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This butternut squash quinoa salad makes a great side dish or even a main course for vegans and vegetarians!
It’s been a long time since I’ve done a quinoa recipe, and this one has tons of flavor. It’s naturally gluten-free and has a natural sweetness from the roasted squash.
What’s So Great About Quinoa?
Quinoa is fabulous stuff. It’s actually a seed that we treat like a grain. It has all 9 amino acids in it, just like meat, and if it’s prepared well, it’s crazy delicious! I far prefer it to rice or most other grains.
How To Prepare Quinoa
The trick with quinoa is to rinse it super well before you cook it. Even if the package says it was pre-washed or rinsed, rinse it again. If you don’t, you’ll end up with a really awful, bitter-ish flavor. So rinse, rinse, rinse!
I use warm water and put the quinoa into a fine-mesh sieve. I use my hand to move it around in the strainer and let the warm water run over everything. It’s hard to over emphasis how much you DON’T want to skip this step!
The Best Way To Flavor Quinoa
The best way to get flavor into the quinoa during cooking is to follow the package directions, but substitute the water called for on the package with vegetable broth (or chicken broth if you’re not vegan or vegetarian).
Then, of course, you add any spices or seasonings. But using broth instead of water gives quinoa a really nice base of flavor. I don’t think I’ve ever cooked quinoa with plain water except for maybe once or twice until I figured out how much better it tastes with broth.
If you wish, you can certainly add more things to this salad. Here are some suggestions:
- Goat cheese crumbles
- Feta cheese crumbles
- Sweet Potatoes – You can even substitute the butternut with sweet potatoes if you prefer them.
- Other veggies such as chopped broccoli, cauliflower, or even steamed spinach.
- The squash is heavily seasoned on purpose. If you eat the squash by itself, you’ll think I’ve gone crazy with the spices. It’s super strong seasoning! But once you mix the squash in with the quinoa, the spices get into the quinoa and it becomes the perfect level of seasoning. So don’t panic if you happen to taste the squash before putting it in the quinoa. I promise it’ll all work out okay in the end.
- Keep the butternut squash pieces small and chop the pecans. The smaller you chop things, the better texture the finished salad will have.
What’s In This Quinoa?
(Print the full recipe from the recipe card at the end of this post)
4 cups cubed butternut squash – You can peel and cut a fresh squash yourself, or purchase the squash already peeled and cut at the store. Either way works fine.
2 tbsp. oil – Use whatever oil you normally use for cooking. Any oil will work fine here.
½ tbsp. garlic powder – Garlic granules are great too.
½ tbsp. onion powder – Onion granules work too.
1 tbsp. dried thyme – You can use it ground, or use the whole leaves. But if you use ground thyme, then cut back to 2 teaspoons.
1 cup quinoa – Measure this dry/uncooked.
2 cups vegetable broth – Opt for broth with no added sugar. Low sodium is best if you can find it.
1 cup chickpeas – cooked at home or canned. If canned, make sure there is no sugar added.
1 cup chopped pecans – I used raw pecans.
Salt and pepper – Added to taste after serving. I used pink Himalayan salt, but use whatever you normally use to season your food with.
How to Make Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad
Roasting The Squash
In a large bowl, mix together the squash, oil, and spices.
On a rimmed baking sheet, roast the squash at 350° F. in the oven for approximately 50-60 minutes, or until the squash is cooked through. Baking time will vary based on how small you cut the squash. The finished roasted butternut should have a beautiful golden-brown hue to it, and it should be quite tender.
While the squash bakes, bring the vegetable broth to boil in a medium pot.
Add the quinoa, and bring to a boil once more. Then immediately reduce the heat to a simmer.
Cook for approximately 20 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed into the quinoa. Allow this to cool.
When the roasted butternut squash and quinoa are done and both have cooled a bit, toss everything together in a large mixing bowl and season with salt to taste.
What To Serve With Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad
Here are some ideas for what to serve with this delicious quinoa salad.
- A green salad
- Chicken – grilled, baked or air fried
- Pork chops
- Fish – Salmon, cod or trout
How To Store Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad
This will keep in an airtight container, stored in the fridge, for up to 3 or 4 days.
Can You Freeze Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad?
Yes, you can! Make sure it’s packaged well in an airtight container and store in the freezer for up to 4 months.
If you want to add even more to this delicious quinoa salad, here are some ideas for more things you can mix in.
- Dried cranberries – Look for fruit juice sweetened cranberries. This addition makes this a great side dish for Thanksgiving!
- Pumpkin seeds
- Pomegranate seeds (arils)
- A small dab of honey or maple syrup (if adding cranberries or pomegranate arils)
- Walnuts – try using half and half with pecans, or replace the pecans all together.
- Kale – chop small and massage well before adding.
- Olive oil – If you need some healthy fats, drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the top of this at serving.
- Italian dressing – This is an easy way to add more flavor, though you really don’t need it here. Just make sure to check any dressing ingredients to avoid sugar and other unwanted ingredients.
- Raw, chopped red onion
How To Cut Butternut Squash The Easy Way
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More Healthy Quinoa Recipes
Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad Recipe
Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad
- 4 cups butternut squash (cut into small cubes)
- 2 tbsp. oil
- ½ tbsp. garlic powder
- ½ tbsp. onion powder
- 1 tbsp. dried thyme
- 1 cup quinoa (dry)
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup chickpeas (cooked at home or canned, no sugar)
- 1 cup pecans (chopped)
- salt to taste after serving
- In a large mixing bowl, mix together the squash, oil and spices.
- Bake at 350° F. for approximately 50 minutes, or until the squash is cooked through. Baking time will vary based on how small you cut the squash.
- While the squash bakes, bring the vegetable broth to boil in a medium pot.
- Add the quinoa, and bring to a boil once more. Then immediately reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Cook for approximately 20 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed into the quinoa. Allow to cool.
- When the squash and quinoa are done and both have cooled a bit, stir everything together in a large mixing bowl and season with salt to taste.
Recipe from the Gracious Pantry® archives, originally posted 3/20/18.