Massaged kale with roasted delicata squash and wild rice is paired with maple dijon dressing, walnuts, and pomegranate to create a delicious, fall or winter, main or side salad. This delicata squash salad is make ahead ready too! This recipe is vegetarian or vegan and gluten free.
This recipe was first posted in 2015 and has been updated, December 2021 with new photography and recipe notes. The recipe remains unchanged.
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A Hearty Fall and Winter Squash Salad
This delicata squash salad recipe is perfectly suited for make ahead week day lunches or as a gorgeous part of your holiday table. It’s hearty enough to enjoy as a main and is lovely with a slab of sourdough bread. This winter squash salad is full of earthy flavors, texture and with pops of sweet from the pomegranate seeds and roasted squash.
Share as a tossed salad for a less formal approach or composed (as pictured) so the ingredients stand out.
How to Make Delicata Squash Salad
Kale is a fabulous base for this hearty salad with delicata squash. To tenderize the kale, you’ll massage it for just a few minutes to break down the cell walls and it make the leaves a little less chewy. In summary, here’s how to make this winter squash salad (see recipe card for details):
- First, put the wild rice on to cook (it takes almost an hour).
- Second, cut, deseed and slice one medium delicata squash (or other). Toss it with olive oil, maple syrup and brown sugar, then roast.
- Third, prepare the kale, nuts, pomegranate and slice the red onion.
- Next, make the apple cider vinegar and maple vinaigrette and massage the kale until tender.
- Last, put all the ingredients together adding a bit of freshly ground black pepper and share.
If making ahead, you’ll store it in the fridge. Before sharing, allow to set at room temperature so that the fats in the oil soften.
Related: If you enjoy the earthy flavors of wild rice, you’ll love my Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup!
What is Wild Rice?
Wild rice is a seed of the native North American semi-aquatic marsh grass.Three varieties that grow naturally are found in the Great Lakes, gulf coast and central Texas regions. As its popularity increased over time, commercial cultivation made it widely available. Here in the U.S., wild rice is mostly grown commercially in paddy fields in California and Minnesota (DrWeil.com and Whole Grain Council).
Wild rice has an earthy, almost smoky flavor, is chewy and lends a distinct textural experience to any recipe is enjoyed in.
If you’re interested in learning more about cooking wild rice, check out Foolproof Living’s comprehensive blog post on How to Cook Wild Rice.
What is Delicata Squash?
Delicata squash is considered a winter squash, but is available during fall and winter. It has a delicate edible skin that becomes tender and mild when cooked. Delicata’s flesh is slightly sweet, and has a creamy, almost silky texture when cooked. It can be sautéed, steamed, baked, or roasted (my favorite)! Further, it tends to hold its shape well when cooked, so it’s perfect for stuffing.
Substitutions and Variations for Winter Squash Salad
- Winter Squash: Just about any thin skinned winter squash will work in this recipe. Try carnival, butternut squash or sweet dumpling. You’ll need to peel butternut squash prior to roasting, but the skin on delicata, carnival or sweet dumpling is edible and tenderizes as it roasts, so there’s no need to peel it.
- Nuts: I like walnuts in this kale and delicata squash salad, but pecans are quite nice as well.
- Pomegranate Seeds: They can be a bit of effort to get into. If short on time or motivation, try dried cranberries.
- Kale: Choose your favorite! Russian red, lacinato kale (aka dinosaur kale or Tuscan kale) or curly kale all work well in this recipe.
A Few Recipe Notes
Make Ahead Ready: This delicata squash salad recipe stores well for up to about three days, ideal for meal prep lunch or to get a jump on holiday cooking.
Meal Prep: The wild rice can be cooked ahead and stored for up to two days prior to assembling the salad. The pomegranate seeds can be extracted and stored up to three days ahead.
More Fall and Winter Salads to Love
- Roasted Beet and Apple Salad
- Brussels Sprouts Citrus Quinoa Salad
- Winter Jeweled Salad
- Sweet Potato Black Bean Chipotle Quinoa Salad
Maple Roasted Delicata Squash Salad with Kale and Wild Rice Recipe
For the Salad:
- 1/2 cup (50 grams) Whole Walnuts
- 3/4 cup (360 grams) Long Grain Wild Rice
- 4 cups (950 grams) Water
- 1/4 teaspoon Fine Sea Salt
- 1 1/2 pounds (815 grams) Delicata Squash or Sweet Dumpling or Carnival Squash about one to two squash depending on size. (I use one delicata for this recipe).
- 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
- 2 tablespoons Brown Sugar
- 1 tablespoon Maple Syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
- 1 bunch (245 grams) Russian Red Kale about eight stems
- 1/2 cup (65 grams) Purple Onion thinly sliced into half moons (about half a purple onion)
- 1 cup (140 grams) Pomegranate Arils about one Pomegranate
- 1/4 cup (15 grams) Parsley chopped
- 1/2 cup (50 grams) Parmesan Cheese optional, shaved or shredded
For the Dressing:
- 1/4 cup (45 grams) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
- 1 1/2 tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Maple Syrup
- Pinch of Salt
- Preheat oven to 400 Fahrenheit (204 Celsius).
- While the oven is preheating, place the walnuts in a shallow baking dish and toast in the preheating oven for about 10 – 15 minutes, or until the nuts are toasty and fragrant. Cool, rough chop and set aside.
- Bring the water and salt to a boil. In a medium sauce pan bring the water and a heavy pinch of salt to a boil. Meanwhile rinse the rice. Once the water is boiling, add the rice. Reduce heat to medium and gently simmer, uncovered, for 40-50 minutes. When done, the rice will be chewy yet tender with many grains split open. Drain any remaining water and set aside in the refrigerator to cool.
- While the rice is cooking, trim ends of squash using a large chef knife. Cut lengthwise in 1/2 and remove and discard seeds. The skin stays on for this squash as it tenderizes as it cooks (it has a nice texture). Cut squash into 1/2 moon shapes at about 1/4 inch -1/2 inch thickness (be consistent in how thick you cut so that they roast up evenly). Use a spoon to smooth the scooped out edges. Dice the remaining pieces that are not 1/2 moon shapes into cubes about the same thickness as the moon shapes. Place in a bowl and sprinkle olive oil, brown sugar, maple syrup and ground nutmeg over the squash. Toss with hands. Place on a parchment or silpat lined sheet pan making sure each piece is flat and roast in oven for about 25 minutes turning squash about half way through cooking. Roast until slightly caramelized. Remove from oven and cool.
- Destem the kale. Ribbon the leaves and then cut into 1 inch – 2 inch pieces. (This is the point where I wash the kale in a salad spinner). Place in a large bowl.
- Make the dressing: In a small bowl, add the olive oil, mustard, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup and pinch of salt. Whisk well until an emulsion is formed.
- Pour 3 tablespoons of dressing over the kale. Set a timer for two minutes and using your hands, massage the dressing into the kale. Kale is tough, so don't worry about bruising the kale, just go for it! The leaves will be nice and tender after massaging.
- Toss the kale with the cooled wild rice, walnuts, onion, pomegranate arils and parsley and then lay the cooled squash over the top of the salads. Pour the remaining dressing over salad or to taste.
- Serve cold with a few grinds of pepper and optional shaved or shredded Parmesan cheese.
- Store in the fridge for up to three days. Allow to set at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving so the olive oil can soften a bit.