Fall Quinoa Spinach Salad
Published Sep 23, 2018, Updated Nov 19, 2021
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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.
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.
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.
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 a roasted 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.
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.
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:
- Apple Cider Vinegar Chicken
- Pumpkin Spice Salmon
- Eggplant Casserole with Ground Turkey
- Maple Glazed Salmon
- Butternut Squash Soup
- Healthy Turkey Chili
More Fall Favorites to Check Out
- Baked Butternut Squash Fries
- Kale Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash
- Wild Rice Stuffing with Butternut Squash and Sweet Cherries
- Fuji Apple Salad
- Vegan Apple Bread
- Fall Breakfast Salad
More Quinoa Recipes you Might Enjoy
Fall Harvest Spinach Salad
- 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
- ⅓ cup pepitas, pumpkin seeds or pecans
- 3 Tablespoons dried cranberries
- 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.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.