Roasted Winter Squash, Cranberry, and Almond Salad with Lemon Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette

A salad loaded with roasted squash, chunky veggies, crunchy almonds, and chewy dried cranberries is my perfect meal.

The balsamic-based vinaigrette just seals the deal because I could literally drink balsamic. No shame.

Yes, I make a ton of cookiescakesgooey stuff, and desserts dripping in chocolate, but when it comes right down to what I crave, it’s plants. Really it is.

Since I don’t have a supersonic metabolism, filling up on veggies rather than brownies is how I can still bake as much as I do, yet fit into my clothes and through doorways. Always good.

I roasted a kabocha squash, my favorite squash, and diced it. Kabocha can be a bit tricky to find, and any hearty winter squash like butternut, buttercup, or acorn will work.

I recommend roasting the squash whole. Turn on the oven, place squash on a baking tray, and roast for about 45 minutes, or until it has some give when you squeeze it. This whole-roasting method is so much easier than trying to hack through a rock hard raw squash, scoop out stubborn seeds and filaments, and it allows the squash to behave as it’s own self-steaming unit. 

After about 45 minutes, you’ll be able to easily glide your knife through the soft flesh, and you can clean it without struggle. If it happens to be a little undercooked or firm, put the halves back on the baking tray and roast until soft.

Prepare a bed of greens, add diced carrots or other favorite vegetables like broccoli, tomatoes, Brussels’s sprouts or whatever you love. Then add the diced squash, cranberries, and almonds. If you have other dried fruit like golden raisins or apricots, walnuts or pecans, sunflower or pumpkin seeds. Use your favorites.

Salads like these are a great way to use up odds and ends in your fridge or freezer from random frozen peas or corn to cucumbers or avocado. The more veggies, the merrier.

I drizzled the salad with an easy whisk-together vinaigrette that takes seconds to make. Use your favorite dijon or brown mustard, whisked together with lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and salt, before whisking in olive oil.

Vinaigrettes and salad dressings are so personal, and even when I try, they don’t come out exactly exactly the same every time. Probably because I rarely measure the ingredients, but also my tastes vary on any given day, so tinkering around with the balance of flavors is key.

Some days I want more acid and a bigger squirt of lemon (or orange) is preferred. Other days I need more sugar, or more salt, or sometimes I want a really pungent blast of balsamic with very little oil.

Play around with the ratio of ingredients until you hit on a flavor combo that you enjoy.

I’m all about texture, and this is my kind of salad with so many diverse textures included. The soft, slightly warm squash is a great contrast to the cool greens.

The almonds add a hearty crunch and contain plant-based protein and healthy fat to stay full and satisfied, while the cranberries add tart sweetness and chewiness.

The balsamic vinaigrette is punchy and packed with tangy, intense flavor. The mustard and lemon take a backseat to the robust balsamic vinegar.

I need a couple tablespoons of brown sugar to balance the flavors. Sweet, tangy, sour, and savory, all in one and the olive oil adds a comforting touch.

Eating vegan, gluten-free, and sticking to your healthy resolutions is easy when your meal leaves you satisfied.

I could eat this every day and not get sick of it.

Roasted Winter Squash, Cranberry, and Almond Salad with Lemon Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette (vegan, gluten-free, soy-free)

A salad loaded with roasted squash, chunky veggies, crunchy almonds, and chewy dried cranberries is my perfect meal. The soft, slightly warm squash is a great contrast to the cooling greens. I used kabocha, use your favorite squash, and follow the easy whole-roasting method outlines. The almonds add a hearty crunch and contain plant-based protein and healthy fat to stay full and satisfied, while the cranberries add tart sweetness and chewiness. The balsamic vinaigrette is punchy and packed with tangy, intense flavor. The mustard and lemon take a backseat to the robust balsamic vinegar. Sweet, tangy, sour, and savory, all in one. Use my recipe as a guideline, and then tinker with the ratios of ingredients that taste best to you. Eating vegan, gluten-free, and sticking to your healthy resolutions is easy with satisfying meals like this. Use the recipe to clean out the odds and ends in your fridge or freeze and mix-and-match with your favorite veggies.

Did you make this recipe?

Ingredients:

Salad
1 winter squash, roasted, cleaned, and diced into 1-inch cubes (kabocha, butternut, buttercup, acorn, etc.)
2 cups mixed salad greens
half of 1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
1/2 cup dried cranberries (or craisins, golden raisins, raisins)
1/2 cup almonds (I used unsalted raw almonds, use your favorite nut; lightly toasted if preferred)
Lemon Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette – Makes about 1/2 cup
juice of half of 1 large lemon, about 2 to 3 tablespoons
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon or brown, grainy mustard
1+ tablespoon(s) brown sugar, or to taste
1+ teaspoon(s) salt, to taste
about 1/3 cup olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Wash squash and place it whole on a baking sheet. Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes or until squash has some give when squeezed.
  2. Slice squash open vertically, remove seeds and filaments; discard.
  3. Squash flesh should be fork-tender and soft. If it’s not quite done, return halves to the baking sheet, cut side up, and continue to bake until done. Butternut sometimes takes longer than kabocha, buttercup, or acorn, closer to 60 minutes rather than 40-45. Baking times will vary based on squash size.
  4. Dice about 1 cup squash into 1-inch pieces for the salad; set aside. Extra squash can be stored for up to 5 days airtight in the refrigerator. Try any of these 12 squash recipes for the remainder, or just eat with a pat of butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar, or dunked in extra vinaigrette.
  5. Place salad greens on a large plate.
  6. Evenly sprinkle with diced squash, carrot, cranberries, and almonds; set aide.
  7. Lemon Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette – In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except the oil and whisk to incorporate.
  8. Slowly drizzle in the oil and whisk vigorously to incorporate.
  9. Taste dressing and see what it needs and adjust accordingly.
  10. Drizzle over salad and serve. Extra dressing will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Re-whisk before using the leftover portion on future salads.
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