Quinoa Salad with Roasted Squash, Caramelized Onions and Wilted Spinach
This easy, gluten-free and vegetarian salad is warming, hearty and the best mix of textures and flavors! ! Festive, flavorful, and delicious warm or cold, it pairs with everything and is equally perfect for a holiday table or meal prep!
Quinoa Salad with Roasted Squash, Caramelized Onions and Wilted Spinach
Savory, Satisfying and Delish!
New! I added a cooking video to this page so you could see just how simple it is to make this gluten-free Quinoa Salad with Roasted Squash, Caramelized Onions and Wilted Spinach.
If you’re new to this website, at the bottom of every recipe page is a printable recipe with exact measurements and directions.
Update Fall 2020: This is the first salad I made this season when craving Fall flavors and this salad is everything!
It’s such a delicious mix of flavors and textures, and it’s easy to make!
Perfect for a weekday meal, meal prep or the holidays!
Hope you love it too!
This simple salad is a winter upgrade of our Autumn Quinoa Salad and is sooooo perfect right now.
Even in the cold weather (and we are definitely in a cold snap right now!), we love a good salad. Only now, we are loving heartier and warmer salads.
This Quinoa Salad is warming and cozy but still fresh tasting!
Just 7 ingredients plus an olive oil/ lemon juice dressing, this salad is easy to prep but still packed with different flavors & textures and DELISH!
It’s simply cooked quinoa, caramelized onions, roasted butternut squash (substitute sweet potatoes if you don’t have squash), fresh baby spinach, dried cranberries, salted cashews and fresh sage all tossed with a little EVOO and lemon juice.
It’s the best flavor combo!
The caramelized onions, roasted squash and wilted spinach give the best warming flavors and pair perfectly with the brighter lemon juice and tart cranberries, while the salted cashews provide just a little crunch.
Delicious warm or room temp, this Quinoa Salad is a versatile dish working equally well alongside other roasted veggies or grilled protein or even with the addition of feta or goat cheese.
And this recipe makes a large quantity, making it perfect for a crowd or for dinner, lunch and meal prep.
All you need to make it is:
cubed butternut squash or sweet potato
fresh baby spinach
lemons for lemon juice
extra virgin olive oil
and a little salt.
And it comes together quickly because so much is made at the same time.
After prepping the ingredients, the squash (or sweet potatoes) roasts (for 30 minutes) at the same time that the quinoa cooks (20 minutes) and the onions caramelize (20-25 minutes).
So you can see how the salad comes together quickly.
After all those are prepared, you just mix it all together with the simple dressing.
Let’s talk about the caramelized onions…
A lot of this salad’s flavor comes from the caramelized onions.
There are lots of ways to caramelize onions but the key is to not rush the cooking, let them cook up slowly.
Onions are naturally high in sugars and when they cook, they soften and get tender, releasing sugars which give them that yummy caramelized flavor as they continue to cook up and brown when you cook them slowly over a medium low heat for about 20-25 minutes.
After they are caramelized, stir in the sage.
While they slow cook, the quinoa also cooks.
I follow the directions on the package and make the quinoa by combining 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups water and bringing to a boil.
Then reduce to simmer and cover for 15 minutes. Let sit 5 minutes and fluff with a fork.
Works every time!
And roast the squash with simply olive oil or neutral oil of choice and some salt.
To make it easy, I usually purchase already cubed butternut squash from the grocery store.
Other times, I use sweet potatoes and just cut them into cubes. Both work great!
Then when everything is cooked up and still warm we assemble the salad.
Mix the quinoa with the cranberries and simple lemon juice/ olive oil dressing (it’s very light!). There’s not a lot dressing so don’t be surprised… you don’t need a lot here!
The add in the caramelized onions/ sage.
Then we mix in the still warm squash and fresh spinach and gently combine so that the spinach wilts just a little bit.
Pro Tip: If you don’t get to mix in the spinach while the quinoa and squash are still warm you could saute it for just a few minutes so it start to wilt prior to adding to the salad.
Next top with cashews and enjoy!
Pro tip: if you’re not serving this all at once or using it for meal prep, don’t stir in the cashews until ready to serve. This will help make the salad taste fresher.
This easy, gluten-free and vegetarian salad is warming and hearty, perfect for cooler days. Delicious warm or cold, it makes a large quantity, keeps well for several days and pairs with everything.
Author: Healthy Gluten-Free Family
Recipe type: Salads, Sides, Veggies,
Cuisine: Gluten-Free, Vegetarian, Vegan
Serves: 6 servings
1 cup quinoa, uncooked
2-3 cups butternut squash cubed
kosher salt for sprinkling on squash
2 medium onions, thinly sliced into rings (approximately 2 cups)
approximately ⅛ teaspoon salt
½ cup dried cranberries or more to taste (could also use dried cherries)
2-3 tablespoons EVOO, divided plus extra for roasting squash
1-2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
½ cup salted cashews (more to taste)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1- 1½ cups packed baby spinach
salt and pepper to taste
In a medium saucepan, add quinoa and 2 cups of water.
Bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat 1-2 tablespoon oil to cover the base of a large skillet over medium heat.
Add onions, sprinkle with salt and cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally until soft and golden brown, approx 20-25 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in sage.
Tip: If you're not using a non-stick pan and get the brown crispy parts on the base of the skillet, add a tablespoon or two of water to the pan stir over medium low heat for a minute. The brown parts will "lift" from the pan and you can add them to the quinoa salad at the end for extra flavor if you want.
Roasted Butternut Squash (roast while quinoa cooks and onions caramelize)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Gently toss cubed squash with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil or neutral oil of choice, place in a single layer on baking sheet and sprinkle with kosher salt.
Bake 30 minutes, or until tender with crispy edges.
Mix together remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and lemon juice.
Add cranberries to the dressing and let sit for a minute or two.
Add dressing along with cranberries to cooked quinoa and toss to combine.
Add onions and sage to the quinoa mixture and toss to combine
Add squash and spinach to warm quinoa mixture and gently combine and let spinach wilt from warmth of quinoa and squash. Pro Tip: If quinoa and squash not warm enough, you could saute spinach for 1 minute or two to get it a little wilted.
Add in cashews. Pro Tip: if not eating the entire salad at once, hold out some of the cashews and add in when serving. That way they will stay crunchy and salty.
Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the extra brown bits from the caramelized onions skillet as desired. Add more lemon juice as desired. Stir well and enjoy!
Serve warm or room temperature.
Stays well in the refrigerator for several days in a sealed container.
Hi! My name is Karen, and I’m the mom in our Healthy Gluten-Free Family. My posts and pictures here and on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter are labors of love that allow me to share a very personal journey with you, one our family has taken together — learning, experimenting and sharing how to raise a healthy happy gluten-free family. Read more ...