Making this fall kale and quinoa salad could not be any simpler. Made with fresh fall favorites, like apples, butternut squash and dried cranberries and homemade creamy pumpkin dressing, this salad is great for week day lunches, holiday, and dinner sides.
It is difficult to find a salad that is hearty enough to be filling, yet plant based and gluten free. This fall kale and quinoa salad is one of my favorites because it is packed full of nutrition from the fresh vegetables and protein from the quinoa. I like to enjoy it with my pumpkin pasta or along side my cranberry bruschetta during the holidays.
WHY YOU'LL LOVE THIS RECIPE
- Gluten Free + Dairy Free. Because quinoa is naturally gluten free, and there is not added dairy in this salad or the dressing, this salad is allergy friendly and naturally filled with health benefits.
- Homemade Salad Dressing. Enjoy a creamy pumpkin dressing that takes under 2 minutes to make. Made with fresh pumpkin puree and tahini, it could not be easier to make. If you have any left over pumpkin puree, you can use it to make my pumpkin crunch bagels, my pumpkin cold foam or my pumpkin protein muffins.
- Easy to customize. You can easily omit certain ingredients or add your to this salad. You can double ingredients if one if your favorite (I do this with the butternut squash!). I personally like to add crispy tofu or roasted maple chickpeas!
- Kale. Using kale as the base of this fall kale salad provides a for heartier salad. Kale harmonizes with the fall flavors and provides more structure for the heavier toppings. You may also substitute kale for any of your favorite greens.
- Quinoa. Quinoa provides healthy carbs and plant based protein, making the salad more filling and flavorful. You can swap rice in its place for a 1-1 ratio, but you will lose out on the protein.
- Apples. Any apple type will work for this fall kale and quinoa salad. I personally enjoy using a softer apple to provide for different textures within the salad.
- Butternut squash. Butternut squash is a vitamin and mineral rich fall staple. It is one of my favorites to eat all year 'round. If you have any left over butternut squash, use it to make my butternut squash mashed potatoes or my butternut squash bruschetta. You may also swap sweet potatoes at a 1-1 ratio.
- Seeds. Nuts add a nice crunch to this salad, but can be omitted for any reasons.
- Pumpkin Dressing. My homemade tahini pumpkin dressing is perfect for this salad. It adds a little bit of sweetness and is creamy, pairing perfectly with the crunchy, hardy vegetables. If you prefer a lighter dressing, I highly recommend using my apple cider vinaigrette.
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS
- Bake the butternut squash. Begin by cooking your butternut squash in the oven or air fryer. The baking time will vary based on the size of your butternut squash or the size of the chunks (if you purchase pre-cut butternut squash). If you are in a rush, I recommend pre-cooking the squash.
- Cook the quinoa. While the butternut squash is baking, cook the quinoa according to the package. If you want to add additional flavor, you can also cook it in vegetable broth. If you are short on time, you can also microwave it.
- Prepare the vegetables. While you wait for the quinoa and butternut squash, begin cutting your vegetables. De-stem your kale so only the leafy portions are part of the salad. Shave the brussels sprouts by slicing them very thinly so the leafy portion has the ability to fall apart. You can use a mandolin to make this easier, but a kitchen knife does the chop too. Cut the apples into thin slices, as well as the onions.
- Prepare the pumpkin salad dressing. This dressing is so easy to make. Simply mince the garlic then add ingredients to a bowl and whisk. Depending on the thickness you prefer, start with 2 tbsp of water and continue to add 1 to 2 more until the consistency is to your liking.
- Plate the salad. Plating this salad is so fun! Start with adding the kale to your plate, then continue to build it as your prefer. I like to add the brussels sprouts, then quinoa + butternut squash, then onions and apples. I sprinkle the seeds and cranberries then drizzle the pumpkin dressing.
- Storage. This fall quinoa salad is perfect to make ahead of time for meal prep! I recommend storing it without the salad dressing, apples, which turn brown, and seeds, which can become soft from the moisture. Simply add all ingredients, other than the dressing, apples and seeds, to the salad and the store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 day. The pumpkin dressing will stay in the fridge for up to 5 days. It may separate due to the fresh ingredients. If it does, give it a good shake.
- Freezing. I do not recommend freezing this salad or the dressing.
TIME SAVING HACKS
- Time Saving Hacks. To save time making this recipe, buy pre-cut vegetables or pre-cut your vegetables during meal prep. Pre-cook the quinoa or use the microwave to cook it to cut back on time.
This dressing will last up to 5 days in an airtight container in the fridge.
By pairing the kale with a sweet and/or acidic dressings, it will not taste bitter. I recommend using the pumpkin tahini dressing I provide for in the recipe card section. If you are not a pumpkin fan, you can also pair it with my apple cider vinaigrette.
No, no blanching required! I recommend removing the stems from the kale though!
- Slice your vegetables thinly. Because this salad has a lot of ingredients and add ones, it is important that no ingredient is more powerful than others. Slicing the apples, onions and brussels sprouts thinly makes this fall kale and quinoa salad easy to eat and the flavors are in perfect harmony.
- Buy pre-cut vegetables to save time. If you are in a rush, buy pre-sliced vegetables and cut up butternut squash.
- Customize to your liking. If you like one ingredient more than another, feel free to increase the amount added to the salad. Don't like an ingredient? Omit it. This salad is customized based off your taste buds!
MORE FALL RECIPES
Fall Kale and Quinoa Salad
- 3 cups kale de-stemmed and chopped
- 1 cup brussel sprouts de-stemmed and shaved
- ½ cup red apple diced into small pieces
- ¼ cup red onion diced into small pieces
- ½ cup butternut squash cut into bite-size pieces
- ½ cup cooked quinoa
- 2 tbsp dried cranberries
- 2 tbsp sunflower seeds
- 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin Tahini Dressing
- ⅓ cup tahini
- ⅓ cup pumpkin puree
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 3-4 tbsp water
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
Pumpkin Tahini Dressing
- Place all ingredients in a medium size bowl, other than water, and whisk. Slowly add in water, 1 tbsp at a time, until the dressing reaches your desired consistency. I personally use 3 tbsp of water.
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and place parchment paper on a baking sheet (or grease your sheet). Cook the cubed butternut squash at 350 approx. 15-20 minutes. Once you are able to pierce it with a fork, it is done. Set aside to cool.
- Cook the Quinoa according to the package.
- While the butternut squash and quinoa are cooking, prepare your vegetables. Make sure to cut the stems of off the kale and brussel sprouts. You will want everything in bite size pieces or smaller so they fit on a fork.
- Combine all of the ingredients. Start with adding the kale to your, then continue to build it as your prefer. I add brussels sprouts, then quinoa + butternut squash, then onions and apples. I sprinkle the seeds and cranberries.
- Add dressing to your desired amount. I usually add 1 cup, but add as much or as little as your prefer
- Option to use vegan or regular parmesan on top!
- Customize this salad. If you like one specific ingredient more than others, simply add more. Don't like an ingredient? No problem - omit it. You can also top it with your protein choice.
- Storage. I recommend storing it without the salad dressing, apples, which turn brown, and seeds, which can become soft from the moisture. Simply add all ingredients, other than the dressing, apples and seeds, to the salad and the store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 day.
- The pumpkin dressing will stay in the fridge for up to 5 days. It may separate due to the fresh ingredients. If it does, give it a good shake.
- Dressing. I love using the pumpkin tahini dressing, but if you are short on time or not feeling pumpkin, use your favorite store bought dressing. I like using balsamic on this.