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Fall Into Autumn With this Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad

By Sara Hillring | Sept. 17, 2019, 2 p.m. (ET)

fall salad

With the fall Equinox approaching, the dropping temperatures prompt many of us to crave warm and filling meals to nourish our bodies throughout the day. Though this recipe may seem like a simple salad, it packs a hearty mixture of fall flavors (and colors) and a variety of nutrients to set the tone for the autumn training months.

Chock full of vitamins and minerals such as-vitamin C, E, magnesium, iron, and zinc, this salad provides the goods for an endurance athlete to effectively gear up for their next training bout or lends ample support in recovery at the end of the day.

This recipe acts as an excellent side dish, lunch, or dinner entree. It can also be served cold, warmed, or at room temperature without losing an ounce of flavor. Boasting versatility from its use to its serving state, this salad can be customized to any preferences or dietary needs an individual may have. This makes for an inclusive dish to be enjoyed by all (see additional notes below).

So pack up this recipe for work, take it to the gym for a post-workout meal, or easily bring it with you “on the go” wherever your active lifestyle has you headed next.


*Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegan Friendly*

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: ~6 servings 


  • 1 cup (200 g) dried quinoa 
  • 1 3/4 (394 ml) cup water
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder, divided
  • 1 small butternut squash (about 2 lbs or 6 cups), peeled, seeded and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) unsweetened, dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) raw pecan halves
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) of sliced, raw almonds 
  • 4 large handfuls of baby kale (about 6-8 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp of cumin 
  • 1/8 tsp of ground cloves
  • fresh ground black pepper, to taste (optional)
  • 1 tbsp of chopped mint (optional)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick parchment paper. 

Quinoa: In a medium pot, bring the quinoa, water and a 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer over a gentle boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, uncover, and let the quinoa rest 10–15 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

Roasted Butternut Squash: Place the butternut squash and red onion on the sheet pan. Drizzle with 1 TBSP olive oil, sprinkle with the remaining ½ teaspoon of garlic powder, and add a ¼ tsp of cumin. Using your hands or tongs, toss the vegetables to coat evenly. Spread the mixture across the sheet pan in a single layer and place on the center rack of the oven to roast for 20–30 minutes, stirring once or twice. Cook time will be complete when the butternut squash is tender and easily pierced with a fork. .
When done, remove the baking sheet from the oven and sprinkle the dried cranberries overtop. Let this cool a few minutes, as the cranberries will soften and get warmed.
Toast Pecans and Almonds: Heat a small pan over medium-low, add the pecans and almonds stirring often until fragrant for 2 – 3 minutes, careful not to let them burn. This step is optional, as nuts work great un-toasted too.

Dressing: In a small bowl, combine the orange juice, cinnamon, and ground cloves.

Assemble: In a large mixing/serving bowl, add the quinoa, butternut squash mixture, kale, pecans, and almonds. Drizzle with the dressing and toss with tongs to combine. Season with black pepper and chopped mint (optional).

Serve: Divide into 6 portions and serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled. 

Want to kick the flavor up a notch? Add a 1/2 cup of pomegranate seeds to the recipe.

Needing to amp up the protein? Add grilled chicken, slices of roasted turkey breast, or a filet of salmon. 

Seeking plant-based protein sources? Top with sautéed tempeh (more protein per ounce than tofu), slices of avocado, toasted pumpkin seeds for added antioxidants and iron, or roasted chickpeas for an added crunch. 

Allergic to tree nuts? No problem! Swap out the pecans for roasted chickpeas or edamame. Remove the almonds from the recipe and add a mixture of toasted seeds in its place such as: pumpkin, hemp, or sesame seeds. 

Storage of leftovers? This can be kept in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 – 6 days.

Recipe adapted from The Simple Veganista

Sara Hillring is a second year graduate student in the Coordinated Master’s Program for Sports Dietetics and Nutrition at the University of Utah. She received her bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience with minors in psychology, biology, and English from Drake University. She has experience working with professional endurance athletes, University of Utah Athletics, and the US Ski and Snowboard High Performance Center in Park City, UT. Her goal is to aid Elite or Olympic level athletes in reaching optimal performance through functional nutrition, an integrative health approach, and establishing healthy, balanced lifestyle behaviors. If you wish to get in touch with Sara, do not hesitate to reach her at

Additional References

Benefits of pumpkin seeds

Butternut Squash benefits