This cozy fall salad combines baby kale, roasted kabocha squash, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds and feta all tossed in a tangy apple cider vinegar dressing.
I didn’t eat a ton of kale growing up, but it’s now one of my all-time favorite veggies and I have a ton of kale recipes here on EBF. Today I’m adding to the list this fall salad featuring baby kale and a bunch of my other fall favorites – roasted kabocha squash, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds and feta. To top it off, a cinnamon apple cider vinegar dressing. You know how much I love apple cider vinegar. I couldn’t leave it off this salad!
The colors and flavors make it lovely for fall. And if your tastebuds are anything like mine, you’re going to LOVE it.
Most salads I post here are meal-sized salads, but this one is a bit on the lighter side. You could certainly add some beans or a whole grain to this salad to make it a full meal or pair it with a cup of soup or top it with some protein. If you did smaller portions, it would be great as a starter salad too.
What is Kabocha Squash?
Often called a Japanese Pumpkin, kabocha squash is the sweetest winter squash variety that I’ve found, even sweeter than my other favorite, butternut squash. The texture is smooth and creamy but hearty enough to roast — basically a cross between a sweet potato and a pumpkin. The best part is that the skin is completely edible (aka tender after baking!) so you don’t have to peel it before or after roasting.
When looking for kabocha squash, pick one that feels heavy for its size, is firm and without bruises. The squash is shaped like a flatter pumpkin and is usually green with light stripes or spots.
Here’s What You Need
baby kale – you can absolutely use regular kale but baby kale is more mild, tender and perfect for the base of this salad. It’s packed with vitamins A, K and C as well as manganese, calcium and potassium. Any leafy green will also work here!
kabocha squash – no need to peel this squash before cooking! After roasting, the squash is caramelized, slightly sweet and the perfect addition to this salad. If you can’t find kabocha squash, you can also use roasted butternut squash, acorn squash, buttercup squash or even roasted sweet potatoes.
olive oil – for roasting the squash.
dried cranberries – use unsweetened or fruit sweetened dried cranberries if possible. They’ll still add a hint of sweetness to this salad! If you don’t have dried cranberries on hand feel free to swap it with any dried fruit! I could also see fresh apples or fresh figs being a nice addition!
I’m obsessed with this dressing! There’s a hint of cinnamon which pairs perfectly with this salad. Here’s what you need for the dressing:
apple cider vinegar – this is the star of the show here. When shopping for ACV, look for a brand that’s unpasteurized with “the mother” included. This is where all the nutrients are. I personally recommend Bragg’s apple cider vinegar. It’s organic, raw and the best of the best.
fresh orange juice – use freshly squeeze orange juice for the best flavor but if you’re in a pinch, store-bought orange juice works too.
olive oil – the neutral flavor of olive oil helps to balance the tartness of the apple cider vinegar and gives the dressing some healthy fat.
Dijon mustard – adds a little zest to the dressing and also acts as an emulsifier.
garlic – fresh garlic adds a ton of yummy garlic flavor and aroma to the dressing.
cinnamon – the secret ingredient that makes this dressing extra “fall” flavored.
sea salt and pepper – to taste and bring all of the flavors of the salad together.
How to Meal Prep this Fall Salad
This salad can easily be meal prepped. Here’s what I would do:
Roast the squash and allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
Mix the dressing ingredients and store in an airtight container. I like mixing in a mason jar so I can easily shake and recombine before assembling the salad.
Roast the pumpkin seeds. Allow to cool completely before storing.
When you’re ready to assemble the salad, you can reheat the squash if you’d like but I also like it cold! Build your salad and top with dressing.
¼teaspoonfreshly ground black pepper, more if needed
Preheat oven to 375°. Wash the outside of the kabocha squash with warm water. Cut the squash in half and scoop out all the seeds. Cut the squash into 1-inch semicircles. Toss the squash pieces with oil, sprinkle with sea salt and spread on a roasting pan.
Roast the squash for 15 minutes, remove from oven to toss, then roast for another 10-15 minutes, or until tender and golden.
While squash is roasting, prepare the dressing by placing all ingredients except the olive oil in a small bowl. Whisk until combined, then slowly whisk in the olive oil. Set aside.
To prepare the salads, place a portion of the kale on a plate, top with a portion of cranberries, pepitas and feta. Add the roasted kabocha slices, drizzle with desired amount of dressing and serve.
Baby kale: You can use regular kale or your favorite leafy green.