Roasted Butternut Squash Kale Salad with Pecans and Orange Vinaigrette

Roasted butternut squash kale salad with crunchy pecans, poppy pomegranate seeds, delicious bacon, and an orange vinaigrette makes for an incredible side dish or entree this holiday season.

This post is sponsored by the American Pecan Council.

Roasted Butternut Squash Kale Salad with Pecans, Pomegranate Arils, Bacon, and Orange Vinaigrette - a perfect holiday side dish or entree this fall and winter

Hellooooo salad of my dreams!

I know, I know…the internet is saturated with kale salad recipes, but you’ll just have to trust me on this one…it’s dressed to impress. Perfect as a holiday side dish, a satisfying and nutritious comfort salad during the fall and winter months, your ultimate gateway to guilt-free bacon eating.

Really, this is a tutorial on how to make two heads of kale, ⅓ cup of pecans, half a butternut squash, and three strips of bacon disappear in 8 seconds flat. This is one of those salads I thought for sure would last me at least two meals, but alas, it was wolfed down in one. If there’s one thing I can’t resist, it’s a powerhouse meal with lots of nutrients and sweet n’ salty maple-toasted pecans to make it extra munch-worthy.

Let’s talk pecans!

Prep shot for roasted butternut squash kale salad

I teamed up with the American Pecan Council to bring you this post (and two future posts!). The council represents all players in the pecan industry – including pecan growers as well as pecan shellers. Pecans are a good source of fiber, thiamin, zinc, and an excellent source of copper and manganese. Not to mention, they have a beautiful buttery taste and are a nice choice for plant-based protein and fat.

Fall is pecan harvest season, so pecans are at their freshest right now! They should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer in an airtight container (I use a resealable bag in the freezer to maintain their freshness for up to two years.

Roasted Butternut Squash Kale Salad with Pecans and Orange Vinaigrette - a perfect holiday side dish or entree this fall and winter

My favorite part about pecans is their versatility. Around the holidays, it’s easy for us to view pecans solely in the context of the iconic pecan pie. While I personally love pecan pie for holiday dessert, there are so many more uses for the nut. I often chop them up and add them to coconut milk yogurt breakfast bowls, add them to cookies and bread, and also add them to savory dishes like salads, rice side dishes like this Wild Rice Stuffing, and desserts. I also like using them for protein and crunch atop my veggie-packed Buddha bowls. So in essence, after you get your pecan pie on, you can use any leftover pecans for a myriad of dishes.

You can use either pecan halves or pieces for this recipe. Pecan pieces are easiest as they allow you to skip a step – ! You can take the raw approach and keep the pecans as is, or you can make them extra flavorful by toasting them with some pure maple syrup, cinnamon, and sea salt. Either way results in an epic salad with so much nutty flavor and crunchy texture.

Roasted Butternut Squash Kale Salad with Pecans and Orange Vinaigrette - a perfect holiday side dish or entree this fall and winter

This is a few-step salad, but believe me, it’s worth it! The process is quite simple! Here’s what we do:

  1. Roast the butternut squash
  2. Cook bacon and make salad dressing while the squash is roasting
  3. Toast up the pecans
  4. Assemble it all and enjoy!

Enjoy this epic crunch fest!

Roasted Butternut Squash Kale Salad with Pecans and Orange Vinaigrette - a perfect holiday side dish or entree this fall and winter

Roasted Butternut Squash Kale Salad

Course: Salad
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Author: Julia
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Ingredients

  • 1/2 medium-sized butternut squash chopped into 1/2" pieces, about 1.5 cups
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 pieces thick-cut bacon
  • 2 heads lacinato kale 6 cups loosely packed
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate arils

Orange Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Maple-Toasted Pecans:

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spread the chopped butternut squash on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Toss everything together to ensure the squash is well-coated. Roast for 20 minutes, stir, then roast another 5 to 10 minutes, until golden-brown and cooked through. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

  2. While the squash is roasting, in a small skillet cook the bacon over medium high heat until it reaches desired level of crisp (about 2 to 3 minutes per side). Place on a cutting board and all to cool, then chop into pieces.

  3. Add all of the ingredients for the orange vinaigrette to a small blender. Blend until completely combined (note: you can also whisk the ingredients together in a bowl if you don’t have a small blender).

  4. Place all ingredients for the maple-toasted pecans in a small skillet and heat over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until toasted and sticky, stirring often. Be sure to monitor the nuts closely, as they burn easily.

  5. Wash, dry, and chop the kale leaves and place them in a large serving bowl. Drizzle with lemon juice and use your hands to massage the juice into the kale leaves for 1 to 2 minutes, until you can feel the kale leaves are more tender (this process breaks up some of the fibers in the kale and makes it easier to chew). 

  6. Add the pomegranate arils, roasted butternut squash, chopped bacon, and maple-toasted pecans. Drizzle in desired amount of orange vinaigrette and toss everything together to combine. Serve alongside your favorite entrée. 

Roasted Butternut Squash Kale Salad with Pecans and Orange Vinaigrette - a perfect holiday side dish or entree this fall and winter

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