Roasted Butternut Squash Kale Salad

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Featuring crispy and chewy roasted butternut squash and cabbage, kale and carrot ribbons, chickpeas, a tangy vinaigrette, and a sweet-and-spicy almond crunch, this is the fall salad of your dreams! Hearty yet refreshing, it’s perfect for fall entertaining.
Prep 25 minutes
Cook 25 minutes
Total 50 minutes
5 from 45 votes

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.

butternut squash and cabbage salad with kale on platter

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.

butternut squash and cabbage salad with kale on platter

How to make this salad

Gather your produce.

carrots and cabbage on cutting board with butternut squash and kale

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.

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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.

sweet and spicy almond crunch

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!

butternut squash and cabbage salad with kale on platter

Substitutions

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).

butternut squash and cabbage salad with kale on platter

More vegetable side dishes for the holidays

I hope you’ll enjoy this delightful roasted butternut squash kale salad :)

Roasted Butternut Squash Kale Salad

5 from 45 votes
Featuring crispy and chewy roasted butternut squash and cabbage, kale and carrot ribbons, chickpeas, a tangy vinaigrette, and a sweet-and-spicy almond crunch, this is the fall salad of your dreams! Hearty yet refreshing, it’s perfect for fall entertaining.
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Course: Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: New American
Diet Vegan
Serving size: 4 (main) or 8 (side)

Ingredients

  • 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

Salad Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

* 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. 
** If your nuts are salted, skip the salt or go really light on it.
**** Squash too tough to cut in half? Microwave it for 2 minutes. This softens it, making it much easier to slice through.  
**** 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.

Calories: 578kcal | Carbohydrates: 72g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 19g | Trans Fat: 1g | Sodium: 543mg | Potassium: 1602mg | Fiber: 16g | Sugar: 24g | Vitamin A: 29494IU | Vitamin C: 164mg | Calcium: 352mg | Iron: 6mg

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4.98 from 45 votes (20 ratings without comment)

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59 comments on Roasted Butternut Squash Kale Salad

  1. Nouran lkd

    5 stars
    My gosh Nisha. Is there no recipe of yours that doesn’t absolutely burst with flavour?

    This was very delicious and the Roasted cabbage was something I’d never tried before but anticipate I will be making much more often.
    The candied nuts really are the cherry on top.
    Brilliant recipe as usual.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thank you for the fantastic review, Nouran! It makes us incredibly happen to know you loved the salad :)

  2. Nelly

    5 stars
    I loved this salad. The roasted vegetables took it over the top and the dressing was perfect, as well as beautiful. The carrot ribbons really gave it a nice touch. I will not be buying salad dressing for my family again if I can help it. I plan to make this salad again the next time I entertain for sure. Thank you for another amazing recipe

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Your positive feedback is the best reward for our hard work. It’s amazing to hear the salad was such a hit. Thank you, Nelly!

  3. Francisca

    Sounds delicous! Can you also use a red cabbage instead of a green one?

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Sure. Red cabbage is slightly less sweet than green cabbage when roasted, but it shouldn’t make a huge difference. If you find the taste not as sweet as you’d like, you can add a little more maple syrup to the vinaigrette.

  4. Valerie

    5 stars
    I make this for my family every Thanksgiving as the flavors seem to meld well with the traditional dishes. Someone always asks me for the recipe. I love sending them to your site! I skip the cabbage and use purchased candied nuts to cut down on the number of steps. Like other commenters, I always double the dressing and use the excess later.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Yay, it’s awesome to hear the recipe is on Thanksgiving repeat for you, Valerie. Thanks for sharing :)

  5. Simon

    5 stars
    Delicious salad. Prep was much much longer than 25 though. I would say allow 45 minutes prep

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Simon, we’re glad to hear the salad was a hit! Sorry to hear the prep time took you longer than you had originally expected, though.

  6. Audrey

    5 stars
    This was literally the best salad I have had in ages and it was a hit at my Friendsgiving this year. I was a bit lazy and skipped the carrots and cabbage but it still turned out great. I think honestly it’s the squash and the vinaigrette that make it so good. I didn’t even think that I liked butternut squash but the cumin and chili went so well with the maple.

    I did make the almond crunch with maple syrup instead of Agave, and as Nisha guessed, it didn’t stick together so much, but the flavor was still great and it’s one less ingredient you need to get which is alway a plus for me since I live in Germany and it can be hard to find even the „basics“ sometimes.

    All around so happy I tried out this recipe and I will be making it again!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      We appreciate your feedback and support, Audrey. Thank you for leaving such a great review!

  7. Issabel Iuresi

    5 stars
    Just perfect! A very nice combination of sweet and spicy. I’d never thought to roast the cabbage this way and I just loved it!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thank you for your lovely comment, Issabel! It makes us happy to know that you enjoyed the recipe.

  8. Danielle Farmer

    5 stars
    We are a meat and potato kind of family, and we generally sit down to eat our meals in front of the television now that the kids are grown and off to college. We’re trying to eat less meat and are so happy we found this delicious recipe; SOOOOO delicious that we didn’t even think to turn on the tele. We were too busy mmmmmming and saying how amazing it was to bother.
    It took us more than 25 minutes to prep everything, and we toasted pecans without the agave syrup instead of the almonds because I prefer less sweetness. Next time we make this (and we will), we will double the dressing recipe and add more pecans. Thank you so much, Nisha. We can’t wait to try more of your recipes!!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Danielle, it’s great to hear how much of a hit this salad was! If you haven’t already, you should definitely try this new vegan pumpkin salad– it’s also out of this world!

  9. Emma Brooks

    5 stars
    This salad is amazing! Such a perfect balance of spicy and sweet. Honestly much better than anything we could have gotten in a restaurant. I didn’t have any cabbage so I subbed brussle sprouts—so tastey!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Emma, So glad to hear you think the salad is better than restaurant quality :)

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