This pumpkin quinoa salad is made with cranberries, pumpkin, pecans, quinoa, goat cheese, and a sweet and savory dijon dressing. A hearty fall recipe, it makes for the perfect light lunch or filling dinner!
With fall in full swing, pumpkin-filled recipes like chocolate chip pumpkin bread, almond flour pumpkin muffins, and gluten free chocolate chip oatmeal pumpkin cookies are everywhere. Honestly, I’m here for it all! Yet, as much as I love a sweet treat, I can’t live on muffins or cookies all day long. So, I do my best to incorporate all the flavors of fall into savory recipes, too!
That said, this pumpkin quinoa salad is one of my go-to options for a quick lunch or satisfying dinner. Even better, it comes together in minutes and can be made in advance to enjoy throughout the week. Bursting with hearty roasted pumpkin, sweet cranberries, and more, it’s sweet, savory, and so good for you, too. In my opinion, it’s one of the best ways to use up your fresh produce, and the perfect excuse to peruse your local farmer’s market.
The Best Pumpkin for Roasting
Sugar pumpkins, also known as pie pumpkins, are best for cooking. These are smaller and squatter than the kinds of pumpkins you carve jack-o-lanterns out of!
Most grocery stores carry sugar pumpkins around the fall season in the produce section or seasonal section of the store.
However, if you can’t find a cooking pumpkin, you can also use butternut squash, acorn squash, or kabocha squash instead.
Ingredients and Substitutions
For the Pumpkin Quinoa Salad
- Pumpkin - Sugar pumpkins work best for cooking. Or, use butternut squash, acorn squash, or kabocha squash instead.
- Olive oil - Helps to caramelize the pumpkin while providing a good source of healthy fats.
- Spices - Sea salt, cinnamon, and black pepper combine to create a robust flavor.
- Quinoa - A pseudo-grain that provides complex carbs, complete protein, and fiber to keep you full. Any other grain you prefer could be substituted.
- Pecans - Add a bit of crunch and rich, butter flavor.
- Cranberries - Used to provide a pop of color, a slightly sweet taste, and even more nutrients.
- Pumpkin seeds - Whole, roasted pumpkin seeds or pepitas ensure that none of the pumpkin goes to waste and make for a filling salad.
- Goat cheese - A sprinkle adds an extra layer of creamy texture and a slightly salty taste. If preferred, substitute feta, bleu cheese, or a dairy free cheese instead.
For the Dressing
- Olive oil - Forms the base of the dressing.
- Apple cider vinegar - Allows for more nutrient absorption from the salad.
- Maple syrup - Just a dash adds a touch of sweetness that enhances the pumpkin and cranberries for the most irresistible taste.
- Dijon mustard - Pairs with the maple syrup for the perfect balance of sweet and savory flavors.
- Spices - Garlic powder and sea salt add extra depth and can be adjusted to suit your preferences.
How to Cut a Pumpkin
Before you begin making your salad, you’ll need to slice and roast your pumpkin. Getting started can be a bit tricky, but with the steps below you can have your pumpkin sliced with ease in no time. Before you begin, you’ll need a large, sharp knife, chopping board, and vegetable peeler.
Step 1: Cut the pumpkin in half. Place the bottom of the pumpkin on your chopping board, hold the stem, and insert the knife an inch or so below the top of the pumpkin. Then, move the knife down to meet the bottom of the cutting board. Turn the pumpkin around, and repeat on the opposite side, mirroring the first slice. You may need to run your knife back over the cuts a few times until the pumpkin splits in two.
Step 2: Deseed. Use a large spoon to scrape down each side, removing the pulp, strings, and seeds. Set it all aside, or save the seeds for roasting on their own.
Step 3: Peel and cube. Using your knife, cut each pumpkin half into thick wedges. Then, use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin. Once peeled, continue to cut the wedges into small cubes ready to roast.
How to Make a Pumpkin Quinoa Salad with Cranberries
Once you’ve got your pumpkin sliced, the steps for this pumpkin cranberry quinoa salad recipe are super simple!
Step 1: Roast the pumpkin. Preheat your oven to 400 F, and arrange the cubed pumpkin in a single layer on a baking sheet. Using your hands or a spatula, coat the pumpkin with oil and spices. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the pumpkin is fork-tender.
Step 2: Prepare the quinoa. While the pumpkin is roasting, prepare the quinoa according to the package instructions. Then, add cold water to the pot before straining to cool it down.
Step 3: Toss. Add the cooked quinoa, roasted pumpkin, chopped pecans, cranberries, and pumpkin seeds to a large bowl, and toss to combine.
In a second, small bowl or jar, whisk the ingredients for the dressing until smooth. Then, pour the dressing over the bowl with the salad ingredients, and toss again.
Step 4: Garnish and serve. When ready to enjoy, crumble the goat cheese on top of the cranberry quinoa salad, toss, and enjoy!
How to Serve
Thanks to the use of quinoa, this pumpkin quinoa salad is a great source of plant-based protein and is packed full of vitamins, nutrients, and fiber all on its own. However, you can also spruce it up with extra grilled chicken, shrimp, or tofu for a filling vegetarian meal.
How to Store
If you have leftover salad or want to prepare it ahead of time, it can be stored in an airtight container. It will stay fresh in the fridge for up to 4 days.
When ready to enjoy, be sure to give it a little stir to distribute any excess dressing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, butternut squash works just as well in place of the pumpkin in this salad. You will season and cook it the same.
Yes, quinoa is gluten free but as always, it’s best to check your labels!
Skip the goat cheese altogether or substitute with a dairy free feta cheese.
Check out these recipes for more fall flavors:
PS : If you make this recipe, be sure to leave a star review and comment below! Also be sure to follow along with me on Instagram and Pinterest to stay up to date on all tasty recipes here at The Fit Peach!
Pumpkin Quinoa Salad
- 5 cups pumpkin - cubed (approx. 1 small sugar pumpkin)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 ½ cup quinoa
- ¾ cup pecans - chopped
- ½ cup cranberries
- ⅓ cup pumpkin seeds - or pepitas
- 4 oz goat cheese
For the dressing:
- ½ cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Spread out the cubes of pumpkin (see notes section for how to cut a pumpkin if needed) on a baking sheet. Pour the olive oil over the pumpkin along with the sea salt, cinnamon, and pepper. Rub the spices and oil into the cubes of pumpkin with your hands or toss well with a spatula. Roast the pumpkin in the oven for 45 minutes - 1 hour until soft.
- While the pumpkin is cooking, make the quinoa according to package directions. Once the quinoa is nice and fluffy in the pot, I like to run cold water over it to cool it down slightly before I mix all the salad ingredients together. Simply add some cold water to the pot and strain after a few minutes.
- In a large bowl, add the quinoa, roasted pumpkin, chopped pecans, cranberries, and pumpkin seeds. Toss well to combine.
- Prepare the dressing by adding the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, dijon mustard, garlic powder, and sea salt to a bowl or jar. Whisk well with a spoon to incorporate the ingredients. Pour the dressing over the quinoa mixture and toss again to distribute. There will be excess dressing that accumulates in the bottom of the bowl. As the salad sits, the quinoa will absorb it which is what we want!
- When ready to serve, crumble the goat cheese over top of the salad, give it a little toss, and enjoy!