The Unlikely Hero of Your Autumn Table: Butternut Squash & Kale Salad

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Ah, autumn. The season of pumpkin spice lattes, where every leaf looks like a flower and every salad gets an obligatory makeover to match the hues of fall. Enter the Butternut Squash + Kale Salad: a dish that screams “I embrace seasonal changes with open arms and a hearty appetite.” This isn’t just any salad; it’s a vibrant, nutrient-packed bowl of goodness that dares to ask, “Who said salads can’t be the main event?”

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butternut squash and kale salad topped with roasted squash seeds

Despite the unrelenting heat of Southern California, autumn is nearly here, as evidenced by the produce that came in my last CSA box. I got two huge butternut squashes. So, even though it was nearly 100 degrees outside, I had to roast one (and the seeds that came in it). But roasting the squash heated up my kitchen so much, that the thought of eating something hot was quite unappealing to me.  So we ate it cold, tossed in a salad of slightly wilted kale and topped with a maple vinaigrette.

Now, before you roll your eyes and think, “Great, another kale salad,” hear me out. This isn’t the sad, wilted kale you push around your plate at family gatherings. No, this kale is bright, crisp, and tenderly massaged with a dressing that could make even the most ardent salad skeptic reconsider. And the butternut squash? It’s roasted to perfection, its edges caramelized, its interior as soft as your favorite autumn sweater.

We eat a lot of kale. And by a lot, I mean that we eat it several times a week…sometimes roasted, sometimes braised, sometimes slivered and raw in salads, and sometimes in juice or smoothies. But I don’t think that I have ever tried it this way–sauteed ever so briefly in some olive oil just to soften it a little. Kale is quite bitter, and a long, slow braise not only tenderizes its sometimes tough veins, but it also mellows it. It’s a method often used in Southern cooking, and one that I love, especially when some bacon or ham is tossed into the mix. Bacon makes everything better, yes?

But this night a quick sauté was all I could muster in my over-heated kitchen.  And it was wonderful. Because butternut squash is so sweet, and because I tossed the whole lot with a maple vinaigrette, a quick stir in a hot pan tenderized the kale just enough and took the edge off the bitterness. It also turned the kale’s leaves from dull to brilliant green. Paired with the orange squash it was a knockout in both flavor and color. The crunchy, salty and buttery seeds from inside the butternut were the perfect finishing touch. I think this dish will appear often on our table this fall. I hope you give it a try too.

How to Make Butternut Squash + Kale Salad

butternut squash and kale salad

Ingredients for Success (Serves 4, or 1 very ambitious eater)

  • 1 small butternut squash, ready for its glow-up
  • 1 bunch kale, the green queen of leafy chic
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, divided, because fat is flavor
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter, for that indulgent touch
  • Salt and pepper, the dynamic duo of seasoning

For the dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot, because every dressing needs a sharp bite
  • 1 tablespoon pure (grade B) maple syrup, for a hint of autumn in every bite
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, the sophisticated French touch
  • 2 tablespoon roasted hazelnut oil (substitute with walnut or olive oil if you’re not feeling fancy)
  • 2 tablespoon organic apple cider vinegar, for that tangy kick
  • A pinch each of sea salt and freshly ground pepper, because details matter

The Path to Salad Glory

  1. Roast Your Heart Out: Start by giving your butternut squash a spa day in the oven at 425 degrees. It’s going to come out looking better than ever: golden, caramelized, and irresistibly tender.
  2. Kale Yeah: While the squash does its thing, give the kale a quick sauté. Just a couple of minutes until it’s bright green and slightly wilted—because no one likes raw kale’s bitter monologue.
  3. Dress to Impress: Whip up a dressing that’ll make you want to lick the bowl clean. It’s a simple concoction of shallot, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, your oil of choice, and apple cider vinegar.
  4. Assemble the Masterpiece: Toss the roasted squash and sautéed kale with just enough dressing to say, “I’m sophisticated,” but not so much that it’s drowning. Top with those crunchy, buttery squash seeds for an added texture that’ll make you wonder why you ever settled for croutons.

Serve it up at room temperature or chilled, because this salad doesn’t play by the rules. It’s as versatile as your autumn wardrobe, fitting in perfectly whether it’s a casual lunch or the star of your dinner party.


Can I use pre-cut butternut squash?

Sure, if you want to cut corners and miss out on the oddly satisfying feeling of peeling and chopping a squash. But yes, for the sake of convenience, pre-cut works just fine.

What if I can’t find roasted hazelnut oil?

Don’t panic. Your salad won’t spiral into an existential crisis. Olive oil is a fine substitute, though it lacks the nutty drama. Walnut oil can also step in to save the day.

Is this salad actually filling?

With a base of kale and butternut squash, topped with those delightful roasted seeds, this salad is surprisingly hearty. It’s like discovering your favorite cozy blanket is also a stylish cape.

Can I make it ahead of time?

Absolutely. The flavors meld beautifully overnight, making it a perfect contender for meal prep or to impress at a potluck. Just maybe save the seeds topping right before serving to maintain their crunch.

So, there you have it: the Butternut Squash & Kale Salad. It’s more than just a pretty face; it’s a full-fledged autumnal symphony on a plate. Give it a try and watch as it gracefully pirouettes its way into your heart and stomach, proving once and for all that salads deserve a spot in the seasonal spotlight.

butternut squash and kale salad on the dinner table in candle light

Love winter squash? Same! Here are a few more recipes to try:

Did you make this butternut squash + kale salad recipe? Be sure to leave a comment and star rating below (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐) and post a picture and tag us on Instagram using the hashtags #agirldefloured #deflouredrecipes! Thank you!

Butternut Squash & Kale Salad

Alison Needham
This hearty kale and butternut squash salad, is bright in both flavor and color. Look for La Tourangelle brand of roasted nut oils in your specialty food market or online (I’ve even found them at Home Goods) to add to the dressing. In a pinch, extra virgin olive oil is fine too.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Servings 4 servings
Calories 251 kcal



For the Dressing


  • Preheat the oven to 425°F. Peel the butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise and scoop the seeds into a sieve. Discard any remaining pulp from the center of the squash. Rinse the seeds and dry in a clean towel. Toss the seeds with the melted butter and spread evenly on a small baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt.
  • Cut the butternut squash into 1 inch (approximately) cubes. Toss with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and spread on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Place both the seeds and the squash in the oven. Take the seeds out of the oven after they are golden brown and crispy, about 10-15 minutes. Watch them carefully in they can burn quickly. Reserve seeds in a small bowl lined with a paper towel.
  • Continue baking the squash for about 25-35 minutes more (for a total of 35-45 minutes), flipping the cubes over halfway though. Remove the squash from the oven when it is tender when pierced with a knife and is golden brown on the edges. Place 1 cup of the roasted squash on a platter or a shallow salad bowl. Reserve the rest for another use.
  • While the squash is cooking, prepare the kale by tearing the leaves from the main stem that runs down the center of the leaves. Discard the stem. Rinse the kale and squeeze out any excess moisture. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Drizzle the pan lightly with olive oil, about 1 tablespoon. Add the kale and cook, stirring frequently, until the kale wilts slightly and becomes a bright green color, about 2-3 minutes. Add it to the platter with the squash.
  • Make the dressing. Whisk the shallot, maple syrup and Dijon together in a small bowl. Whisk in the oil and vinegar until emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Toss the butternut squash and the kale with a bit of the dressing, using only enough to lightly coat the leaves. You will probably have some dressing leftover. Top the salad with the reserved roasted squash seeds. Serve at room temperature or chilled.


Serving: 1portionCalories: 251kcalCarbohydrates: 24gProtein: 2gFat: 17gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 8mgSodium: 66mgPotassium: 733mgFiber: 5gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 21444IUVitamin C: 53mgCalcium: 130mgIron: 2mg
Keyword butternut squash and kale salad, kale salad, roasted butternut squash
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