, full of textures, and loaded with healthy ingredients like squash, apples, and pomegranate

Ingredients

  • small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth
  • 1 persimmon, peeled and chopped
  • 1 apple, chopped
  • pomegranate seeds
  • Italian parsley leaves, optional
  • salt and pepper

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 375° F.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Place the butternut squash on the baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Heat the remaining olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the quinoa to the pan and toast for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the chicken or vegetable broth and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn down the heat to low and cover the pan; cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the quinoa has absorbed all of the liquid. Take the pan off the heat and allow the quinoa to rest for 5 minutes covered. Fluff with a fork.
  • Transfer the quinoa to a large serving dish. Gently fold in butternut squash, persimmon, apple, pomegranate seeds, and parsley, if using. Drizzle the salad with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Notes

Optional Variations:
  • Vegan Quinoa Salad – Make this a purely plant-based dish by swapping in veggie broth.
  • Roasted Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad – Sweet potatoes (or yams) make for a wonderful squash replacement!
  • Optional Add-Ins – Bulk up your salad as needed to make it hearty enough to be an entrée. Here are some of my favorite additions:
Expert Tips:
  • Rinse the quinoa, or look for a bag that clearly states the quinoa has been pre-rinsed (e.g. Costco’s Kirkland brand) to cut out a step. Quinoa is naturally coated in a bitter-tasting compound known as saponin to protect it from critters. While it’s effective pest control, it’s not super pleasant to taste, so rinse it thoroughly before toasting and simmering.
  • Toast the quinoa to deepen the flavor. This is similar to what I do for making my arroz and fideo, and it adds so much depth. Plus, it just takes a few minutes!
  • Look for pre-chopped squash in the refrigerated section of the produce aisle or in the freezer section to cut down on prep work. Pro Tip: You can roast veggies directly from frozen!
Calories: 394kcal, Carbohydrates: 57g, Protein: 8g, Fat: 17g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Sodium: 480mg, Potassium: 948mg, Fiber: 8g, Sugar: 10g, Vitamin A: 20206IU, Vitamin C: 41mg, Calcium: 113mg, Iron: 3mg

Photography: Jenna Sparks
Originally published: January 2019.