Looking for a show-stopping salad that's easy to make? This cozy butternut squash kale salad is it! It stars lemony kale, savory roasted squash, tart-sweet cranberries, earthy button mushrooms, and crunchy pine nuts.
What I love about this butternut squash salad with lemony kale is that it's so versatile. You can serve this up as a warm salad day-of or chill it for quick lunches.
It's hearty enough to work as a side dish or an entree and makes a great leftovers lunch.
Roasting the butternut squash
You can roast the squash and mushrooms for this recipe in the oven or in the air fryer. Either way, start with butternut squash diced into ½" pieces.
It is important that your pieces are small and uniform, or this recipe will not work. Too-large pieces will take too long to cook, and uneven pieces will mean some burnt squash and some that's underdone. Don't let that happen to you!
You can make this using a whole butternut squash that you peel, seed, and dice. To save time, I often buy pre-cut squash pieces. You still need to cut them down a bit in size, but it saves so much prep time!
Toss the squash pieces, along with button mushrooms and green onions, in a flavorful blender sauce. Then, transfer them to a baking sheet or your air fryer basket until the squash is fork-tender and lightly browned.
Assembling the butternut squash salad
While the squash cooks, massage your kale with the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt.
It's important that you stem your kale before massaging it. Kale stems will not soften, even if you massage them, and that's not the texture you want in this salad!
When the squash finishes cooking, toss it with dried cranberries, then add it to the massaged kale. Add pine nuts, and serve!
How to serve and store
You can serve this immediately for a hearty warm salad or chill it until you are ready to eat. It will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for three to four days.
This makes a great meal prep for lunches!
Need some ideas for what goes well with kale and butternut squash salad? I have some suggestions!
You can also serve this over quinoa or your favorite whole grain for an easy meal.
Substitutions and variations
Can't find butternut squash? That's ok! You can substitute pretty much any other large, winter squash. You may need to mess with the cooking time a bit, so just keep an eye on it while the pieces are roasting.
You can use baby bella or chopped portobello mushroom in place of the button mushroom.
Instead of dried cranberries, you can use dried cherries in this salad.
If pine nuts are hard to find or too pricey, feel free to use other nuts or seeds! Cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or sliced almonds all work great in this salad.
Butternut Squash Kale Salad Recipe
For the squash
- 4 cups diced butternut squash - (You're going for ½" pieces. A 2-pound squash should do the trick.)
- 1 cup sliced green onions - You're going for 3-inch pieces.
- 8 ounces button mushrooms - stemmed and quartered
- 1 tablespoon olive oil - You can substitute spray oil, if you prefer. Just spray after transferring the mixture to the basket.
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 4 cloves fresh garlic
For the salad
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- 4 cups kale - stemmed and torn into bite-sized pieces
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ cup toasted pine nuts - See note for nut-free.
- If you're baking, preheat the oven to 425° F.
Roast the squash
- In a large bowl, combine the squash, green onions, and button mushrooms, and set aside.
- Make the sauce: Combine the olive oil (if using), soy sauce, maple syrup, vinegar, and garlic in your blender or food processor, and puree until smooth. Pour the sauce over the squash mixture, tossing to coat well.
- To air fry: Transfer the squash mixture to your air fryer basket, leaving any leftover sauce in the bowl. Cook at 400° F for 20-30 minutes (see note), shaking every 5 minutes, until the squash pieces are browned on the outside and tender on the inside. Toss with the cranberries, and set aside
- To bake: Transfer the squash mixture to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, leaving any leftover sauce in the bowl. Bake for 40-60 minutes (see note), stirring after 20 minutes, until the squash pieces are browned on the outside and tender on the inside. Toss with the cranberries, and set aside
Make the salad
- In a large bowl, add the kale, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. Massage the kale until it turns bright green. Add to the serving bowl
- When the squash is done cooking, add it to the bowl of kale. Add the pine nuts, and toss to combine. Serve now for a warm salad, or chill until you're ready to serve.
- Air Fryer optional
Frequently asked questions
It sure is! In fact, it's totally vegan, so there are no eggs or meat in this satisfying salad, either.
Raw kale can have a bitter flavor, and cooking or massaging helps with that. Adding an acid, like the lemon juice in this recipe, also counteracts the bitter flavor of kale.
If you taste the kale in this salad and still find it too bitter, add a teaspoon or so of maple syrup. Sweetness is another bitter-fighting flavor!
Yes! Pumpkin or sunflower seeds will work in place of the pine nuts.