Wild Rice and Butternut Squash Salad with Maple Balsamic Dressing

By Amanda Paa – Updated November 10, 2023
4.56 from 18 votes
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Butternut Squash & Wild Rice Salad

I know you may be tired of me evangelizing about squash. But please hold on! The best is here.

Several lovely blogging friends are helping me share a whole week of winter squash recipes from my book, Smitten with Squash. When you take a peak at the Gluten-Free Delicata Donuts or the Fresh Herb & Gruyere Spaghetti Squash Saute, I think you’ll fall in love with the curcubit family as much as I have.

A Delicious Wild Rice Salad

I adore this splendid autumn salad that includes some of Minnesota’s very best natural ingredients. Butternut squash works well for this dish because it holds its shape beautifully after being roasted, caramelized and sweet.

The combination of nutty wild rice, a simple maple dressing, and fresh herbs are not only delicious together, but their vibrant colors combine to make one stunning dish.

How To Make This Recipe

What’s the best way to cut open a winter squash?

Many varieties of winter squash are wobbly, dense and tough to break open. When I was creating all of these recipes, I quickly found out that safety and efficiency in working with them was going to be key, as well as something I wanted to help you with. You’ll find lots of information on that in the book, and here’s a one minute video that I filmed with Jennifer Simonson of MPR (she’s so talented!) on how to easily cut & prep a butternut squash.

I also spent some time with The Kitchn, sharing my 7 tips to easily cut and prep any winter squash, not just butternut. You can find that article here.

In short, it comes down to two key things: a very sharp knife & stabilization.

Wild Rice and Butternut Squash Salad {thanksgiving salad}

Acorn and butternut are the only squashes I’ve tried. What other types do you suggest I explore?

Butternut and acorn are no slouch in the squash family, but we tend to make those all the time because they’re familiar. However, one of the reasons I wrote the book was to introduce people to the other delicious varieties that farmers are growing.

Most of the time people see a kabocha, delicata or blue hubbard, they’re a little unsure of what they taste like or how to prepare them so they pass them by. It’s kind of like how people used to perceive weird looking or oddly colored tomatoes. Once you try one, you’ll fall in love with the unique differences in taste and texture. Challenge yourself this year by picking one up that you’ve never cooked with and experiment. That was the way I started, and my book can help guide you through using them in the kitchen.

Try these!

On a side note, I think squash is the new pumpkin in terms of seasonal baking. Less water content and starchier flesh makes the puree a wonder to work with. Give that a whirl and let me know what you think!

You wrote a whole cook book on squash? Why?

Yes! It’s titled, Smitten with Squash.

When my publisher contacted me in early 2013 about writing a book for their Northern Plate Series, each being a cookbook and resource guide on a single Midwest ingredient that has been a strong part of our culture, I immediately knew my proposal would be on squash. Living in an area where growing seasons are short and very unpredictable, squash is one of the only families that is nearly “in-season” all year round.

Between the long and slender summer squash varieties, to the thick skinned blue hubbard and kabocha that last for months when cellared properly, the curcubit family holds a special place in my heart. They bring a sense of comfort and nostalgia, like your grandmother’s buttery zucchini bread or a butternut and sage pasta that warms your soul in the middle of winter.

And then there’s the possibility of new ideas that I found so delicious and eye opening. Like how wonderful red kuri can be when braised in an ethopian spiced peanut stew or the silkiness that blue hubbard adds to a cinnamon spiced pudding, topped with macadamia nuts for good measure.

Butternut Squash & Wild Rice Salad
Wild Rice & Butternut Squash Salad {gf, vegan}

More Butternut Squash Recipes:

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Vegan Wild Rice and Butternut Squash Salad

A colorful, roasted butternut squash salad tossed with warm wild rice, spinach, dried cherries, and herbs. The simple maple balsamic dressing is blended with garlic and rosemary, and it soaks into the fresh ingredients, making it so flavorful!
4.56 from 18 votes
Prep Time :20 minutes
Cook Time :40 minutes
Total Time :1 hour
Yield: 6 servings
Author: Amanda Paa




  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil or sunflower oil
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 clove garlic minced


  • 2 1/2 cups peeled and diced butternut squash (or can use sweet potatoes, delicious this way too!)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups thinly sliced spinach
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced leeks, both white and green parts
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries or dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 3 cups cooked wild rice, warmed


  • To make dressing, add all ingredients to a jar and use immersion blender to puree. Or whisk thoroughly by hand. Set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss squash with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread onto a baking sheet and roast for about 25 minutes, stirring once, until fork tender.
  • In a large bowl, combine spinach, leeks, cherries and basil. Stir in warm rice and squash so that spinach wilts slightly from the heat.
  • Stir dressing into salad; tossing to coat. Taste and adjust salt level if needed. Serve at room temperature.


Can be made a day ahead of serving!
Video Tutorial:

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October 14, 2014


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  1. Karen B.

    5 stars
    I found this recipe and we love it! I made it for Christmas. It will definitely go in rotation.

    • Amanda Paa

      Yay, so glad to hear that Karen! Thanks for making the recipe.

  2. Gabbie E

    5 stars
    Super yummy! Subbed wild rice for farro and it was so tasty.

    • Amanda Paa

      Glad you enjoyed it! Love the farro swap.

  3. PJ

    5 stars
    This is a staple salad anymore in my house and for potlucks – a huge hit!

    • Amanda Paa

      love to hear it!

  4. Ania

    5 stars
    This salad was a huge hit at my mother-in-law’s house both with vegans and non-vegans. This was my first time using wile rice snd I was pleasantly surprised how much I liked it. The salad hit both savory and sweet notes with the satisfying nuttiness and texture from the wild rice. So, so good! Can’t wait to make it again.

  5. Marsha Paulsen Peters

    When making the first cut into Butternut, Red Kuri [my fave] and other winter squash, I put the afore-mentioned kitchen towel onto the drain of the kitchen sink which makes a great ‘divot’ to steady the end of the squash — either end, as they’re shaped differently. Once it’s steady, cut downward from top side.

  6. Aimee

    Ever subbed quinoa for the wild rice?

    • amandapaa

      i haven’t, but i think it would be delicious! let me know if you try it that way.

  7. Patricia

    This is fantastic! I have made this salad multiple times, and am taking it to our extended family Thanksgiving Feast today! I know it will be enjoyed, as it is with my family! Thank you so much for your creativity, and healthy ingredients!

    • amandapaa

      Wonderful, so glad it’s part of your celebration today! And grateful to have you as a reader. xo

  8. kim

    omgosh…… am right in the middle of making this dish and i bought uncle bens wild rice in a box…… can i use this, or must i use plain wild rice????? am worried about the extra seasonings!!!

    help…hurry!! PLEASE



    • amandapaa

      Hi Kim, let me know how this turned out. I’m guessing the extra seasoning from Uncle Ben’s threw the flavor off a bit, but curious to hear. I’d definitely make it again with regular wild rice so you can really taste the beauty of the squash and rice! xo

  9. Barbara

    I am making this dish today for a gathering after a funeral tomorrow. Should I mix it all together today or wait until tomorrow before I go thanks

    • amandapaa

      Hi! You should mix it all today, while the wild rice is still warm as that is key for it to soak up the dressing and really infuse the flavors. Once all mixed, let it cool to room temp, then refrigerate, and take out an hour before serving to come to room temp.

  10. Rebecca @BeTrulyNourished

    This looks amazing! Totally making it

    • Amanda Paa

      thanks for stopping by rebecca! i hope you enjoy the salad, it’s one of my favorites :)

  11. Janelle Engstrom

    I absolutely love this salad. It’s perfectly balanced, healthy and delicious! I leave out the leeks because I personally don’t love them, and the salad is still excellent. So grateful we stumbled upon this and look forward to trying more of your genius recipes.

    • Amanda Paa

      I am SO glad you enjoyed it! One of my favorites too. Happy to have you visit Heartbeet Kitchen and hope you come back soon :)

  12. melissa little

    You can peel your butternut squash with a good potato peeler and save much more squash.

    • Amanda Paa

      Hi Melissa, thanks for stopping by! You definitely can use a potato peeler, but I find that a good sharp knife is much more efficient and you really don’t take away that much of the flesh. If your knife is dull, you’ll have to dig further into the flesh. Hope you’re having a great Sunday!

  13. Rebecca

    I just made this last night. It was wonderful! I modified it just a little bit – I had leftover roasted garlic so I used a clove of it in the dressing and I crushed some walnuts into the salad for a crunch factor.
    Everyone was impressed by the salad and the delicious dressing.
    Thank you for a gluten-free, healthy and flavorful recipe!

    • Amanda Paa

      Rebecca, I love the idea of added roasted garlic to the dressing! Add walnuts sound perfect too. So glad your family enjoyed it.

  14. Kaitlin @ TheGardenGrazer

    Just got this on the shopping list! Bringing it to our family Thanksgiving!! So excited – it looks amazing :D Thanks for the recipe!

    • Amanda Paa

      Katilin that makes my day! Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoy the salad. Happy early Thanksgiving :)

      • Kaitlin @ TheGardenGrazer

        Hi!! Had to come back and tell you we all loved it! Wonderful flavors – it brought so many compliments! Thanks for an awesome recipe Amanda! :)

        • Amanda Paa

          Kaitlin, thank you for coming back to let me know you enjoy the wild rice salad! It’s all good to hear what other people think :) Have a great rest of the week!

          • Sarah

            I am Kaitlin’s SIL – she shared this during both holidays. Just returned to MN, and made my own batch with roasted red onions instead of leeks and toasted pecans instead of cranberries – a new favorite, and so healthy!!! Can’t wait to try more of your recipes!

  15. Alisa

    Hi Amanda!
    Just made your Brussel Sprouts and Squash w/orange last night! AMAZING! and tonight because we had the stuff from our CSA I made the Wild Rice/Butternut Squash Salad-so GOOD!!!!!! My family is in LOVE with both. One question…in the salad did you cook the leeks at all or did you just wash and chop them and put them in raw. This year is the first time I have ever cooked with leeks, so I just wilted them a little in a pan while the rice cooked. Can’t wait to try you brussel sprout/kale w/ tofu recipe!!! so glad I found your website.

    • Amanda Paa

      Alisa, this is so great to hear! Thank you for sharing, you made my day. I put the leeks in raw – they are a sweeter type of the onion family so I think they give great flavor. But cooking them a little is nice too! Enjoy your thanksgiving, oh and I was going to mention, I have a giveaway for my squash book going on in this post if you want to enter for more squash recipes :) https://heartbeetkitchen.com/2014/recipes/homemade-gluten-free-apple-pie/

  16. Lia

    Can you please explain how to massage Kale. I’ve never heard that term.

    • Amanda Paa

      Hi Lia! It means to gently rub it together in your hands. This will soften it a bit.

  17. John

    This salad is fantastic!! We made it tonight and are eating it in about 5 min (of course I had to taste it before dinner :) ). Thanks for the tips on squash cutting too. Very well placed video!

    • Amanda Paa

      John, so glad you enjoyed this salad! Knowing that you watched the video and put it to use is awesome. Have a great fall!

  18. Millie l Add A Little

    This looks amazing Amanda – Pinned!
    Definitely try kabocha squash – my favourite food! It’s super nutty and sweet, almost like a chestnut! Delicious!

    • Amanda Paa

      Hi Millie! I love kabocha too. In fact, there’s a whole section on it in my book!

  19. Rita Lovejoy

    I’m trying this tonight! I just made Roasted Butternut Squash Soup this weekend and it was delicious! We’re going low sodium these day so looking for new recipes with good seasonings.

    • Amanda Paa

      Oh wonderful Rita! I hope you enjoyed it. This recipe is great for a low sodium option because so much of the flavor is in the natural ingredients.

  20. Caroline

    I’m thrilled to have found you! Congratulations on your beautiful book! Butternut squash is a favorite of mine, so I’m super excited about it! This salad is just gorgeous!

    • Amanda Paa

      Caroline, i’m so glad you left this note – I had just discovered you literally minutes ago after you started following me on twitter. I love squash + five spice so when I saw it on your blog I was excited that we think alike! And that coconut shrimp soup looks amazing too. Happy we’ve connected!

  21. Julia | Orchard Street Kitchen

    Ooh, this salad looks lovely! I bet it would be a perfect side dish for Thanksgiving. I really enjoy squash, but haven’t branched out into the lesser-known varieties yet. Once I do, I will be going back to this video to figure out the prep work involved – what a great resource!

  22. Joyti

    I love squash. It’s the BEST. But I wish it wasn’t so darn difficult to cut up!

    And this dish sounds amazing!

    • Amanda Paa

      Thank you Joyti, and I’m so glad you stopped by as I hopped on over to your site and I love it. Such beautiful work. And on a side note, San Fran is my dream city. Jealous :) Hope the video above helps with cutting up winter squash, I know it can be a litte frustrating.

  23. autumn

    Definitely pinning this for Thanksgiving! It sounds like a perfect fall side.

    • Amanda Paa

      aw, thanks Autumn! it really is a nice colorful dish for thanksgiving. and it’s gluten-free and vegan, which is always nice just in case.

  24. Ksenia @ At the Immigrant's Table

    OK, I simply had to comment to say you blew my mind with keeping the squash skin for soups. That’s brilliant! I sense much more flavourful veggie stocks in my future. Thank you!

    • Amanda Paa

      Ksenia, thanks for stopping by and watching the video! I always feel useful when I am able to incorporate the whole plant into my cooking. have a great weekend!

  25. Alessandra // the foodie teen

    I love how creative this recipe is – yum! I’m always stuck for ideas when it comes to squash so I’ll definitely be checking your book out!

  26. Sarah @ SnixyKitchen

    Ooo! I’m looking forward to seeing your new cookbook. You’re right about the comforting nature of squash all year round. And now you’ve convinced me to pick up a new squash at the market today.

    • Amanda Paa

      Hooray! Let me know which squash you experiment with. I’ve got a red kuri peanut stew on the docket for tonight’s dinner. Thanks for stopping by Sarah :)