This warm kale salad is packed with healthy ingredients like roasted butternut squash and chickpeas and is topped with a creamy tahini dressing! It's vegan and is perfect for meal prep or as a large salad for sharing.
- Dietary features: vegetarian, vegan, nut-free, soy and gluten-free optional
- Tossed with a flavorful tahini dressing
- Lightly sautéing kale makes it warm and easier to eat
- Versatile: great for meal prep, as a side salad and served at holiday meals
- Healthy and balanced: filled with healthy fats, plant based protein and fiber
I love roasted butternut squash this time of year, especially in these tortellini and spaghetti recipes. But sometimes you just need a giant salad, and that's when this warm kale salad comes in handy!
What you'll need
- Kale: Curly kale is my go-to, but lacinato or dinosaur kale also work. It shrinks a lot when lightly sautéed so you'll need two bunches or one medium bag.
- Honeycrisp apple adds a perfectly sweet fall crunch to this veggie-heavy salad, but any kind of sweet red apple works here.
- Butternut squash: One large butternut squash usually yields about 4-5 cups of 1 inch cubes.
- Pumpkin seeds: Choose roasted pumpkin seeds for a bit of crunch.
- Tahini dressing is made with tahini (ground sesame seeds) and a handful of pantry staples for a bright, tangy dressing. This recipe is the same as my popular Goddess tahini dressing recipe.
How to cut butternut squash
Pro tip: You can cut down on prep time by buying pre-cut butternut squash from the store. Or cut your butternut squash 1-3 days in advance of roasting it. Keep refrigerated in a closed container until ready to use.
- Start by peeling the butternut squash with a potato peeler. You may find it easier to peel the squash if you cut it in half first.
- Cut the squash in half lengthways. Using a spoon or grapefruit spoon, scoop out the seeds.
- Flip the squash over so that the flat side is on the cutting board. Slice into 1 inch cubes. You're done!
Check out my post on how to make roasted butternut squash for more tips on how to peel and prep squash.
How to make the salad
Most of the time for this recipe is spent waiting on the butternut squash and chickpeas to roast.
- Roast butternut squash: Toss butternut squash cubes in olive oil, salt and pepper. Lay out on a parchment paper or foil lined large sheet pan (optional, makes cleanup easier). Roast for 15 minutes at 425 degrees F.
- Roast chickpeas: Meanwhile, toss a can of chickpeas in the same bowl with more oil, salt and pepper. After the squash has roasted for 15 minutes, transfer chickpeas to the same baking sheet. Bake another 25-30 minutes, until golden and crisp.
- Wilt the kale: Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add in about 1 teaspoon oil. Add the kale and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. The goal is for the kale to be wilted but not shrink up too much. It will be vivid green and still have texture.
- Make the salads: Toss everything together in a bowl to make one large salad or assemble the salads individually.
Expert tips and recipe FAQ
- How to get golden roasted butternut squash: Make sure to thoroughly coat the squash with oil and evenly space the cubes on the baking sheet. If they are overlapping or overcrowding they are less likely to become golden. When in doubt, cook the squash longer and it will brown.
- Why warm kale salad and not raw? Warming kale in a skillet until just wilted breaks down some of the tough cell walls. This makes it easier to chew and can make it easier to digest. It also decreases the volume of the kale.
Yes, frozen butternut squash works in place of fresh. Because frozen squash is par-cooked, it will cook more quickly. Thaw the squash completely before roasting it.
If using frozen butternut squash instead of fresh just add the chickpeas and squash to the oven at the same time instead of cooking squash an additional 15 minutes.
I think it's great either way. I usually eat it as a warm kale salad if I plan to have it immediately after cooking. If eating as leftovers or meal prep it's great enjoyed cold.
You can assemble salads in individual containers or store in one large container in the fridge for 3-4 days. I recommend storing the tahini dressing separately.
Yes! The only gluten containing ingredient in this recipe is soy sauce in the tahini dressing. Just use an equal amount of tamari instead for a gluten-free salad dressing.
Yes, just use coconut aminos in place of soy sauce in the tahini dressing. The flavor is slightly different than soy sauce but is hardly noticeable in the dressing.
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Warm Kale Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash
- 1 medium butternut squash peeled and sliced into 1" cubes, see note #1
- 1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons olive oil divided
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt divided
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper more for serving
- 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 2 bunches curly kale sliced into bite size pieces, see note #2
- ¼ cup roasted salted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- 1 medium honeycrisp apple diced, see note #3
- ½ cup tahini
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce sub tamari to make gluten-free
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2-3 cloves garlic minced
- water as needed to thin
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil for easy cleanup (optional).
- In a large bowl, toss the diced butternut squash with 1 tablespoon oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper. Place on the sheet pan, careful not to overlap or overcrowd. Roast for 15 minutes on the middle oven rack at 425F.
- Meanwhile, pat chickpeas with a towel/paper towel to remove any excess moisture. Using the same bowl you did for the squash, toss chickpeas with 1 teaspoon olive oil and ¼ teaspoon salt.
- Remove butternut squash from the oven after 15 minutes. Add the chickpeas to the pan, careful not to overlap. Return to the oven for another 25-30 minutes, until the squash is golden and the chickpeas are crisp.
- Meanwhile, place a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot drizzle in 1 teaspoon of oil. Add the kale and sauté until bright green and softened but not completely wilted, about 2-3 minutes. The goal is to make the kale more tender.
- Make the tahini dressing: In a pint sized ball jar or small bowl, whisk together all ingredients (except water) until smooth. Add water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until it is a drizzle-able consistency.
- To assemble one large salad: Toss together the kale, squash, chickpeas, pepitas, apple, and tahini goddess dressing. Serve topped with additional freshly ground black pepper to taste.
- Butternut squash: You can use pre-sliced butternut squash to make prep quicker. If using frozen butternut squash, first thaw the squash. Reduce squash cook time to 25-30 minutes total.
- Kale: One bunch of kale is usually 5-8 ounces (with stems). Aim for 12-16 ounces of kale, which you can also buy pre-sliced in a bag. The kale will shrink when cooked. I usually remove stems before tearing or slicing kale into bite sized pieces.
- Apple: Any sweet red apple works.
- Tahini dressing is adapted from this Goddess dressing recipe.
- Leftovers: Keep refrigerated in a closed container for 3-4 days for best quality. I recommend storing the dressing separately if you are making these for meal prep.
Author's note: This recipe was originally shared September 2018. It was updated July 2021 with new photos, videos and tips. The recipe remains the same with small modifications made to the instructions for quality.