Heartbeet Kitchen
Vegan Wild Rice and Butternut Squash Salad with Maple Balsamic Dressing
October 14, 2014 (last updated January 23, 2021) in Dairy-Free · Dinner · Fall · Gluten-Free · Nut-Free · Salads · Vegan · Vegan · Vegetarian · Vegetarian · 43 Comments
Butternut Squash & Wild Rice Salad
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.

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. 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.

Wild Rice and Butternut Squash Salad {thanksgiving salad}
Butternut Squash & Wild Rice Salad

For this week of #SquashLove, I thought I’d share one of my favorite recipes from the book, this vibrant & nourishing Wild Rice and Butternut Squash Salad. I also thought it would be fun to answer 3 of the questions people ask me about my writing and this vegetable I’m so smitten with.

A whole book on squash? Why?

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.

What’s the best method for cutting 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 & Butternut Squash Salad {gf, vegan}

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.

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!


Press play to watch the quick tutorial on how to make this Vegan Butternut Squash Recipe!

Vegan Wild Rice and Butternut Squash Salad

Vegan Wild Rice and Butternut Squash Salad

Yield: serves 6
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

A colorful, vegan butternut squash salad with wild rice and herbs.



  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil or sunflower oil
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon 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
  • 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


  1. To make dressing, add all ingredients to a jar and use immersion blender to puree. Or whisk thoroughly by hand. Set aside.
  2. 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.
  3. In a large bowl, combine spinach, leeks, cherries and basil. Stir in warm rice and squash so that spinach wilts slightly from the heat.
  4. 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.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Google +
  • Stumble
  • Email

43 thoughts on “Vegan Wild Rice and Butternut Squash Salad with Maple Balsamic Dressing

  1. 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.

    1. Amanda Paa Post author

      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 :)

    1. Amanda Paa Post author

      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!

    1. Amanda Paa Post author

      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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

    1. Amanda Paa Post author

      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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

    1. Amanda Paa Post author

      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/

        1. Amanda Paa Post author

          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!

          1. 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!

  7. 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!

    1. Amanda Paa Post author

      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!

  8. 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.

  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

    1. amandapaa Post author

      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. 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



    1. amandapaa Post author

      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

  11. 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!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.