Thai Quinoa Salad with butternut squash, kale, and creamy ginger dressing. This easy quinoa salad recipe is vegan, gluten free, and perfect for meal prep lunches.
Why You’ll Love this Thai Quinoa Salad
This butternut squash quinoa salad is packed with antioxidant-rich ingredients and bursting with flavor. It’s the perfect salad to make ahead and enjoy for lunch throughout the week, or serve at a cookout or potluck. You’ll love opening your refrigerator and seeing a container of it waiting to be your lunch or dinner.
It features an assortment of colorful, crunchy veggies, peanuts, and a creamy ginger dressing. You can make the dressing with either tahini, cashew butter, or peanut butter. Whichever you choose, I guarantee it will be double batch-worthy!
This kale and quinoa salad is vegan, gluten free, and very allergen-friendly. Both kids and adults will love its sweet and savory flavors, and cool, crunchy accents. I also the fact that it keeps me full all afternoon.
Recipe Ingredients and Substitutions
- Butternut Squash: Roasted butternut squash adds the perfect amount of sweetness to this savory salad. If you want to save time, you can purchase the butternut squash precut into cubes. However, I find that the Y-shaped vegetable peeler and sharp knife make the peeling and slicing fairly easy.
- Quinoa: Cooked quinoa gives the salad nutty flavor, along with filling protein and fiber. You can use white, multi-color, or red quinoa for this recipe. White quinoa, however, has the most mild flavor of the three varieties.
- Kale: My favorite leafy green adds heft and a slew of micronutrients. You can use lacinato or classic green curly kale–just make to remove the tough stems. If you want to save them, purchase the bags of stemmed and chopped kale greens.
- Peanuts: A winning combo of crunch, toasty flavor, heart-healthy fats, and protein. If you have a nut allergy, you can use pepitas (pumpkin sees), shelled pistachios, or even sesame seeds instead.
- Basil: Fresh basil is the ultimate herb for bridging the gap between summer and fall. Alternatively, you can use cilantro or mint here. Just don’t be tempted to use dried herbs–fresh is where it’s at!
Once you have your ingredients prepped, it’s time to toss them with:
- Creamy Ginger Dressing: This dressing comes together effortlessly and is super adaptable. You need one creamy element, such as tahini, cashew butter, or peanut butter, plus some umami boosters. I love using fish sauce, however if you’re making it vegan, use soy sauce or coconut aminos. Also in the mix is sweet red chili sauce, fresh ginger, and maple syrup (or honey).
Step 1: Roast the Butternut Squash
To start, preheat the oven to 400ºF. Grab an all-purpose baking sheet like this one, and spread out your cubes of squash. Toss in 1 Tbsp olive or avocado oil (my preferred roasting oil), and salt. Place in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the squash is tender and lightly browned.
Step 2: Cook the Quinoa
Meanwhile, prepare the quinoa by combining quinoa and broth in a small saucepan. Bring the quinoa to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Simmer quinoa until all of the liquid is absorbed, and the quinoa easily fluffs with a fork. Transfer quinoa to a bowl and let cool slightly.
Step 3: Prepare the Creamy Ginger Dressing
In a small bowl, combine tahini (or nut butter), lime juice, fish or soy sauce, sweet red chili sauce, ginger, and honey. Stir to combine, and slowly whisk in extra-virgin olive oil. Whisk until mixture is smooth, and set aside.
Step 4: Assemble the Thai Quinoa Salad
Place the kale in a large bowl, and add quinoa; toss to combine. (The residual heat of the cooked quinoa will help soften the tough fibers of the kale.) Next, add the red cabbage, carrots, butternut squash, and Creamy Ginger Dressing, and toss to coat. Lastly, stir in the peanuts and fresh basil, and serve!
FAQs and Expert Tips:
What to Serve with Thai Quinoa Salad:
This butternut squash quinoa salad is plenty satiating to enjoy on it’s own for lunch or dinner. However, it’s also super versatile as a side dish. Here are a few of my favorite pairings:
- Salmon: You can’t go wrong with omega-3-rich salmon, especially when treated to a 5-Ingredient Curried Maple Mustard Glaze.
- Tofu: Either my 5 Ingredient Crispy Asian Glazed Tofu or 30 Minute Black Pepper Tofu totally fit the bill here.
- Chicken: Macadamia Crusted Chicken with Pineapple Salsa is the perfect flavor pairing for this salad.
Make Ahead and Storage Tips:
- To Make Ahead. Feel like a meal prep master by prepping this easy quinoa salad recipe at the start of the week. From there, you can pull it right out of the fridge and enjoy on repeat!
- To Store. This salad will last in the refrigerator up to 3 days (even after being dressed!). This salad DOES not freeze well and should not be frozen.
More Easy Quinoa Salad Recipes:
Thai Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad (Vegan)
- Small saucepan
- Baking sheet
- Mixing bowls
- 4 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
- 1 Tbsp. olive or avocado oil
- Kosher salt to taste
- 1 cup dry quinoa
- 2 cups lower sodium vegetable broth
- 2 packed cups kale, stemmed and roughly chopped (lacinato or green curly kale)
- 2 cups shredded red/purple cabbage
- 1 cup matchstick carrots
- 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced (optional)
- 1/3 cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
- 3 Tbsp. fresh chopped basil leaves
Creamy Ginger Dressing
- 2 Tbsp. tahini (sub cashew or peanut butter)
- 2 Tbsp. lime juice
- 2 Tbsp. sweet red chili sauce (I use Thai Kitchen brand)
- 1 Tbsp. honey or maple syrup
- 2 tsp. fish sauce (sub soy sauce if making plant-based)
- 1/2 tsp. freshly grated ginger
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400ºF. Toss squash in 1 Tbsp. oil and a pinch of salt; spread evenly on a rimmed baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once halfway through, until the squash is tender and lightly browned.
- Meanwhile, combine quinoa and broth in a small saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and gently simmer until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy, about 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl to slightly cool.
- Prepare Creamy Ginger Dressing by combining all ingredients except olive oil in a small bowl; stir to combine. Gently stream in olive oil, whisking constantly, until dressing is smooth.
- Add kale to bowl with quinoa, and toss to combine (the residual heat of the quinoa will help soften the kale leaves). Add cabbage, carrots, bell pepper (if using), and butternut squash. Pour dressing overtop and gently toss to coat. Stir in peanuts and fresh basil, and serve.