All the best flavors of fall come together in my autumn harvest salad with kale and caramelized delicata squash! This ultimate autumn salad is impressive enough for the Thanksgiving table and so good you'll want to eat it all season long.
And if you enjoy this recipe, you'll love my super popular Massaged Kale Salad with ACV Dressing!
Why You'll Love this Recipe
Flavorful and Colorful - My autumn chopped salad recipe captures all the best flavors and colors of the seasons and visually mimics the changing leaves of fall. It's a stunning salad to put on your holiday table.
Quick and Easy - Be sure to follow the recipe card instructions to make this fall harvest salad recipe in no time. The key is in stacking the steps for efficiency. Because during Thanksgiving dinner prep, you don't need any extra stress, right?
Go ahead and grab my Holiday Dinner Guide for a supremely stress-free experience!
Perfectly in Season - I made sure to use ingredients that are abundant during the fall and winter months so that you won't have trouble finding everything you need to enjoy this seasonal kale salad with orange vinaigrette.
What You'll Need for this Recipe
Chopped Kale is the green base of the fall salad and you can either process stalks of kale yourself or purchase pre-chopped kale as a recipe shortcut. Either way, I still recommend washing the kale and patting it dry.
Delicata Squash gets sliced into half moons and quickly roasted until it's caramelized and tender. The flavor is nutty and fresh and perfectly complements all the fall flavors here. As this is typically an early fall squash, you can sub with butternut squash as the season progresses.
Check out the recipe card below for full ingredients list, measurements, nutrition facts, and step-by-step instructions!
Substitutions & Variations
Kale - I prefer common curly kale in this recipe but you can also use lacinato (also called dinosaur or Tuscan kale) or ornamental kale, if you like. I don't recommend making ahead of time if using the former as it will become too soft sitting in the dressing. You can also try other hardy greens like collards!
Cheese - I like gorgonzola cheese in this recipe because it is creamy and tangy but you can change up the cheese to use feta or make your autumn harvest salad with goat cheese, if you like.
Proteins and Grains - Like I said, I love to serve this delicata squash salad with Thanksgiving dinner but don't stop there. Make it a proper meal salad by mixing in chickpeas, cooked quinoa or wild rice and your favorite protein like easy shredded chicken or cooked lentils!
How to Make Autumn Harvest Salad for Thanksgiving
Preparing the Delicata Squash
Step One: Gently clean the outside of the squash then cut off both ends so you have a flat sturdier surface to slice the it open in half. Scoop out the seeds and their strings then slice the squash into about ¾ inch slices. And don't throw out the seeds--you can roast delicata squash seeds for an easy crunchy snack!
Step Two: Toss the squash slices in olive oil, salt and pepper until evenly coated.
Step Three: Spread the squash on a sheet pan and roast until caramelized, flipping halfway to ensure even browning. (Images three and four)
Pro Tip: Line the sheet pan with parchment paper to keep the squash slices from sticking to the pan and be sure to leave about one inch between each slice.
Making the Autumn Harvest Salad Dressing
Step Five: Add all the salad dressing ingredients to an airtight container, cover, and shake vigorously to combine.
Assembling the Salad
Step Six: Pour dressing over top of kale then toss and massage the dressing into the leaves.
Pro Tip: Massaging the kale can be done up to one day ahead of time because the kales just gets more tender as it sits!
Step Seven: Add walnuts, cranberries, pumpkin seeds, and gorgonzola cheese to bowl with kale then mix up all the ingredients until evenly incorporated. (Images seven and eight)
Step Eight: Arrange roasted squash on top of salad before serving.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can make this salad up to one day ahead of time for one less thing to do on the day of dinner, especially a holiday dinner.
Serve the salad cold or at room temperature. Serve the dressing separately but alongside the salad so that everyone can control the amount they use or for massaged salad, serve already tossed and massaged in dressing.
Store the salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to four days.
More Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes
Do you serve salad at Thanksgiving? I think it's a trend we should start. Having been in charge of my family's Turkey Day spread for years, I've always put a seasonal salad on the table and, though they may clown, it gets devoured every single time! And sharing is caring, so be sure to pin this recipe for later and follow me over on Pinterest. Thanks for reading!
Autumn Harvest Salad (The Best Thanksgiving Salad)
- 1 knife
- 1 mixing bowl
- 1 set of tongs or two salad spoons
- 1 large salad bowl
For the Salad
- 1 delicata squash
- 12 ounces kale chopped
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- ¼ cup walnuts
- 5 ounces crumbled gorgonzola cheese
- 2 tablespoons pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
For the Orange Maple Vinaigrette
- ½ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup orange juice
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- sea salt to taste
- black pepper to taste
Roasting the Delicata Squash
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
- Cut off ends of delicata squash then cut it in half, lengthwise. Scoop out seeds then cut into slices about ¾-inch thick.
- Place squash slices in a large bowl then drizzle with one tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Toss until evenly coated.
- Spread out squash slices onto prepared sheet pan then roast for about 15 minutes. Flip slices over then continue roasting for another 15 minutes or until both sides are caramelized.
Preparing the Salad
- Meanwhile, combine all orange maple vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl and whisk until uniform. Pour dressing over top of chopped kale and massage into the leaves.
- Add kale to a large salad bowl, followed by dried cranberries, walnuts, gorgonzola cheese, and pepitas. Toss and mix all ingredients until evenly distributed.
- Lay slices of delicata squash over top of salad and serve.