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Squash Kale Salad

This Squash Kale Salad is anything but boring. We combine roasted kabocha squash, fresh herbs, marinated dates, and toasted pepitas with tenderized kale for a healthy and delicious fall salad. Add this to your list of Thanksgiving side dishes this year!

A bowl of squash kale salad

Squash Kale Salad is One of My Favorite Thanksgiving Side Dishes

We usually fall into one of two camps when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner planning. Some of us want all the old goodies from our childhoods, even if it’s the food we would never eat during the rest of the year. Marshmallows on sweet potatoes, anyone?! And then there are those of us who want to embrace holiday food traditions but do so in a creative and healthier way.

Enter this roasted kabocha squash and kale salad. It marries earthy roasted squash, fresh herbs, toasted pepitas, and tenderized kale. We also add marinated dates for an incredible and surprising addition of sweetness and texture. The flavor is lovely and will keep you coming back for more.

A bowl of squash kale salad

This may be the best kale salad I’ve ever eaten, much less made at home. It’s easy enough to put together for a healthy lunch or dinner during the week but fancy enough to serve alongside your turkey. I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do!

What is Kabocha Squash?

I only recently discovered the joys of cooking with a variety of squashes. Before, I would always gravitate toward a butternut squash or maybe acorn if I was feeling adventurous. But now that I’ve experienced the flavor of kabocha squash, I may never look back!

Kabocha squash is sometimes called Green Pumpkin or Buttercup squash. You can find it in some specialty grocers and local farmers’ markets.

Kabocha squash

It’s known for its especially sweet flavor and light, velvety texture. It tastes like a delicious combination of sweet potatoes and pumpkin. It roasts beautifully and would also make a great mash.

What You’ll Need

If you’ve been wondering if there are any good kabocha squash recipes out there, look no further! Kabocha squash is the star of this healthy kale salad and adds wonderful flavor. Scroll down to the recipe card for actual amounts of individual ingredients.

  • Pepitas
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Kabocha Squash – My little local, farm-to-table market had kabocha.  If you have trouble finding them, use acorn squash. Squash is high in fiber, vitamin A, and vitamin C.
  • Herbs – We’ll be using fresh thyme, rosemary, sage, and parsley in this recipe.
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese – I love the nuttiness this cheese adds!
  • Dates – Be sure to soak and pit your dates before using.
  • Lemon Juice – Look for 1-2 ripe fresh lemons to get your juice from.
  • Kale – I love using Tuscan kale for this recipe, but any kind will be fine. Be sure to remove the stems and roughly chop.

How to Make Squash Kale Salad

This may be the best kale salad I’ve ever had. Since it comes together in less than 45 minutes (with bake time), it’s easy enough to make all year long. But this salad is fancy enough to be the perfect choice for one of your Thanksgiving side dishes. 

  • Preheat the Oven. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  • Toast the Pepitas. Spread the pepitas on a baking sheet, and toast for about 10 minutes, stirring once or twice, until they smell nutty. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and pour the toasted pepitas into a bowl to cool. Raise the oven temperature up to 425°F.
  • Prep the Kabocha Squash. Peel the squash and then slice it lengthwise and remove the seeds. Discard the stem, peel, and seeds into your compost or the trash. Slice the squash into 1-inch thick wedges. Then, toss those wedges with olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary, and sage. You want all slices to be evenly coated with the herb mixture. 
  • Bake. Place the prepared kabocha squash on the baking sheet and roast for about 20 minutes. You want to see the squash turning a nice golden brown around the edges, and it should be tender when pierced with a fork. 
  • Cool. Let the roasted squash cool on the baking sheet. Once cooled, cut the wedges into bite-sized cubes. 
Dates marinating with fresh herbs and lemon juice
  • Prepare the Dates. Slice the dates in half and then slice them thinly, lengthwise. This can be tricky since dates are so sticky – you don’t want to let the slices stick together and form a big ball. Toss the date slices in a bowl with the remaining olive oil, and add lemon juice, parsley, and Parmigiano cheese. Just like with the squash, we want all the dates to be evenly coated – don’t be afraid of getting your fingers in there!
  • Prepare the Kale. Place the chopped kale in a large mixing bowl and add about 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Toss the kale with the lemon juice with your hands, massaging the juice into the leaves. This process will help tenderize the kale leaves and make them more enjoyable to eat raw.
Assemling the salad
  • Assemble the Kale Salad. Top the kale with the roasted kabocha squash and then the date mixture. Gently toss the ingredients together, taking care to not smoosh the squash. Top the salad with roasted pepitas and additional grated parmesan cheese if desired.

Tips for Success

Here are some tips for success when making this Kale Squash Salad.

  • Roast the Squash the Day Before. This recipe can be made partially ahead of time.  Cook your kabocha squash the day before and store covered in the refrigerator. The rest of the recipe can be assembled about 30 minutes before you want to serve. This will make it one of your easier Thanksgiving side dishes to manage.
  • Don’t Neglect the Kale. Massaging the kale with lemon juice is a really important step that will make a big difference in the texture of the greens. The longer you let the kale sit, the more tender it will become.
  • Add Your Favorite Toppings. Feel free to add your favorite salad toppings! This kale squash salad is quite versatile and can handle a lot of flavors. Crumbled goat cheese or cranberries would be really tasty!
A bowl of squash kale salad with roasted kabocha squash on a baking sheet

How to Store Leftover Squash Kale Salad

Leftover squash kale salad will store well in the fridge for 2-3 days if kept in an airtight container. I recommend storing the toasted pepitas in a separate container on the counter to avoid getting soft in the fridge. When you’re ready to serve, sprinkle the pepitas over your bowl and enjoy!

More Delicious and Healthy Thanksgiving Sides

A bowl of squash kale salad

Squash Kale Salad

This Squash Kale Salad is anything but boring. We combine roasted kabocha squash, fresh herbs, marinated dates, and toasted pepitas with tenderized kale for a healthy and delicious fall salad. Add this to your list of Thanksgiving side dishes this year!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time45 mins
Servings: 4 people

Equipment

  • Baking Pan

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup pepitas
  • 1/2 cup extra- virgin olive oil
  • 1 kabocha squash halved peeled and cut into slices.
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves chopped
  • 2 teaspoon rosemary leaves chopped
  • 2 teaspoon sage leaves chopped
  • 2 teaspoons of kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 ounces grated Parmigiano- Reggiano
  • 6 ounces pitted dates
  • 1 lemon juiced about 4 tablespoons
  • 3 tablespoons sliced flat-leaf parsley chopped
  • 1 bunch kale leaves stems removed and roughly chopped

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  • Spread the pepitas on a baking sheet, and toast for about 10 minutes, stirring once or twice, until they smell nutty.
  • Remove from oven and place in a small bowl to cool.Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds, and peel. Remove stem and discard.
  • Slice the squash lengthwise into 1- inch- thick wedges.
  • Toss the squash wedges in a bowl with ¼ cup olive oil, kosher salt, black pepper, thyme, rosemary and sage. Place the squash flat on a baking sheet, and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Cube once cooled.
  • Slice dates in half and then slice thinly lengthwise, being careful not to let them stick together into one big ball. Toss the dates in a bowl with remaining ¼ cup olive oil, the lemon juice, and parsley. Stir in the Parmigiano- Reggiano.
  • Place chopped kale in serving bowl, add juice from 1/2 of the lemon (about 2 tablespoons) and toss kale with your hands massaging juice into leaves (this will tenderize the kale leaves)
  • Top with cubed squash, then spread date mixture on top of squash.
  • Toss together, top with pepitas and additional grated parmesan cheese if desired.

Notes

You can cook squash 1 day ahead of serving.
Course: Salad, Side Dish

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