One of my favorite fall foods is butternut squash (if you’re familiar with my fall recipes like Crispy Baked Mac and Cheese or Creamy Lentil Stuffed Butternut Squash, this should come as no surprise!). And this Roasted Butternut Squash Kale Salad is such a fun and delightful way to enjoy fall flavors.
Rest assured, this is no ordinary salad. The base is a mixture of crispy and chewy roasted butternut squash and cabbage wedges, which get mixed with chopped kale, carrot ribbons, and chickpeas. Everything gets tossed in a tangy red wine vinaigrette and finally topped with an addictive sweet-and-spicy almond crunch.
In case this salad doesn’t sound as good as I think it does, then you should trust my partner Max’s feedback. I can rarely get him to eat salads (especially anything with kale, which he refers to as roughage), but after one bite, he grabbed a huge bowl and said “I assume this is for me.” BOLD move, Max. Bold move.
Why you’ll love this recipe
Seriously fun vegetables. Butternut squash is always tasty, but opting for super thin slices instead of the standard cube/dice makes it even better. It gets crispy and even chewy in a way that squash typically doesn’t. And instead of just slicing the carrots into coins or matchsticks, I peel them with a wide vegetable peeler for elegant ribbons that make salad so much more fun.
If you’re looking for another super fun salad that doesn’t feel like a salad, this Actually Good Quinoa Salad is a must try!
Gourmet but easy and affordable. All the unique flavors and textures make this salad fit for fall entertaining (think Thanksgiving first course!). That said, this salad is quite simple and made with everyday, affordable ingredients.
Light but satisfying. In a season where heavy comfort food is everywhere, it’s nice to switch things up with a light and bright meal that won’t weigh you down. That said, the addition of roasted veggies, chickpeas, and a nutty topping make this more satisfying than your average salad and perfect for a light but complete meal.
Texture and flavor heaven. Chewy and crispy butternut squash, tender roasted cabbage, crisp kale and carrots, a crunchy almond topping – so many great textures here! Roasting the cabbage and squash bring out their natural sweetness, which is complemented by the sweet-and-spicy almond crunch and balanced by the tangy, subtly sweet-and-spicy vinaigrette.
How to make this salad
Gather your produce.
Peel the butternut squash, cut in half, and scoop out the seeds. Slice, crosswise, into ¼” thick half-moon slices. Use a mandoline for even slices (it’s also quicker).
Cut the cabbage in half, then into 1” thick wedges. Using a Y-shaped vegetable peeler, peel the carrots into wide ribbons.
Toss the squash slices with olive oil, maple syrup, cumin, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Toss the cabbage with olive oil, salt, and pepper and transfer to a second baking sheet.
Roast the cabbage and squash for 15 minutes. Flip cabbage wedges and toss the squash. Continue roasting for 10-13 minutes, until cabbage edges are dark brown and squash is browned on edges and tender.
Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette. Whisk together the garlic, red wine vinegar, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, red pepper flakes, and oregano in a bowl. Stream in the olive oil, whisking as you go, and season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, make the almond crunch. In a frying pan over medium, add the almonds, agave, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Stir constantly until browned and caramelized, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to parchment paper and squish together. Once set, break into clumps.
Assemble the salad. Add the chopped kale and carrot ribbons to a large bowl.
Add the chickpeas and some of the vinaigrette. Toss the ingredients to combine.
Add the roasted squash and cabbage, along with the almond crunch. Add the remaining vinaigrette and toss again.
Tips for making this salad
Butternut squash. Thinly slicing butternut squash into half-moons is my favorite way to prep squash. It’s much easier to do this with a mandoline, which will get you even slices (which will roast evenly). Of course, you can still cut them without a mandoline, but a sharp chef’s knife is a must.
If you struggle to cut the squash in half, pop the whole uncut squash in the microwave for 2 minutes. This softens it, making it much easier to slice through.
Carrots. You’ll need a Y-shaped/wide vegetable peeler to shave the carrots into ribbons. This is easier when the carrots are on the larger/wider size. When you get to the point where you can no longer shave long peels, just slice the remaining carrots thinly – it adds a nice crunchy texture.
Cabbage. First cut the cabbage in half (you need to leave the core intact so the leaves stay together, but trim the tough white stem at the bottom). Then cut through the core to get wedges.
Almond crunch. You can make this a few days ahead of time and store in a sealed jar in your pantry.
Roasting vegetables. I prefer roasting the cabbage and squash on well-worn baking sheets instead of lining the sheets with parchment paper. I find the veggies brown better (and more quickly) this way.
Want to make this salad heartier? Add in another can of chickpeas!
Leftovers. If you plan to keep leftovers, the salad is still good 2-3 days later, but the texture will be best if you dress only the amount of salad you plan to eat that day. Store the leftover, undressed salad in a container in the fridge, store the vinaigrette in a sealed jar on the counter for a few days or in the fridge, and store almond crunch in a sealed jar on the counter.
Serve with a hearty main dish for a complete holiday meal. Some favorite options include Greek Vegan Moussaka, Vegan Shepherd’s Pie, or Mushroom Stroganoff.
First holiday season as a vegan? Check out my holiday survival guide for vegans!
If you don’t have a Y-shaped peeler, slice the carrots into thin coins or with a mandoline.
Nut-free? Substitute the almonds with sunflower seeds. I have tried making the almond crunch with sunflower seeds instead and it works great. If your nuts are salted, skip the salt or go really light on it.
I personally love the tang from the red wine vinegar in this vinaigrette, but I’m sure it would also work with apple cider or sherry vinegar.
And if you already have a batch of Red Wine Vinaigrette on hand or on your to-make list, feel free to use that instead of the vinaigrette listed in the recipe. It stays good in the fridge for two weeks!
The agave nectar is what really helps the almonds caramelize and stick to one another. It might work with maple syrup but the nuts may not stick together as much (I haven’t tried it).
More vegetable side dishes for the holidays
- Maple Roasted Carrots
- Creamy Vegan Mushroom Soup
- Butternut Squash Soup
- Baked Japanese Sweet Potatoes
I hope you’ll enjoy this delightful roasted butternut squash kale salad :)
- 1 small green cabbage or ½ of a large cabbage
- 1 small butternut squash (1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
- extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3 to 4 cups (50-65g) chopped kale
- 2 to 3 large carrots, peeled and ribboned with a Y-shaped/wide vegetable peeler*
- 1 (15-ounce/425g ) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Red Wine Vinaigrette
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed with a press or finely minced
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
- ¾ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¾ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sweet-and-Spicy Almond Crunch
- ½ cup (70g) whole almonds, unsalted**
- 2 tablespoons (42g) agave nectar
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Kosher salt or sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 450ºF/232ºC.
- Prep the cabbage: Trim the bottom stem from the cabbage, but leave the core otherwise intact to hold the leaves together. Slice the cabbage in half. Cut into 1-inch thick wedges. Spread the cabbage out on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and pepper to taste. Rub cabbage with your hands, getting the oil and seasonings into the crevices.
- Prep the squash: Peel the butternut squash***. Cut in half vertically and scoop out the seeds. Using a mandoline (preferred method) or a sharp chef’s knife, thinly slice the squash, crosswise, into ¼-inch thick half-moon slices (see photos in blog post for reference). Transfer squash slices to a bowl, and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, maple syrup, cumin, red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and black pepper to taste. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet with as little overlap as possible (you might need to add a few pieces to the pan with the cabbage).
- Roast the cabbage and squash for 15 minutes. Flip each cabbage piece using a spatula and toss the squash around. Continue roasting for 10 to 13 minutes, or until the cabbage edges are browned and the squash is nicely browned and tender.
- Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette. Add garlic, vinegar, maple syrup, mustard, red pepper flakes, and oregano to a bowl. Whisk to combine, then stream in the olive oil, whisking as you go. Season with ¼ teaspoon kosher salt and pepper to taste. Or, add all of the ingredients to a jar, close the lid, and shake up the jar until the dressing is emulsified.
- Make the almond crunch: Line a large plate with parchment paper. Heat a medium frying pan over medium heat. After a few minutes, add the almonds, agave nectar, and cayenne. Season with a bit of salt and black pepper. Stir the mixture constantly, until the nuts are browned and the sugar has caramelized, 2 to 3 minutes. Quickly transfer the mixture to the lined surface and use a spatula to squish the almonds together in a pile. Allow to rest for a few minutes, then use your hands to break them into clumps.
- Assemble the salad: Add the kale, carrot ribbons, and chickpeas to a large bowl. Pour some of the vinaigrette on top and toss with tongs or forks. Add the roasted squash and cabbage, add a bit more vinaigrette, and gently toss. Sprinkle the almond crunch on top.****Best served at room temperature or warm.