This Quinoa and Chickpea Salad is the ultimate fall salad to enjoy for either lunch or dinner. It's quick to make, well balanced, and drizzled with the easiest homemade balsamic vinaigrette. Have this flavorful salad meal prepped and ready to eat in just under 1 hour.
I am always looking for new and fun ways to use up my favorite fall produce. If you love butternut squash as much as I do, you'll enjoy my other seasonal recipes: Gluten Free Pasta Bake with Butternut Squash and Butternut Squash Risotto with Caramelized Mushrooms.
Keep reading to learn all my best tips for making the best fall salad at home.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Amazing for meal prep! Prep all of the butternut squash quinoa salad ingredients ahead of time and have easy lunches ready ahead of time for an easy, stress-free week.
- Easy to customize. Use this salad as a guide and swap the ingredients based on what's in the refrigerator or what's in season.
- Hearty enough for a main dish. When you think of salads, you might think of them as a small side. But with the right ingredients (like butternut squash and chickpeas), you can make a fall salad that will keep you full for hours.
Tools You'll Need
- Small saucepan
- Baking sheet
- Glass jar
In order to make a salad filling enough to serve as a main dish, balance the salad with healthy fats, grains, protein, and fruits and vegetables. I also love a sprinkle of feta cheese to tie the flavors together.
Cooking a flavorful, fluffy quinoa at home is easy to do with a few simple ingredients. Quinoa, vegetable broth, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and bay leaves simmered together until absorbed and tender.
The star of this salad is the butternut squash, chickpeas, and pecans. Classic fall ingredients that go perfectly together. Buy a precut butternut squash if you are short on time, or cut the butternut squash yourself.
Homemade balsamic vinaigrette can be made at home in just a couple of minutes with olive oil, balsamic, dijon mustard, and spices and is the best way to dress this salad for an instant flavor boost.
- Butternut squash substitutions: Another type of squash or even sweet potato would work incredibly well here. I'd recommend acorn squash, pumpkin, delicata squash, or honeynut squash.
- Nut free option: If you are allergic to nuts or simply don't have pecans in the pantry, try substituting the pecans with pumpkin seeds.
- Make it dairy free: Either omit the feta cheese or substitute the feta with a vegan feta or non-dairy alternative.
- Quinoa substitute: I like the lightness of quinoa, but if you'd like try subbing in brown rice or a similar hearty grain. Note that brown rice will require a longer cook time, but the water and grain ratio remains the same. Read this easy tutorial to learn how to cook perfect brown rice, if desired.
- Dressing substitutions. I always recommend making your own salad dressing at home with ingredients already found in your pantry, but if you have a store-bought balsamic vinaigrette, use it! You can also try another dressing, too, like Honey Mustard or a Simple Vinaigrette.
- Add additional protein! My Cast Iron Skillet Chicken would pair very well with the flavors in this salad.
How to Make this Quinoa Chickpea Salad
- Cook the quinoa. Add vegetable broth to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, stir in garlic powder, bay leaves, kosher salt, black pepper, oil, and dried quinoa. Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the quinoa has absorbed the liquid and is fork tender. Remove from the heat.
- Oven roast the butternut squash. Toss the butternut squash with salt, pepper and avocado oil and spread on a baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the squash begins to brown and become tender.
- Add the chickpeas and pecans. After the butternut squash is lightly tender add the chickpeas and roast for an additional 5 minutes. Then, toss in the pecans and bake for another 2 minutes to make them lightly toasty and fragrant. Be careful to watch closely to prevent burning. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Make the balsamic vinaigrette. Place the extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, kosher salt, pepper and garlic powder into a small jar with a lid. Tightly screw the lid on and shake vigorously to mix well.
- Build your quinoa and chickpea salad bowl! Divide the quinoa, the butternut squash mixture, greens, apples, and feta cheese among four salad bowls. Top with desired amount of balsamic vinaigrette, and enjoy!
Prep Ahead Options
This butternut squash quinoa salad salad is a PERFECT make-ahead meal, because everything can be prepared and stored separately in the refrigerator. Simply serve the salad as noted above when ready to eat. You can also build several individual salad bowls at once and store them in airtight containers in the refrigerator for super quick, healthy, and easy lunches all week long.
Salad Serving Suggestions
This butternut squash quinoa salad is hearty enough to serve as a stand alone meal and can be served warm, room temperature or cold straight from the refrigerator.
With that being said, feel free to serve this salad with additional sides like additional roasted vegetables, crusty bread or even a fall-inspired cocktail like Bourbon Apple Cider Cocktail.
Yes, absolutely. If you own a rice cooker, particular a newer model, most have a custom quinoa cook setting. To cook quinoa in a rice cooker, add the broth, garlic powder, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and uncooked quinoa to the rice cooker bowl and stir to combine. Close and cook on the "quinoa" setting, or on the "steam" setting.
Although quinoa is technically a seed, quinoa is most often found near the grains like rice, barley, pasta, bulgur, etc. in the grocery store. If you see the rice, the quinoa should be very close by.
If you have shopped for quinoa before, you'll know there are a few different types you can purchase. All types of quinoa contain roughly 8 grams of protein per cup and considered a complete protein, meaning that all 9 essential amino acids are found in quinoa. However, red quinoa, contains slightly more antioxidants from their color and is slightly more nutritional.
Tips and Tricks for Success
- Cook the butternut squash directly on the baking sheet. No need for parchment paper or aluminum foil. Simply toss the squash in a bit of oil and roast directly on the baking sheet. This is going to help it get a beautiful crispy outside and boost the flavor of your salad.
- Make the homemade dressing! It really helps tie the flavors together and make the salad extra flavorful. If you do not have a glass jar, simply whisk the salad ingredients together in a small mixing bowl.
- Rinse the quinoa before boiling. This will not only help remove any dirt and debris, but also helps prevent the quinoa from clumping together while cooking.
More Flavorful Recipes You'll Enjoy
Fall Quinoa and Chickpea Salad
Fall Quinoa and Chickpea Salad Ingredients
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons coarse Kosher salt divided
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper divided
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil divided
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 1 small butternut squash peeled, and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
- 1 can reduced sodium chickpeas drained and rinsed (also known as garbanzo beans)
- ½ cup pecans roughly chopped
- 1 medium apple cored and thinly sliced (about 1 ½ cups)
- 6 cups hearty mixed greens
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
- ½ cup Balsamic Vinaigrette
Balsamic Vinaigrette Ingredients
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon coarse Kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- pinch garlic powder
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- In a small saucepan over high heat, bring vegetable broth to a boil. Stir in garlic powder, bay leaves, 1 teaspoon coarse Kosher salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper, 1 tablespoon of avocado oil, and quinoa. Reduce heat to low and place the lid on the saucepan. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and quinoa is fork tender. Remove from the heat.
- While the quinoa is cooking, toss the butternut squash onto a rimmed baking sheet with remaining salt, pepper, and avocado oil. Place in the oven, and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the squash begins to lightly brown and become tender. Remove from the oven, and toss in the chickpeas. Roast another 5 minutes, or until the chickpeas begin to lightly brown. Remove from the oven, and toss in the pecans. Return to the oven, and bake for 2 more minutes, being careful to watch closely so the pecans do not burn. Remove from the oven, and set aside.
- While the squash mixture is roasting, make the balsamic vinaigrette by placing all the ingredients into a small glass jar with a lid. Tightly screw the lid on and shake vigorously to blend well. If you do not have a glass jar, you can place all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl, and whisk vigorously until the mixture is well combined. You may also place all ingredients into a blender, and blend until well combined.
- Once all the ingredients are cooked, build your bowl. Divide quinoa, the butternut squash mixture, a handful of greens, some sliced apples, and a bit of feta cheese among four bowls. Top with the desired amount of balsamic vinaigrette, and enjoy!
- This is a PERFECT make-ahead meal, because everything can be prepared and stored separately in the refrigerator. Simply serve it as noted above when ready to eat. You can also build several bowls at once and store them in airtight containers in the refrigerator for super quick, healthy, and easy lunches all week long.
- This salad can be served warm, room temperature, or cold.
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