This Spicy Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Lentils is a salty, sweet, spicy, and crunchy all at once. Loaded with plant-based protein and topped with toasted cashews, crumbled feta, and micro greens, it's a colourful, festive squash salad that doubles as a side dish or a vegetarian main.
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What makes something a salad? Does it have to have green leaves?
Because if this Roasted Butternut Squash Salad is wrong, I don't wanna be right!
Stick with me here. We're talking cubes of spicy roasted butternut squash tossed together with perfectly cooked lentils, then topped with crumbed feta, toasted cashews, and a smattering of micro greens just for fun.
Ohhhhhhh baby! The result is a smoky, salty, sweet, crunchy, satisfying butternut squash dish that's so good, while it may not meet a traditional definition of a salad, I'm certain it'll end up on heavy rotation in your home. It definitely has in mine.
This dish is a bit spendy in terms of time, and you'll dirty up multiple dishes in making the various components. Sorry / not sorry about that.
The good news is that practically every part of this salad can be made in advance, from pre-cooking the lentils to roasting the butternut squash in advance. Then, when you're ready to serve it's just a quick toss together, toppings sprinkled on top, and you are good to go.
In the post below I'll teach you all my tips and tricks for getting 'er done quickly and with minimal effort, because that's how we roll around here.
Let's get into it!
What do I need to make this roasted butternut squash salad?
Alright my friends, time to gather up your ingredients. Here's what you'll need:
- Butternut squash --> A nice medium-small guy will do just fine.
- Lentils --> I used Puy lentils because I like how they hold up.
- Feta --> I like to use real deal sheep's milk feta here, but whatever is fine.
- Cashews --> Save some time and use pre-roasted cashews.
- Micro greens --> Totally optional but adorable. I used cress and beet shoots.
- Red wine vinegar --> For some tang!
- Smoked paprika --> One of my favourite ingredients.
- Cumin --> More smoky flavour.
- Salt, pepper, EVOO --> Your basic support crew.
Do I need any special equipment?
I'm willing to bet you've already got both of those things on hand, but if not, you'll find links to my favourites above.
How do you make this roasted butternut squash salad?
Start by preparing your butternut squash. You'll need to peel it, halve it, and scoop out the seeds.
Then, use a sharp knife to cut it into one-inch cubes. Note! Don't cut your squash cubes all tiny and dainty, otherwise they'll roast too quickly and turn to mush.
Robust, one-inch cubes is what we're looking for.
Place the squash cubes on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle the smoked paprika, ground cumin, salt, and pepper over the top, and toss so they're all well coated.
Now place the tray of squash into the oven and roast for 20-30 minutes. Start checking at around the 20 minute mark - you want to end up with squash that's tender and slightly crisp, but not mushy or over cooked.
While the squash is roasting, you'll have time to get your lentils started.
Lentils love hiding little rocks, so give them a comb over, then a good rinse. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, salt it generously, then add the lentils.
Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 20 minutes. At this stage start checking the lentils often. They should be just al dente, not mushy when they're finished.
Drain and rinse well with cold water to stop the cooking.
Transfer the lentils into a bowl, and season with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper.
Scrape all of the butternut squash into the bowl, including any oil and seasoning from the pan. We want all those delicious flavours in there.
Add the crumbled feta, and toss.
Transfer the lentil salad mixture to a platter and scatter with roasted cashews and micro greens.
Can I make this salad in advance?
You can certainly make the salad in advance, platter it up, and serve it room temperature or cold within a day. If you're going to make it in advance I recommend adding the cashews and micro greens at the last minute.
You can also make any of the components of this squash and lentil salad in advance. Cooked lentils will last 3-5 days in your fridge, and the butternut squash can be roasted and then kept in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days.
Can I use a different type of squash?
I don't see why not! I've only ever used butternut squash, but really any winter squash than can be peeled and cubed would be just fine.
The world is your squash roasting oyster.
Can I make a vegan squash salad?
For sure. You'd either omit the feta, or replace it with a plant based feta recipe like this tofu feta from Connoisseurus Veg.
Can I use a different type of lentils?
You may, but I strongly urge you to stick with smaller green or brown lentils. I love Puy lentils for this recipe, but I do know that they're expensive.
I've also made this recipe with beluga lentils, which are similar in size and firmness to Puy, so they work great.
Please avoid using red lentils or large green lentils, as they'll just be too mushy.
What goes well with butternut squash salad?
Frankly, I think this salad is great on it's own. It'll hold it's own at a potluck, and makes a great packed lunch (add the cashews in when you're ready to eat).
Having said that, there are few things that aren't improved by a piece of cheesy garlic bread, and this is no exception.
Hey Nutrition Lady, is this salad healthy?
It sure is! Winter squash such as butternut squash are rich in carotenoids, a precursor to vitamin A, and are a good source of vitamin C. It is also a very good source of dietary fiber.
The seeds, when consumed in moderation, are a great source of healthy oils including linoleic acid (polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid) and oleic acid (the same monounsaturated fatty acid found in olive oil).
Lentils are a nutritional powerhouse. They are a great source of dietary fiber, manganese, iron, and protein. Feta cheese is a source of calcium and protein, but it also brings along a fair share of fat and salt, from the brine. Enjoy it in moderation.
Similar recipes you might enjoy:
Spicy Roasted Butternut Squash and Lentil Salad
- 1 medium butternut squash mine was just shy of 2lbs / 900g
- 4 tablespoon olive oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon hot smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup small green lentils picked over and rinsed
- 3 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 6 oz feta cheese crumbled
- ½ cup toasted cashews roughly chopped
- ½ cup micro greens optional
- Preheat your oven to 200C / 400F. If your oven has a convection setting, use it.
- Peel the squash and split it in half, scooping the seeds out. Cut the squash into 1 inch cubes, and spread them out on a baking sheet in an individual layer.
- Drizzle 2 tablespoon olive oil over the squash and add the cumin, smoked paprika, and salt. Use your hands to mix everything together so the squash is well coated.
- Set in the oven and roast for 15 minutes. Remove, turn the squash over, and then roast for another 15 minutes. The outside of the cubes should be crispy and the inside tender. Set aside to cool slightly.
- While the squash is roasting, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Salt it generously, then add the lentils.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 20 minutes. At this stage start checking the lentils often. They should be just al dente, not mushy when they're finished. Drain and rinse well with cold water.
- Place the lentils in the bowl. Add the remaining 2 tablespoon olive oil and red wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.
- Combine the lentils with the squash, scraping any remaining oil and spice off of the sheet the squash was roasting on into the bowl. Add the crumbled feta.
- Transfer the salad to a platter. Top with additional feta, roasted cashews, and micro greens. Serve!
- Nutrition values are an estimate only.
- The squash can be roasted up to a day in advance and kept in the fridge.
- The lentils can be cooked up to 2 days in advance and kept in the fridge.
- If you're making the salad in advance, add the cashews and micro greens at the last minute.
This recipe was originally published April 15, 2012. It was retested, re-photographed, and most recently updated on November 12, 2019.