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butternut squash salad with cinnamon dressing on plate
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4.88 from 16 votes

Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cinnamon Dressing

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.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Main Vegetarian dish, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Vegetarian
Servings (change as needed): 4 sides (or 2 main dishes)
Author: Cheryl

Ingredients

  • 4 teaspoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into small cubes ½-3/4 inch (1.3-1.9 cm), Note 1 (about 2 cups)
  • ½ large sweet onion or red onions, thinly sliced (about 1 ½ cups)
  • 4 cups salad greens, Note 2 I use a spring mix
  • Optional: pinch of baking soda and ½ 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)
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
  • teaspoon ground black pepper

Garnish Options

  • chopped toasted nuts (e.g. pecans, pine nuts, almonds, walnuts), crumbled goat cheese, pomegranate seeds.

Instructions

  • 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 ½ 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. 

Notes

  1. 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. 
  2. 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!)
  3. Other ways to caramelize onions: See this article by Kitchn on 6 ways to caramelize onions. 
  4. 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. 
Nutrition value estimates are for side dish portions and do not include garnishes like nuts or goat cheese. 
Calories: 181kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 173mg | Potassium: 526mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 12509IU | Vitamin C: 35mg | Calcium: 68mg | Iron: 1mg