Packed with roasted pumpkin, warm quinoa, peppery arugula, cranberries for sweetness, walnuts, and creamy goat cheese, this Roasted Pumpkin and Quinoa Salad will nourish your body.
As we usher in the new year, I do find myself more motivated to prioritize my health and make conscious choices when it comes to the foods I put into my body. There's a natural reset needed that’s created from the…shall we say…overindulgence…of the holidays? I don't want to look at another cookie for at least a couple of weeks.
This is speaking from someone who has had a sinus infection since before the new year, I'm ready to get a boost of immune support. This infection is no joke and these antibiotics are wiping me out, too. I'm committed to more whole foods this year, and this will require some meal planning and preparation.
What better way to kickstart a year of nourishment than with a healthy Roasted Pumpkin and Quinoa Salad that not only strikes your taste buds but also packs a punch in the nutrition department? It’s time for us to get back to some wholesome ingredients after the holiday meals. Let's do it together.
Why You’ll Love This Pumpkin and Quinoa Salad
It’s easy. Throw the pumpkin in the oven, cook the quinoa, and throw it all together in an arugula-based salad.
It’s healthy. Quinoa is a complete protein source. Paired with nutrient-dense arugula, rich in vitamins A, C, and K, this salad provides a robust boost to your immune system. We could all use a little of that right now.
Double the recipe and make it last all week. I prefer to make a big batch of salads every time I invest the time. I'll eat the same salad for 3-4 lunches, and it's such a relief to have a healthy meal mapped out.
It's cozy. I love a good warm gran in my salad. Quinoa is both filling and cozy to keep you warm in this cold weather.
- Pumpkin - You can also substitute butternut squash or sweet potato based on your liking. If you’re eating this in the fall, I’d definitely go with the pumpkin. After the holidays, it’s harder to find a small, sweet pumpkin. This is a good time to substitute butternut squash or sweet potato. More on roasting pumpkin below!
- Arugula - I like arugula for its peppery taste.
- Quinoa - I love warm salad ingredients in the fall and winter months. Quinoa adds a bit of coziness and a whole lot of protein.
- Walnuts - more protein!
- Goal Cheese - even more protein!
- Dried cranberries - adds a touch of sweetness to the salad
For the creamy balsamic dressing, you'll need the following ingredients:
- Greek yogurt (I use 0% fat)
- balsamic vinegar
- Dijon mustard
- olive oil
- lemon juice (from the juice of a half of a lemon)
- salt + pepper
Roasting Pumpkin Made Easy
The star of this salad is the roasted pumpkin. Don't be intimidated by the idea of preparing the roasted pumpkin from scratch. Roasting a pumpkin is simpler than you think.
Step 1: Prep the Pumpkin
Start by preheating your oven to 400°F (200°C). Cut a small sugar pumpkin in half, removing the seeds and pulp. Then cut the pumpkin into 1” slices from the top of the pumpkin to the bottom. Use a vegetable peeler to peel the skin off. Then cut the pumpkin into cubes.
Step 2: Roast the Pumpkin
Place the pumpkin cubes on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until the edges caramelize. The result is a tender, golden-brown pumpkin pieces that take the salad to a new level.
Can You Roast and Eat Any Pumpkin?
Save the large pumpkins for your jack-o-lanterns! You want to buy the small pumpkins to roast. Sugar or pie pumpkins are the ones you typically find in the grocery store that are good for roasting. Their flesh is sweeter and less sinewy than the large pumpkins we buy for Halloween. Sugar or pie pumpkins (or sometimes they'll be called "sugar pie" pumpkins) typically weigh between 2 and 5 pounds.
Other Ways to Use Roasted Pumpkin
Most of my recipes for pumpkin involve pumpkin puree. Making pumpkin puree is just as simple as roasting cubes. All you need to do is cut the pumpkin in half, drizzle with olive oil, and roast at 400F for 25-30 minutes. Scoop out the flesh and put into a blender until pureed. Voila! You have pumpkin puree.
Once you have pumpkin puree, you can make all sorts of delicious recipes:
The Perfect Balsamic Vinaigrette
No salad is complete without a well-balanced dressing, and the Roasted Pumpkin and Quinoa Salad is no exception. Instead of store-bought options laden with preservatives, whip up a quick and easy creamy balsamic vinaigrette at home.
This is the same dressing I use with my most popular salad - the Copycat Sweetgreen Harvest Bowl. The balsamic is a tangy, flavorful vinaigrette that complements the earthy sweetness and caramelization of the roasted pumpkin and the tartness of the dried cranberries. I also love how the balsamic dressing is creamy but still healthy thanks to the Greek yogurt.
Side note: Sweetgreen has since changed their balsamic dressing recipe to use palm oil instead of yogurt. It makes their balsamic dressing now vegan, but palm oil is known to not be great. I'm bummed about this but glad I can make the old version at home.
Putting It All Together
Now that you've gathered your ingredients and roasted the pumpkin, let's assemble this vibrant and nutritious salad. Cook 1 cup of quinoa according to package instructions and let it cool. In a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, arugula, roasted pumpkin, crumbled goat cheese, walnuts, and dried cranberries. Drizzle the balsamic vinaigrette over the salad and toss gently to ensure every bite includes some of the dressing. Enjoy!
Make it faster. If you don’t want to bother cutting a small pumpkin and roasting, buy pre-cut pumpkin at your local grocery store. The pre-cut vegetables are found in the refrigerated produce section. And while the dressing takes less than 5 minutes to make, you can always use store-bought dressing.
Change the vegetable. You could also use butternut squash or sweet potato. Both can roast at the same time and temperature as the pumpkin.
Add meat. Add a juicy pan-seared chicken breast on top of the salad to add even more protein. Shrimp would also be delicious.
Here's to eating more whole superfoods in the new year!
Roasted Pumpkin and Quinoa Salad
For the salad:
- 1 small sugar pumpkin
- 6 cups arugula
- 2 cups quinoa cooked according to package directions
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup walnuts
- ¼ cup goat cheese crumbled
For the balsamic dressing:
- ½ cup plain Greek yogurt I use 0% fat
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey
- juice from half a lemon
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ⅛ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Cut a small sugar pumpkin in half, removing the seeds and pulp. Cut the pumpkin into 1” slices from the top of the pumpkin to the bottom. Use a vegetable peeler to peel the skin off. Then cut the pumpkin into cubes.
- Place the pumpkin cubes on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until the edges caramelize.
- Meanwhile, cook the quinoa according to package directions.
- Make the dressing by combining all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until combined. Set aside.
- Make your salad bowl by combining all of the salad ingredients. Drizzle with the balsamic dressing. Enjoy!