Sweet, maple-roasted squash, peppery, bitter kale, sweet apples, chewy dried berries, crunchy toasted nuts, and bright maple cider vinaigrette combine forces in this gorgeous Vegan Fall Harvest Salad that’s so much more than the sum of its parts. Best of all, these fall harvest bowls are perfect for meal prep, meaning a nutritious and delicious meal is never far from reach.
While the end of summer may be bittersweet — I’m really going to miss farm-fresh tomatoes and sweet corn! — the start of fall is always an exciting time in my kitchen. I love firing up my long-neglected oven and roasting all the veggies, making big pots of cozy soup, and having plenty of excuses to bake up tasty treats.
This delectable vegan rendition of a fall kale salad is always one of the first recipes I turn to when the days start getting shorter. Made with a punchy maple apple cider vinaigrette, tender maple roasted squash, and fresh, crunchy apples, I can confidently declare this the best fall salad recipe around.
Whether you make a batch for easy grab-and-go lunches throughout the week or serve it alongside tofurkey and mashed potatoes on your Thanksgiving table, one thing is certain: you’re going to flip for this simple vegan fall salad!
One of my favorite attributes of this harvest salad recipe is the short ingredient list. Here’s everything you’ll need to grab for this fall-flavored gourd-ness:
- Butternut Squash – Frozen squash is pre-peeled and diced for easier prep, and it’ll roast just as well as fresh. You can also feel free to swap in the fall squash of your choice. Sweet potatoes or yams are also a delightful option.
- Olive Oil – No need to grab your fancy bottle of finishing oil; just your regular cooking oil will do beautifully.
- Maple Syrup – Maple is a quintessential fall flavor. Feel free to swap in agave nectar, brown rice syrup, or date syrup instead.
- Salt & Pepper – For seasoning.
- Curly Kale – Feel free to swap in milder lacinato kale or sweet Red Russian kale if you prefer, but I feel like curly kale marinades the best in the dressing.
- Apples – I suggest reaching for any apple variety that you enjoy eating out of hand. My favorites include Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, and Cosmic Crisp varieties.
- Pecans – Feel free to swap in your favorite toasted nut like pistachio or walnuts instead. You can also make this a nut-free salad by opting for pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or omitting the nuts altogether.
- Cranberries – For a bit of tartness and chew. Feel free to swap in pomegranate arils for a juicier, fresher flavor.
- Vegan Feta – Either store-bought (VioLife is my favorite) or homemade will do the trick.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – If possible, reach for organic ACV that still has the “mother” for the best flavor. You can also use Champagne vinegar, sherry vinegar, or red wine vinegar if you prefer.
- Dijon Mustard – For piquancy. Feel free to use stone ground mustard, hot brown mustard, or mustard powder instead.
- Garlic – Fresh cloves will give you the spiciest flavor, but you can swap in garlic powder if needed.
Pro Tips for Vegan Fall Harvest Salad
- The easiest way to peel a butternut squash is to trim the root and stem ends, then microwave the whole squash for about 30 seconds to soften the skin. After that, you should be able to use a regular vegetable peeler to remove the tough skin!
- Other gourd options like acorn squash and delicata squash don’t require peeling in case you’re short on prep time.
Can I roast frozen vegetables? Heck yeah, you can! You don’t even need to bother defrosting them first. Just toss with oil, maple, and seasoning, spread in a single layer on a sheet pan, and roast as directed.
What are the best apples for making fall salad? Since the apples will be eaten raw for this salad, it’s important to choose a variety that you like to eat plain. I happen to enjoy firm, sweet-tart varieties like Fuji, Pink Lady, and Honeycrisp.
Step 1: Roast
Preheat your oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the butternut squash with olive oil, maple syrup, and a pinch of salt and pepper, and arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes until the butternut squash is slightly browned and fork-tender. Allow the butternut squash to cool for 15 minutes after pulling it out of the oven.
Step 2: Make Dressing
While the butternut squash is roasting, make the dressing by whisking together all of the dressing ingredients.
Step 3: Massage Kale
In a large bowl, add the curly kale and pour the dressing overtop. Use clean hands to massage the dressing into the kale for about 30 seconds until all of the kale is well coated. Allow the kale to sit for 15 minutes to soften.
Step 4: Toss
Add the butternut squash, apples, pecans, cranberries or pomegranate seeds, and vegan feta into the bowl with the kale and toss to combine.
Refrigerate the salad until you’re ready to serve, and enjoy!
While this fall harvest salad with butternut squash and apples is pretty perfect as is, there are always plenty of opportunities to customize any Best Served Vegan recipe to your needs. Here are a few variations and add-ins to consider:
- Nut-Free – Either omit the nuts entirely or swap in some roasted pepitas. You can also use crispy chickpeas or even chopped pretzels if you prefer!
- Add Protein – Tofu, seitan, or any chicken alternatives like TVP or soy curls can help to bulk up the salad. You can also add legumes and/or grains like barley or farro if you prefer!
- Add More Fall Veggies. Roasted butternut squash is just the beginning of what you and your sheet pan can make this fall. Consider adding brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, beets, sweet potatoes, and/or carrots to the mix!
- Fall Arugula Salad – While peppery arugula isn’t as hearty or long-lasting as kale, it’s quite delectable in this harvest salad. Make sure to wait to toss the salad until you’re ready to eat as the leaves will begin to wilt immediately.
- Swap in a different fall harvest dressing. Instead of making maple apple cider dressing, consider making maple tahini or maple balsamic dressing instead.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
While it’s utterly crave-worthy, my vegan autumn harvest salad isn’t just a celebration of the new season. This recipe also happens to be:
- Make-Ahead/Meal Prep-Friendly – Opting for hearty kale means you can make this salad ahead of time and stash it in the fridge for up to 5 days, making it a perfect grab-and-go meal.
- Made With Only 12 Ingredients – At least half of which are pantry staples!
- Wholesome & Nourishing – Loaded with fresh fruits, veggies, and nuts, this fall harvest bowl is the picture of healthy eating.
Let me know if you try out this vegan fall harvest salad recipe, and if you do, I would love it if you left a rating and review below! Make sure you are also following along on Instagram and Pinterest for more food inspiration.
More Salads & Bowls:
- Mediterranean Chickpea Salad
- Pesto Pasta Salad
- Dill Potato Salad
- Mediterranean Buddha Bowl
- Chipotle Burrito Bowl
- Tofu Poke Bowl
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