Beautiful, delicious and satisfying as a vegetarian main or side, butternut squash salad with caramelized onions, toasted pecans and warm cinnamon dressing will get rave reviews at your next holiday or dinner event.
The caramelization of the butternut squash and onions add richness to the salad and the warm cinnamon vinaigrette compliments the salad with hints of earthy sweet, tart and cinnamon.
The result is yummy comfort food. And I absolutely love the gorgeous color combination. Color on the plate was etched in my brain by my mother at an early age.
What to serve with butternut squash salad and caramelized onions
The butternut squash salad also makes an impressive, colorful side dish for a holiday event like Thanksgiving, Passover, Christmas or any dinner party.
Tailor To Your Taste
Here are a number of substitutes and variations you can try.
I use a spring mix. Arugula, baby spinach, butter/Boston lettuce and baby romaine would all work well too.
I tried various options when developing the cinnamon dressing. You can substitute the white balsamic vinegar (get the best quality you can) with apple cider vinegar, but I suggest using less cider vinegar – maybe just 1 tablespoon – and adding a bit more syrup to balance the extra tang. Needless to say, play around with the amount of cinnamon you like. I don’t like it to be overwhelming. And, consider adding a pinch of nutmeg if you like that too.
Any chopped toasted nuts or seeds will add some nice crunch. Other garnishes could include crumbled goat cheese or ricotta, fresh thyme or pomegranate seeds (more color!)
How to make butternut squash salad with warm cinnamon dressing
Yes, if you don’t mind doubling the calories and carbs, you can roast sweet potato instead of butternut squash. Sweet potato have more fiber and protein than squash.
Yes, according to Healthline butternut squash is is low in calories and high in many nutrients, including vitamin A, C, B6 and E, magnesium, calcium and potassium.
Kitchn describes and compares 6 methods of caramelizing onions and the winner (adding a pinch of baking soda).
- Leave out the onions. This will save you some hands on time and washing an extra pan. I’m not suggesting this, though, if you you have the time. The onions add great flavor and texture.
- Buy pre-peeled and pre-cut butternut squash if you can splurge a little – a little more expensive but a huge time and effort saver. No worries if you have to do it yourself – see instructions in the recipe notes (with a little trick).
- Buy pre-washed and cut up salad greens.
- All components (squash, onions, dressing) can be made up to a day or two ahead and kept in the fridge, covered. Bring the butternut squash and onions to room temperature before serving or warm them for 30-60 seconds in the microwave. Assemble salad before serving, heat the dressing in the microwave, drizzle over the salad and serve.
Love butternut squash?
Try one of these other recipes
- quinoa and butternut squash salad
- butternut squash salad cups
- squash curry (30 minutes)
- butternut squash noodles stir fry
- easy squash apple soup
- Thai-inspired butternut squash soup
Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cinnamon Dressing
- 4 teaspoon olive oil, divided
- 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into small cubes 1/2-3/4 inch (1.3-1.9 cm), Note 1 (about 2 cups)
- 1/2 large sweet onion or red onions, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 4 cups salad greens, Note 2 I use a spring mix
- Optional: pinch of baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon sugar for quicker caramelization of onions
Cinnamon Vinaigrette Dressing
- 2 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar, Note 2 (good quality)
- 2 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil (not extra virgin olive oil)
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup (or honey)
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- chopped toasted nuts (e.g. pecans, pine nuts, almonds, walnuts), crumbled goat cheese, pomegranate seeds.
- Heat oven to 425F/218C. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or foil sprayed with oil.
- ROAST BUTTERNUT SQUASH: Toss butternut squash in a large bowl with 2 teaspoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. If desired, add a pinch of cinnamon and/or sugar. Lay in single layer on pan and place in preheated oven. Roast for 20-30 minutes, flipping once, halfway through, until lightly browned in spots.
- CARAMELIZE ONIONS: Note 3. Heat medium or large skillet to Medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil then onions. Add a pinch of baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon sugar for quicker caramelization. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes until soft, translucent and lightly browned. If you want them darker, cook longer.
- MAKE DRESSING: Whisk all ingredients in a glass measuring cup or bowl until smooth. Taste and adjust to your liking – adding more salt, maple syrup, Dijon, cinnamon if needed or a splash of water or orange juice to thin it out.
- ASSEMBLE: Lay out salad on a plate or wide mouthed bowl/platter. Add roasted butternut squash and caramelised onions on top. Warm the dressing for 30-40 seconds in microwave. Drizzle evenly over salad. You may not need it all. Garnish with chopped nuts and/or crumbled goat cheese if desired. Serve. Alternatively, toss everything together and serve.
- How to peel and cut butternut squash: If you don’t have pre-peeled and cut squash. Here’s how to peel and cut squash. To make the job easier, I suggest piercing it a few times and softening it in the microwave for 4 minutes before peeling and dicing.
- Substitutions and variations
- Salad greens: I use a spring mix. Arugula, baby spinach, butter/Boston lettuce and baby romaine would all work well too.
- Cinnamon Dressing: You can substitute the white balsamic vinegar (get the best quality you can) with apple cider vinegar, but I suggest using less cider vinegar – maybe just 1 tablespoon – and adding a bit more syrup to balance the extra tang. Play around with the amount of cinnamon you like. I don’t like it to be overwhelming. And, consider adding a pinch of nutmeg if you like that too.
- Garnish: Any chopped toasted nuts or seeds will add some nice crunch. Other garnishes could include crumbled goat cheese or ricotta, fresh thyme or pomegranate seeds (more color!)
- Other ways to caramelize onions: See this article by Kitchn on 6 ways to caramelize onions.
- Make Ahead: All components (squash, onions, dressing) can be made up to a day or two ahead and kept in fridge, in an airtight container. Bring squash and onions to room temperature before serving or warm for 30-60 seconds in microwave. Assemble salad before serving, heat dressing in microwave, drizzle over salad, then serve.