Fall Quinoa Spinach Salad

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This quinoa spinach salad is loaded with fall favorites like butternut squash, chopped apples and quinoa. It is packed with nutrition and flavor and you’ll love the apple cider vinegar tahini dressing!

I typically go crazy with pumpkin recipes as soon as fall hits, but today I have a pumpkin-less recipe that features more fall produce favorites – butternut squash, apples and greens. I’ve been eating these things separately or in other dishes, but finally decided to throw them all together for a tasty meal-sized salad.

Salad plate filled with spinach harvest salad including butternut squash, cranberries, quinoa, pecans, and apples. A fork of on the plate and a dish towel to the side.

Hearty fall salads are seriously the best! In this Quinoa Spinach Salad, the roasted butternut squash makes it sweet and satisfying, while the apple and pepitas add a nice crunch. Quinoa adds some staying power and the spinach nourishes the body in a way that no other food (besides other leafy greens) can. If you like my garlicky kale salad, you’ll love this one because the dressing is almost exactly the same – I just added a little maple syrup to sweeten it up a bit. And if you enjoy this salad, you should also check out my full roundup of quinoa salad recipes.

Ingredients for the fall harvest spinach salad in a bowl before being mixed-- chopped apple, quinoa, cranberries, pecans, butternut squash, and spinach.

Health Benefits of Quinoa

I love using quinoa as a base for salads. It’s naturally gluten-free, high in protein and one of few plant foods that contain all nine essential amino acids (source). Not only that, but it’s also high in fiber, magnesium, B vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E and various beneficial antioxidants! Talk about a powerhouse ingredient!

Unfamiliar with making quinoa? I’ve got a great guide on how to cook quinoa and it’s loaded with information about this little seed too.

Ingredients for the fall harvest spinach salad in a bowl before being fully mixed-- chopped apple, quinoa, cranberries, pecans, butternut squash, and spinach.

Here’s What You Need

  • baby spinach and quinoa – the base of this meal-sized salad. You’ll need 1 1/2 cups of cooked quinoa which is 1/2 cup dry quinoa.
  • butternut squash – cut the squash into uniform, bite-size pieces so they roast evenly.
  • apple –  I prefer to use Honeycrisp, Pink Lady or Fuji apples, but any variety will work. Uniform, bite sized pieces are ideal here too so you can get a bite with all the flavors together!
  • pepitas – pepitas are pumpkin seeds without the shell, but if you can’t find them you can use regular pumpkin seeds or even pecans for a nice added crunch. Roast them alongside the butternut squash for an roasty flavor boost.
  • dried cranberries – I love adding dried fruit to my salads for a little touch of sweetness and texture. Raisins would also be great in this recipe.
  • tahini apple cider vinegar dressing – tahini, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, tamari, nutritional yeast, garlic and a touch of maple syrup make up this delicious salad dressing.
Ingredients for the fall harvest salad in a glass bowl being tossed with the apple cider vinegar tahini dressing.

Steps to Build This Salad

Prep butternut squash – Prepare the squash by peeling it, cutting it in half and scraping out the seeds, then cut the squash into bite-size cubes. You can also buy pre-cut butternut squash to skip this step! Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and roast at 400°F for 30-40 minutes, turning once or twice, until all the pieces are tender and have a few small brown spots.

Roast pepitas – If your pepitas or pecans are raw, you can toast them in the oven with the roasting squash. Spread seeds/nuts on a separate baking sheet and add to the oven with the butternut squash for 5 to 10 minutes or until the seeds/nuts are golden and crunchy, then remove from the pan to cool. Be sure to watch the seeds/nuts carefully because they can burn quickly. The pepitas will take less time to toast than the pecans because they’re smaller.

Assemble salad – While roasting the squash, toss together spinach, cooked quinoa, apple and cranberries in a large salad bowl. Add cooled pepitas (or pecans) once they’ve been toasted. Once the butternut squash is done roasting, allow it to cool and then place into the salad bowl with the other ingredients.

Make dressing – While while butternut squash is roasting, prepare the dressing by placing all remaining ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Serve – Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Tossed fall harvest spinach salad in a glass bowl with wooden spoons.

Switch it up!

You can easily swap some of the ingredients in this salad and get an entirely different meal that will be equally delicious!

  • Baby spinach – use another dark, leafy green like kale or collard greens. Arugula is a great salad base as well.
  • Butternut squash – try roasted sweet potatoes instead, or even cinnamon maple roasted Kabocha Squash.
  • Apple – instead of apple, you could use pears or even jicama.
  • Pepitas – as mentioned above, you can also use pumpkin seeds or pecans. The idea here is to add some crunch so any kind of nut or seed will do!
  • Dried cranberries – raisins or dried cherries would also be tasty!

How to Serve Fall Quinoa Spinach Salad

For me, this is a meal-sized salad I would eat on its own. But it would also make a great side salad if you want to serve it to more people! Here are some great ideas to serve alongside this salad:

Salad plate filled with spinach harvest salad including butternut squash, cranberries, quinoa, pecans, and apples. A fork of on the plate and a dish towel to the side.

More Fall Favorites to Check Out

More Quinoa Recipes you Might Enjoy

Fall Harvest Spinach Salad

5 from 22 votes
Loaded with fall favorites like butternut squash, chopped apples and dried cranberries, this fall harvest spinach salad is packed with nutrition and flavor.
Salad plate filled with spinach harvest salad including butternut squash, cranberries, quinoa, pecans, and apples. A fork of on the plate and a dish towel to the side.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 2

Ingredients

  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped
  • 1 ½ cups cooked quinoa, cooked according to package directions (1/2 cup dry quinoa)
  • ¾ cup butternut squash, chopped
  • 1 medium apple, peeled and chopped
  • cup pepitas, pumpkin seeds or pecans
  • 3 Tablespoons dried cranberries

Tahini Apple Cider Vinegar Dressing

  • 2 Tablespoons tahini
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons low sodium tamari or aminos
  • 4 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic, about 2 cloves
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup

Instructions
 

  • Prepare the squash by peeling it, cutting it in half and scraping out the seeds.
  • Cut the squash into bite-size cubes, place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and roast at 400° for 30-40 minutes, turning once or twice, until all the pieces are tender and have a few small brown spots.
  • If your pepitas or pecans are raw, you can toast them in the oven with the roasting squash. Spread seeds/nuts on a separate baking sheet and add to the oven with the butternut squash for 5 to 10 minutes or until the seeds/nuts are golden and crunchy, then remove from the pan to cool. Be sure to watch the seeds/nuts carefully because they can burn quickly. The pepitas will take less time to toast than the pecans because they’re smaller.
  • While roasting the squash, toss together spinach, cooked quinoa, apple and cranberries in a large salad bowl. Add cooled pepitas (or pecans) once they’ve been toasted.
  • Prepare dressing by placing all remaining ingredients (tahini through maple syrup) in a blender and blend until smooth.
  • Once the butternut squash is done roasting, allow it to cool and then place into the salad bowl with the other ingredients. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Video

Notes

Baby spinach – use another dark, leafy green like kale or collard greens. Arugula is a great salad base as well.
Butternut squash – try roasted sweet potatoes instead, or even cinnamon maple roasted Kabocha Squash.
Apple – instead of apple, you could use pears or even jicama.
Pepitas – as mentioned above, you can also use pumpkin seeds or pecans. The idea here is to add some crunch so any kind of nut or seed will do!
Dried cranberries – raisins or dried cherries would also be tasty!

Nutrition

Serving: 1/2 of recipe Calories: 561kcal Carbohydrates: 73g Protein: 23g Fat: 21g Saturated Fat: 3g Sodium: 641mg Fiber: 15g
Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Keyword: fall harvest spinach salad

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?

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Recipe Rating




    79 comments
    1. Ashley
      September 19, 2021 AT 8:49 pm

      4 stars
      Haven’t tried the salad yet as I’m meal prepping for my upcoming week. Ingredient list/ directions would be more helpful if they told you how much uncooked quinoa would make 1 1/2 cups of cooked quinoa. Now I am stuck with a huge pile of quinoa 🤦🏽‍♀️.

      1. Brittany Mullins
        September 20, 2021 AT 7:16 pm

        Hey Ashley – Thanks for the feedback, sorry about the confusion. I just added how 1.5 cups of cooked quinoa = 1/2 cup dry quinoa. Let me know what you think of this salad!

    2. Suzy
      September 13, 2021 AT 2:51 pm

      5 stars
      This salad has all the flavors of Fall!🍁🍂 We did take an extra step and coated the squash with a small amount of coconut oil, cinnamon and sea salt just to add to the fall vibe…other than that the dressing and all the other components of this salad are super tasty!! ❤️❤️❤️

      1. Brittany Mullins
        September 14, 2021 AT 10:36 am

        So happy to hear you loved this salad, Suzy! Thanks so much for the review and the star rating. It means so much to me.

    3. Rachel
      August 26, 2021 AT 5:43 pm

      Can I make it without the Nutritional yeast

      1. Brittany Mullins
        August 27, 2021 AT 11:03 am

        The nutritional yeast is a big component to the dressing, so I wouldn’t skip it! It adds an amazing flavor and some cheesiness without cheese. If you don’t have nutritional yeast I highly recommend picking some up 🙂 But you could use a different dressing instead.

    4. Cayla
      January 10, 2021 AT 9:01 pm

      5 stars
      I love a bulky flavorful salad and this one fits the bill! I wanted to try this as “something different” since the ingredients looked interesting to me, and the combinations pleasantly surprised me! This has since been on my menu more than once and is sure to keep making appearances.

      1. Brittany Mullins
        January 10, 2021 AT 11:42 pm

        I’m so glad you tried and enjoyed this salad, Cayla! Thanks for leaving a review. I so appreciate it. 🙂

    5. Jennifer
      November 19, 2020 AT 9:09 am

      5 stars
      Another great EBF recipe! I used kale because it was what I had on hand and it was delish!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        November 20, 2020 AT 3:18 pm

        So glad you loved this salad, Jennifer!!

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