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Butternut Squash Salad with Apples, Goat Cheese & Grains

Adapted from Build-a-Bowl, by Nicki Sizemore (Storey Publishing, 2018). Caramelized butternut squash gets tossed with maple-roasted pecans, brown rice (or any whole grain you like, such as farro, quinoa, barley or wheat berries), crisp apples, creamy goat cheese and a roasted garlic dressing for a salad that’s savory, sweet and full of texture and flavor. It’s a fantastic side dish or healthy main course. Best of all, it can happily sit at room temperature for several hours, making it perfect for entertaining or for packing into work lunches. If you want to really gussy it up, garnish the salad with these easy Fried Sage Leaves just before serving. *Take note that you’ll need cooked grains for this recipe (see the tips).
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Keyword: butternut squash recipes, butternut squash salad recipe, roasted butternut squash recipe
Servings: 6 -8 people


Roasted squash, maple pecans and dressing

  • 2- pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice (4 cups diced)
  • 6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh sage, divided
  • 1 ½ teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon plus ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup pecans
  • 1 ½ tablespoons maple syrup, divided
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

To assemble

  • 3-4 cups cooked brown rice (from 1 cup uncooked), or other whole grains, such as quinoa, farro or barley
  • 1 crisp apple, such as Fuji, Granny Smith or Pink Lady, cored and cut into ½-inch dice
  • 2-4- ounces goat cheese, crumbled
  • Fried sage leaves (recipe link in header), optional


Make the roasted squash, maple pecans and dressing

  • Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Line one large baking sheet and one small baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Spread the diced butternut squash on the large baking sheet and add the garlic cloves, 1 ½ teaspoons of the sage, the balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Mix everything around on the pan to coat. Roast, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender and caramelized around the edges, about 30 minutes. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Let cool (reserve the roasted garlic cloves for the dressing). Do Ahead: The squash can sit at room temperature for several hours or it can be refrigerated overnight.
  • While the squash bakes, make the maple pecans. Pour the pecans onto the small baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the maple syrup. Season with salt. Toss the pecans to evenly coat in the syrup, then spread them in an even layer. Slide the pan in the oven (this can be alongside the squash) for about 5 minutes, or until the nuts are a shade darker in color and aromatic. Cool completely (the nuts will harden as they cool). Coarsely chop. Do Ahead: The maple pecans can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.
  • Squeeze the roasted cloves out of their skins into a small bowl, and mash them to a paste with a pinch of salt. Add the apple cider vinegar, the remaining ½ tablespoon maple syrup and the remaining ½ teaspoon sage. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk in the remaining ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil. Do Ahead: The dressing can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Assemble the salad

  • In a large bowl, combine the cooked rice, roasted butternut squash, apple and chopped pecans. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Taste and season with salt and pepper, as needed. Gently fold in the goat cheese. If you’re feeling fancy, garnish with fried sage leaves just before serving.


Do Ahead: Once assembled, the salad can sit at room temperature for up to 2 hours (garnish with the fried sage leaves right before serving).
  • For a speedier version of this salad, use defrosted frozen brown rice (found in the freezer section of most grocery stores).
  • Feel free to swap out the butternut squash for other winter squash varieties, or even for roasted cauliflower.
  • Baby arugula is a nice addition to the salad, if you’re craving some greens.
  • For some more protein, throw in some white beans or shredded chicken!
  • Find more nutritious one-bowl meals in my book, Build-a-Bowl!