Fall Butternut Squash Protein Salad
This top 9 free salad is full of warm fall flavors, packed with protein and perfect to meal prep for the start of the week. 54 grams of protein with the bonus of anti-inflammatory ingredients like roasted pepitas, spinach and butternut squash. The maple balsamic dressing ties it all together with just a touch of sweet to complement the savory.
The genesis of this recipe is really two- fold: my trainer is really emphasizing protein timing right now, and I had some leftover butternut squash. Butternut squash makes me think of autumn leaves and warm sweaters… but California still hasn’t figured out that the seasons are changing. So I wanted a dish that felt like fall but wasn’t too heavy for a relatively warm 80 degrees… Enter the pear, one of the quintessential fall fruits, and a salad. I was so excited about this salad that I meal prepped it for the entire week. My body and my trainer are pleased!
Especially when it comes to meal prep, I like to make my life easier with shortcuts like pre-cut vegetables or pre-cooked and/or left over protein. With Butternut squash, pre-cut is always such a time saver! Start with butternut squash. Line a baking sheet with foil and add the cubed squash. Drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil, pinch of salt, pepper and roasted red pepper (if you like a slight kick!). Roast in the oven at 425 for 15 minutes or until al dente- you don’t want to end up with mushy squash!
While the squash roasts, juice half of a lemon and set aside. Core and thinly slice the pear, then dip the pear slices in reserved lemon juice to stop them from browning. Set aside.
Prep the roasted pepitas- topped with all the yummy anti-inflammatory spices: turmeric, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, garlic and salt. Toss the pepitas and spices, adding in 1/4 teaspoon of olive oil. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, stirring half way through. This will make three times as much as you need for the 4 servings of this salad, but you can store in an air tight container for 6-8 weeks- and they are such a yummy topping on various salads, soups and dips.
To plate your salad, to each serving add 1 cup spinach, 2/3 cup butternut squash, 1/4 pear slices, 6 ounces cooked chicken (or other protein of choice) and 1 tablespoon of roasted pepitas. But wait- the dressing! I love this maple balsamic dressing. The hint of tangy and sweet pairs so nicely with the spice of pepitas and earthy flavors of the squash *chefs kiss!*.
For the dressing: in a small mason jar combine minced garlic, dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup (the real stuff, not Mrs. Butterworth’s!) and olive oil. Similar to the pepitas, you will likely end up making more than you need… I am known to underdress a salad, so perhaps it’s the perfect amount for you! If, however, you don’t want your spinach drowning in dressing, the remaining dressing can be stored in the fridge for 7-10 days.
Yield: 4 hearty, protein packed salads
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Fall Protein Salad Ingredients
- 12 ounces butternut squash, 1 inch cubes
- 3.5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Juice from 1/2 a lemon
- 1/4 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 24 ounces cooked chicken
- 4 cups raw spinach
- 1 ripe pear
- 2 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- Salt & pepper
- pinch crushed red pepper, optional
Fall Protein Salad Instructions
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and add the cut squash. Drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil, pinch of salt, pepper and roasted red pepper. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes or until al dente.
- Juice half of a lemon and set aside. Core and thinly slice the pear, then dip the pear slices in reserved lemon juice to stop them from browning. Set aside.
- Prep the pepitas. Line a small baking sheet with foil. Combine the pepitas and spices in a small bowl, adding in 1/4 teaspoon of olive oil, stirring to combine. When the squash is done roasting, lower the oven temperature to 350 (if you have 2 ovens, bake at the same time as the squash to save on prep time). Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, stirring half way through.
- Prepare the dressing: in a small mason jar combine minced garlic, dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup and remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste, if needed.
- Prepare your salad. In each of 4 bowls or containers add 1 cup spinach, 2/3 cup butternut squash, 1/4 pear slices, 6 ounces cooked chicken (or other protein of choice) and 1 tablespoon of roasted pepitas. If meal prepping, I include 2 tablespoons of dressing per salad and save the dressing in the fridge for a later use.
I can’t wait to hear how this salad worked out for you! Let me know on Instagram and share your creations! Bon appetit!