Maple-Roasted Butternut Squash Quinoa Harvest Salad

It’s that time of year for squash.

I’m a big squash fan and even bigger fan when it’s roasted with maple syrup and butter.

The savory yet slightly sweet salad is easy, healthy, packed with big fall-inspired flavors, and there’s so much texture.

The buttery maple syrup coats the tender squash which is a nice contrast to the chewier quinoa. I used tri-colored quinoa and while I don’t think it tastes much different than white quinoa, I like the added color but use your favorite.

There’s lightly caramelized sweet yellow onion to boost the overall flavor, chewy tart-and-sweet dried cranberries, sliced almonds for a satisfying crunch, and parsley to add color and a mild herbiness.

The salad is great right away but it’s a perfect make-ahead recipe because the flavors develop over time and I think it tastes better a day or two after making it. It’s perfect for work or school lunches.

Maple-Roasted Butternut Squash Quinoa Harvest Salad

Butternut squash is roasted with maple syrup and butter. The savory yet slightly sweet salad is easy, healthy, packed with big fall-inspired flavors, and there’s so much texture. Buttery maple syrup coats the tender squash which is a nice contrast to the chewier quinoa. There’s lightly caramelized sweet yellow onion for flavor, chewy tart-and-sweet dried cranberries, almonds for a satisfying crunch, and parsley to add color and a mild herbiness. The salad is great right away but it’s a perfect make-ahead recipe because the flavors develop over time and tastes better a day or two after making it. It’s perfect for work or school lunches.

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Ingredients:

  • about 3 cups butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup (half of 1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • one extra-large (about 2 heaping cups diced) sweet Vidalia or yellow onion, peeled and diced small
  • 1 cup quinoa (I use tri-colored)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
  • 1 cup dried cranberries (I use orange-scented dried cranberries)
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons lemon juice, optional and to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Line a 9×13-inch pan with aluminum foil for easier cleanup, add the butternut squash and evenly drizzle with maple syrup, butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and toss to combine. Bake for about 45 to 60 minutes, or until squash is fork-tender. Stir twice while squash bakes to ensure even cooking. Baking time will range based on exact size of squash pieces and natural variance in squash as some have more moisture and release more juice while baking. While the squash bakes, start sautéing the onions.
  2. To a large skillet or saucepan, add the olive oil, onions, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until onions have softened and are lightly caramelized, about 7 to 8 minutes.
  3. Add the quinoa and stir it into the onions and let it toast for about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the water, apple cider vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, reduce the heat to low, cover pan, and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until all liquid has been absorbed.
  5. Transfer quinoa to a large bowl and add the dried cranberries, almonds, parsley, squash and all the cooking liquid, and stir to combine. Taste, check for seasoning balance, and if necessary to brighten up the flavor, add lemon juice to taste. I added it and it doesn’t make the dish taste lemony but the acid balances the flavor. If necessary add more salt, pepper, or possibly a pinch of cayenne pepper for heat. Dish can be served warm and immediately or stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. The flavors develop over time and tastes better a day or two after making it, and can either be served warm or cold.

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