Roasted Butternut Squash and Cranberry Quinoa Salad with Cider Dijon Vinaigrette

December 21, 2016

 Add a burst of color and flavor to the holiday table with this nutritious and delicious Roasted Butternut Squash and Cranberry Quinoa Salad.

Add a burst of color and flavor to the holiday table with this nutritious and delicious Roasted Butternut Squash and Cranberry Quinoa Salad

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You may recall last week when I shared my Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate Glaze that I mentioned I had another holiday recipe on the way. Well here it is! This Roasted Butternut Squash and Cranberry Quinoa Salad is the last holiday recipe I will be sharing this season and it’s a good one! Just look at how pretty and festive it is with the bright orange, red, and green. Can’t get more jolly than that!

I actually had this recipe in the works for a while before I found out this month’s Recipe ReDux theme and saw that I could make this recipe fit. It’s a little bit of a stretch, but I wanted to be sure you all had the chance to make this quinoa salad for your holiday table, so keep reading while I explain.

Cookbook Recipe Inspiration

This month’s ReDux theme is one we’ve done before and it’s a favorite of mine:

Grab a Book & Cook

We’re playing a little party game at the end of 2016: Grab your nearest cookbook and ReDux the recipe on page 201, 16, 216 – or any combination of the number β€˜2016.’

For last year’s December ReDux with the same theme I made my Salmon Waldorf Salad with Citrus Yogurt Dressing and the year before I made my Moroccan-Spiced Lamb Burgers – both recipes I make time and again and I hope you do too.

When I went through my cookbooks this year I happened to come across a recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash, Cranberry, Shallot & Pecan Tart on pages 120 and 121 of The Fresh & Green Table by Susie Middleton. I stopped right then and there because it was almost the exact flavor combination I was using in this quinoa salad I had already been testing a few weeks earlier.

While this Roasted Butternut Squash and Cranberry Quinoa Salad is certainly no tart, it incorporates many of the same ingredients and is more of an everyday side dish as opposed to the tart, which takes more time and would likely be saved for weekend brunch or company. And I’m all about ease these days!

butternut squash and cranberry quinoa salad is a perfect side dish for your thanksgiving and christmas table

Squash Season

Clearly I have a love of roasted winter squash paired with quinoa and ruby red fall/winter fruits – after all, it was only two weeks ago that I shared with you my Maple-Roasted Delicata Squash Quinoa Salad. While the ingredients are similar, I assure you this recipe is unique in its own way and you can find room in your menu plans for both (although you probably wouldn’t want to serve both at the same meal, but don’t let me stop you!).

As I have mentioned before, I love the flavors of this season and this recipe includes many of them: creamy and earthy winter squash, tart cranberries, and sweet apple cider. The addition of lemon zest and sage was inspired by the tart recipe and they add really nice flavor and color to the dish.

(As an aside, sage and butternut squash are a great pairing – if you haven’t tried them together, be sure to check out my Lightened-Up Macaroni and Cheese, Butternut Sage Risotto Balls, and this pasta.) Toasted pecans are an optional topping, but one I highly recommend for the added wintery flavor and crunch, and goat cheese is also optional, but turns this side dish into a lunch salad.

There are three components to this Roasted Butternut Squash and Cranberry Quinoa Salad: making the cider Dijon dressing, cooking the quinoa, and roasting the squash, cranberries, and shallots. Unlike the delicata squash quinoa salad, for this butternut squash and cranberry quinoa salad I use the apple cider in the dressing and cook the quinoa in plain water. I also chose to use white quinoa instead of tri-color or red quinoa because I wanted the colors of the rest of the ingredients to stand out.

close up of roasted butternut squash and cranberry quinoa salad topped with sage and pecans

Preparing Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad 

When roasting the butternut squash, shallots, and cranberries, be sure to keep an eye on everything to make sure the shallots and the cranberries don’t burn. Once those cranberries burst in the oven they brown pretty quickly.

I roast the butternut squash on it’s own at first and then toss the shallots and cranberries with oil and maple syrup and add them for the remainder of the cooking time. However, if you want the shallots more well done, add them to the butternut squash for the first round of roasting and just toss the oil and syrup with the cranberries before adding them to the baking sheet.

Once all three components of the recipe are ready, it’s time to assemble. Toss the cooked quinoa with half the cider Dijon vinaigrette and then fold in the roasted butternut squash, cranberries, and shallots, lemon zest, and thinly sliced sage and toss with the rest of the dressing. Top with toasted pecans for extra crunch and goat cheese for some added creaminess and flavor or leave them off to keep the quinoa salad vegan and nut-free.

This gluten-free quinoa salad is a great side dish for the holiday table or to enjoy all winter long. I sometimes make it as a side for weeknight dinners, but if you’re strapped for time it’s not the quickest side dish you can make. (FYI, my Spiced Quinoa with Roasted Apples and Root Vegetables is a little less involved if you’re looking for a weeknight option). With the addition of the pecans and goat cheese (pictured below) this side turns into lunch – don’t you just love when that happens?!

roasted butternut squash and cranberry quinoa salad topped with goat cheese and pecans for a protein boost

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do. Wishing you all happy holidays this coming weekend!

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Roasted Butternut Squash and Cranberry Quinoa Salad with Cider Dijon Vinaigrette

Roasted Butternut Squash and Cranberry Quinoa Salad with Cider Dijon Vinaigrette

Yield: 12 (1/2-cup servings)
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Roasted butternut squash, cranberries, and shallots are folded into fluffy quinoa and tossed with a cider Dijon vinaigrette for a side dish that's perfect for the fall and holiday season. Top with toasted pecans and goat cheese for extra crunch, creaminess, and flavor.


For the dressing:

  • 1/4 cup apple cider
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper,, to taste

For the quinoa:

  • Cooking spray
  • 4 cups diced butternut squash, (~1 1/2 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil,, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen whole cranberries, (~6 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1 cup uncooked white quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced sage, (cut chiffonade style)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper,, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons toasted chopped pecans, (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled goat cheese, (optional)


  1. To make the dressing, whisk together the apple cider, mustard, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper, to taste. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray.
  3. Toss diced squash with 2 tablespoons olive oil and spread in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Roast 15 minutes until the squash is tender and starting to brown.
  4. Toss cranberries and shallots with maple syrup and the remaining teaspoon oil. Add to the baking sheet and toss with the squash. Roast 10 to 15 minutes until the squash is crisp and browned on the outside, the cranberries have started to soften and burst, and the shallots are caramelized.
  5. While the squash and cranberries are roasting, prepare quinoa. Combine quinoa and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until all water is absorbed, about 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer quinoa to a bowl and let cool about 5 to 10 minutes.
  6. Toss quinoa with lemon zest, most of the sage, and half the dressing. Add the roasted squash, shallots, and cranberries, the rest of the dressing, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and freshly ground pepper, to taste. Toss, garnish with remaining sage, and serve warm. Top with pecans and goat cheese, if desired.

Do you have a favorite recipe makeover from a cookbook?

If so, what is it?

Share with me in the comments section below!

Butternut Squash and Cranberry Quinoa in serving bowl

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  1. 5 stars
    I am OBSESSED with this dressing Jess. I seriously have no kitchen right now but am taking a screen shot so I can enjoy this tomorrow on my arugula greens since I can’t make the rest of this beauty just yet! Hopefully in Jan my kitchen will be done!

  2. Who needs a tart when you can have this delicious salad! Love the festive colors in this dish and the addition of sage is really interesting. I used cranberries in my Redux post this month too- they add such a nice pop of color and flavor. Happy Holidays! πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks Sonali! I love sage and butternut squash together and don’t think sage gets enough love in the herb department! I loved your cranberries in your redux and can’t wait to try your crisp – I have more cranberries in the freezer waiting to be used. Happy holidays!

  3. I absolutely love, love, love the flavors here!! My family isn’t a huge quinoa fan but I totally am – which means you can bet that I will be making this!

    1. Thanks so much Kat! I’m so glad to hear you love quinoa and will give this a try. You can definitely use other grains for the rest of your family – wild rice would be a great sub or even brown rice if you want to keep it simpler.

    1. Thanks! haha…it’s probably just referred to as regular quinoa by most, but since you can find red quinoa and tri-color quinoa these days I wanted to be specific!

  4. 5 stars
    SO festive! I absolutely LOVE roasted butternut squash! Ugh. It’s just, I don’t even know – DELICIOUSSSSS! It’s magical, hahahahaha! And it totally reminds me of the holidays, perhaps making me love it even more?!

  5. What a festive dish! I’ve never tried to roast cranberries but now I know when I do to keep an eye on them!! I can’t wait to see them burst lol!

  6. 5 stars
    These are my favorite kind of fall dishes – obviously because it tastes great, but also because it’s so stinkin’ pretty! It looks gorgeous on a dinner party table πŸ™‚

  7. I love seeing light, refreshing dishes that still shout fall! I’m not a big fan of traditional Thanksgiving dishes, but would love this one at the big feast.

  8. 5 stars
    I think I have just about everything I need to make this dish, including the fresh sage from the garden I was telling you about! Will let you know how it turns out πŸ™‚

  9. YUM! Love cranberries and butternut squash. This salad would be so perfect as a side for Thanksgiving!

  10. 5 stars
    Happy Thanksgiving. I am looking forward to making this dish today. The only question I have is can I make it a couple of hours ahead of time and if so, do I reheat in the micriwave and select the “reheat” button?

    1. Happy Thanksgiving Cindy! Sorry I didn’t see this question yesterday – took the day off for the holiday. Did you end up making the salad ahead of time? For future reference, you can make it ahead and either serve it room temperature or warm it up – up to you!

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