Roasted Delicata Squash Salad is a bright fall dish with baby spinach and nutty brown butter vinaigrette. Perfect for lunch or as a starter course for Thanksgiving dinner. Don’t miss the sommelier wine pairings, below!
Like most of us, I’m crazy for all things squash this time of year. I count the days to my first bowl of Butternut Squash Soup the same way many coffee lovers await their Pumpkin Spice Lattes.
That said, I sometimes start to find the usual winter squash preparations a little on the heavy side. After a few weeks, I start looking for brighter flavors to awaken my palate.
This Delicata Squash Salad with Brown Butter Vinaigrette does just that. I toss roasted squash rings with baby spinach and a lightly-tangy vinaigrette of browned butter and reduced apple cider vinegar.
The caramelized squash contrasts nicely with the fresh spinach leaves and the “zip” of the vinaigrette. It’s a delicious alternative to your standard squash fare!
What is Delicata Squash?
I was late to the Delicata squash party. I only discovered it in my local market a few years ago, and by accident when I was sorting through the bins for my usual Butternut. Once I cooked it, I wondered where it had been all my life!
Like most winter squashes, Delicata has a mild, sweet flavor. Its shape is cylindrical and the skin is a creamy shade of yellow with green and/or orange stripes.
What sets Delicata squash apart from other varieties is that it’s one of the few with edible skin. There’s no need to peel this squash before cooking, unless you really want to. Talk about a time-saver!
When cleaned and sliced, Delicata squash yields beautiful half moons that are as pretty to look at as they are delicious to eat. Like most winter squashes, they’re particularly good roasted.
It’s become one of my favorite squash varieties and an ingredient I savor in my rotation throughout the autumn months. This squash is perfect for busy weeknights, given its quick preparation.
Making Delicata Squash Salad with Baby Spinach
I adapted this salad from a Roasted Sunchoke dish I found in Food & Wine during a snowstorm.
The recipe sounded delicious, but the snowfall ruled out a trip to the market, and sunchokes aren’t something I stock regularly in my vegetable bin. Since I had all of the other ingredients, I decided to try the recipe with roasted Delicata squash and we loved the substitution.
The sweet, caramelized squash rings paired so well with the toasty brown butter and tangy apple cider vinegar. Baby spinach, chopped chives, and shallots brought a great brightness to the dish, with a very subtle “kick” from a few crushed red pepper flakes.
I tweaked the vinaigrette a bit to best suit our personal tastes (a smaller ratio of vinegar to browned butter) and topped the salad with toasted squash seeds for some textural contrast. A sprinkling of toasted walnuts or pecans would also be delicious here.
Serving Squash Salad
This Delicata Squash Salad is a great side dish for your favorite fall meats and seafood or a light lunch with a wedge of crusty artisan bread.
It makes a beautiful salad course for Thanksgiving, and is an especially nice vegetarian option for dinner guests to savor the flavors of the season. In fact, this post was featured in Alison Roman’s 27 Insanely Delicious Salads You Need For Thanksgiving in 2015.
Complete the dish with a wine pairing! Hugh Preece, Sommelier and Italian Wine Ambassador – Vinitaly Academy, suggests pairing the following wines with this salad:
Poggio al Tesoro Vermentino Toscana Solosole: “Fresh and vibrant, this wine offers aromas of apple, almond, white pepper and sage and confirming flavors on the palate. Balanced and tangy on the finish.”
Or, for a more daring pairing, Elena Walch Gewurztraminer Vigna “Kastelaz”: “An insistent expression, expressive aromas display flowers, lychee, pink grapefruit, jasmine and spice aromas and flavors, all finely meshed with stony minerality and vibrant acidity on a complex palate.”
More Fall Salad Recipes:
- Fig Salad with Baby Arugula (Striped Spatula)
- Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad (Champagne Tastes)
- Crunchy Beet and Arugula Salad (Crumby Kitchen)
Delicata Squash with Brown Butter Vinaigrette
- 2 Delicata squash (about 2-1/2 to 3 pounds total)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil , divided
- 5 thyme sprigs
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons minced shallots
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1-1/2 cups baby spinach leaves , lightly-packed
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
- kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper
- roasted squash seeds or your favorite variety of toasted nuts , for garnishing, optional*
Roast the squash
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F with rack in center position.
- Cut Delicata squash in half lengthwise and use a spoon to remove seeds and stringy pulp. (Set aside if planning to roast the seeds, otherwise, discard.)
- Cut each half, crosswise, into 1/4-inch thick slices. Arrange on a baking sheet, toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil, thyme sprigs, and a few pinches of kosher salt and pepper. Roast 30-40 minutes, turning squash slices halfway through, until tender and golden.
Make the vinaigrette and serve
- In a small saucepan, simmer apple cider vinegar until reduced to 2-3 tablespoons, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
- In the same saucepan, heat butter over medium-low heat, gently swirling the pan occasionally, until solids are light golden brown and fragrant. Remove from heat.
- Stir shallots, honey, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of kosher salt into the reduced cider vinegar. Slowly whisk 1 tablespoon olive oil and browned butter into the vinegar mixture until emulsified.
- In a large bowl, gently toss together spinach, roasted Delicata squash, and vinaigrette until coated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If desired, garnish with roasted squash seeds or toasted nuts. Serve immediately, while the dressing is still warm.
To roast Delicata squash seeds:
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Rinse seeds in a bowl of water and discard stringy pulp (seeds will float to the top of the water as separated).
- Add seeds and 1 teaspoon salt for every 1/2 cup seeds to a small saucepan. Add enough water to cover by 1 inch and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5-7 minutes and drain seeds into a colander. Let cool slightly and dry with a paper towel.
- Place seeds onto a baking sheet and toss with about a teaspoon of olive oil (or another neutral oil) to coat and a few pinches of kosher or sea salt. Arrange seeds in a single layer and roast for about 10 minutes.
- Stir seeds, and continue roasting for 5-10 minutes, until lightly toasted and fragrant. (Seeds should not be dark brown.) Let cool and enjoy.
This post was originally published in November, 2015, and has been updated in 2018.