Quinoa pumpkin salad is packed with flavor and so filling! Slightly smoky and sweet, roast pumpkin salad with quinoa and veggies topped with a cilantro lime dressing is the perfect way to enjoy pumpkin this fall! Serve warm or cold, this salad is great for lunch or dinner and can even be made as part of your weekly meal prep!
Why you will love this recipe
- Great use for pie pumpkins – Don’t let pumpkin just be a sweet treat this fall, it’s incredible roasted and eaten in savory dishes (just like butternut squash). The smoky spices paired with just a drizzle of honey or maple syrup make the pumpkin irresistible once roasted.
- Perfect meal prep meal – You can roast the pumpkin and veggies, cook the quinoa and make the dressing all in advance. When it’s time to serve all you have to do is assemble the dish.
- Unexpected twist on pumpkin for parties! If you are having a party this fall, this honey roasted pumpkin and quinoa salad is such a fun appetizer or can easily be made into a hearty meal with the addition of your favorite protein (chickpeas, tofu, chicken, shrimp, salmon).
- Great ingredients – this healthy quinoa roasted pumpkin salad is naturally gluten free, dairy free and can be made vegan by using maple syrup instead of honey. Note: quinoa is not a paleo or Whole30 friendly ingredient but you can swap it out for sauteed cauliflower rice.
Quinoa Pumpkin Salad
- Pumpkin – I used pie pumpkins (sometimes called sugar pumpkins) in this pumpkin salad recipe. You could also use butternut squash or kabocha squash in this recipe. If you decide to use butternut squash, you will need to peel it first. You do not need to peel pie pumpkins or kabocha squash, but you should wash the skin since you will be eating it.
- Red onion – I love roasted red onion and think it has an entirely different flavor than raw red onion. You could also use white onions or yellow onions or omit the onions completely.
- Bell pepper – red, yellow or orange bell pepper is best for this. The bell peppers get sweet when roasted and are perfect when paired with the smoky spice blend on the pumpkin. Use whatever veggies you love.
- Honey or maple syrup – just a little honey is added to coat the pumpkin to give it a sweet coating that will caramelize in the oven when roasting.
- Extra virgin olive oil – adding a bit of olive oil to coat the pumpkin can help the pumpkin get caramelized in the oven and also helps the spices stick to the pumpkin.
- Spices: Ground cumin, smoked paprika, salt – these spices add a smoky flavor to the pumpkin which contrast the sweetness from the honey. They do not overpower the pumpkin, just help give it a very savory flavor.
- Quinoa + water – you will need the quinoa cooked and slightly cooled for this recipe. You could really use any grain you love but quinoa helps to add protein and fiber to this salad and the nutty flavor goes really well with the sweetness from the pumpkin/veggies.
- Salad greens – you can use romaine, mixed greens, spinach or arugula as the base of this salad.
Full ingredient measurements and detailed instructions are located in the recipe card at the bottom of the post!
Cilantro lime dressing
- Cilantro – fresh cilantro leaves and stems can be used in this dressing.
- Lime – lime juice adds acidity and helps to elevate the flavors of the dish.
- Olive oil – olive oil emulsifies with the lime juice to create a luscious dressing that coats the veggies and helps to carry the flavors on the tongue.
- Pumpkin seeds – these help make the dressing thicker and have more body.
- Spices – cumin, salt, crushed red pepper flakes – these add spice and smokiness to the dressing and help elevate the flavor of the entire salad.
How to make quinoa pumpkin salad
Preheat the oven to 425F.
Wash and dry the pumpkin. Cut off the top and bottom and cut the pumpkin in half. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon then cut the pumpkin down into 1 inch cubes.
Place the pumpkin cubes in a bowl and add honey, olive oil, salt, cumin and smoked paprika. Toss to coat the pumpkin.
Cut the onion into thin wedges (about ½ inch wedges) and cut the bell pepper into 1 inch pieces.
Place parchment paper or a silicone liner down on an extra large baking sheet or get out 2 regular baking sheets.
Place the pumpkin, bell pepper and onion on the baking sheet (or divide between the two baking sheets) and sprinkle the onion and bell pepper with a pinch of salt.
Put the baking sheets in the 425F oven for 25 minutes.
While the pumpkin and veggies are roasting, cook the quinoa.
Rinse the quinoa well (typically I let the quinoa soak in hot water for a few minutes to really get the slightly sour coating off the quinoa. Drain the quinoa after soaking it).
Cook the quinoa on the stove with 1.5 cups of water or in the instant pot. For the stove, bring quinoa and water up to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook 15 minutes. To cook in the instant pot combine quinoa and water and cook high pressure for 1 minute, allowing natural release of pressure for at least 10 minutes after cooking.
After the quinoa is done cooking, fluff it with a fork and allow it to cool slightly.
While the quinoa is cooking, make the dressing. Combine all the ingredients for the dressing in a high speed blender and blend 30-60 seconds to get the consistency you desire.
After the pumpkin and the veggies are done roasting, allow them to cool for 10 minutes before assembling the salad.
To assemble the salad place the greens you prefer at the bottom of the bowl. Add quinoa, roasted pumpkin and veggies and optional pumpkin seeds or pecans. Pour the dressing over the top and enjoy!
- Time saving tip – roast the pumpkin and veggies and make the quinoa ahead of time. You can even make the dressing in advance if needed. When you are ready to serve, simply bring the veggies and quinoa to room temperature and assemble the salad. If you want your pumpkin and veggies to be warm in the salad, heat them up in a 400F oven for 10 minutes or place them in the air fryer for 5 minutes at 375F.
- Don’t have pumpkin? No problem you can use any winter squash you love! I prefer kabocha squash (you don’t have to peel it) or butternut squash (which you do need to peel before roasting).
- Customize this salad to make it more filling/fun to eat! You can add your favorite dried fruit, beans, protein or add your favorite veggies to make this salad different every time!
What veggies could you add?
You can add fresh veggies or roast up veggies along side of the pumpkin, some great additions would be:
- Brussels sprouts
- Zucchini or Summer Squash
Other additions to warm pumpkin salad
- Sweetness – dried cranberries, dried cherries, golden raisins
- Crunch – pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pecans, slivered almonds, pistachios
- Protein – chickpeas, white beans, roasted tofu, shredded or sliced chicken, shrimp, or salmon
What kind of pumpkin is best for salad?
Although it would be great to be able to roast the giant pumpkin you make your Jack-O-Lanterns from, those are not the pumpkins that are ideal for roasting. The best pumpkins for roasting are called pie pumpkins or sugar pumpkins. These are much smaller in size than the big pumpkins you decorate with and are much sweeter and easier to cut and work with.
You could also use kabocha squash, honeynut squash or butternut squash instead of pie pumpkins in this recipe. Note that if you are using butternut squash or honeynut squash, peel the squash first before cutting into cubes.
Do you need to peel pumpkin before roasting?
No pie pumpkins do not need to be peeled before roasting. It’s important that you wash and dry the outside of the pumpkin before roasting though.
How do you cut a pumpkin for roasting?
Cutting a pumpkin can seem intimidating at first, but trust me it’s not too difficult.
Always use a sharp knife when cutting any winter squash.
- Start by cutting off the top and bottom of the pumpkin to create a flat surface to work from and to remove the thick stem.
- Next place the pumpkin down on the flat bottom you just created and cut the pumpkin in half.
- Scoop out the seeds (you can save the seeds to roast later, or discard the seeds).
- Cut each half of the squash down into 1 inch strips. Cut the strips down into 1 inch cubes.
Can you make this salad with other grains besides quinoa?
This roasted pumpkin salad would also be great with cooked brown rice, farro, millet or even sauteed cauliflower rice (to make the salad lower in carbs).
Can you make pumpkin quinoa salad in advance?
To make this salad come together quickly, you can make the following items in advance:
- Chop and roast the pumpkin and veggies
- Cook the quinoa
- Make the dressing
Store all of these items separately until assembling the salad. On the day you want to serve the salad, serve the roasted pumpkin, veggies and quinoa cold over greens or warm them up in the oven and/or microwave before assembling the salad. Assemble the salads and pour dressing over them right before serving.
Can you serve this quinoa and roast pumpkin salad cold?
This quinoa pumpkin salad can be serve cold, warm or hot from the oven. I do recommend that you let the veggies and quinoa cool a few minutes before adding to the salad greens to ensure the greens don’t wilt.
I love this recipe best as warm pumpkin salad, with the pumpkin, veggies and quinoa warmed through (either right from cooking or warmed in the oven or microwave before enjoying). However, it’s very delicious cold from the fridge too!
Storing leftover quinoa salad with pumpkin
Fridge: Cooked quinoa, roasted pumpkin and roasted veggies can all be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days in a well sealed container. The cilantro lime dressing can be stored for up to a week in the fridge in an airtight container.
Typically I would recommend storing all the ingredients separate (the quinoa in one container, the roasted veggies and pumpkin in another container and the dressing in a separate container) and waiting to assemble the salad until right before serving for the best texture.
However, if you know you will have leftovers of this salad but want most of it assembled, combine all the ingredients except the fresh greens (arugula, lettuce, etc.) in a large container and store in the fridge until ready to enjoy. Serve over fresh greens when ready to enjoy to ensure that the greens don’t get soggy.
Freezer: I would not recommend freezing the pumpkin and veggies as they can get watery when defrosting. Quinoa freezes well though.
- Pumpkin – I used a pie pumpkin in this recipe. You could also use kabocha squash or delicata squash (no need to peel these) or you could use butternut squash which you will need to peel first.
- Veggies – if you don’ have onion or bell pepper or don’t prefer those veggies, simply swap out these veggies with the ones listed above.
- Olive oil – you can also use avocado oil or your favorite cooking fat for coating the pumpkin.
- Honey – use maple syrup or simply omit the honey as the pumpkin does have it’s own natural sweetness.
- Spices – You can also use chili powder in place of any of the seasonings you don’t have on hand.
- Quinoa – quinoa is actually a seed not a grain but it’s uses like a grain. Use any grain, pasta or legume you have on hand including rice, wild rice, orzo, elbow pasta, cooked lentils, chickpeas. To make this Whole30 or paleo, omit the quinoa and use roasted or sauteed cauliflower rice instead.
- Cilantro Lime Dressing – check out the substitution ideas listed in the cilantro lime dressing post.
- Salad greens – use whatever salad greens you have on hand or you could even omit the salad greens and serve the salad more like a grain salad.
If you love this recipe, you should try
Quinoa Pumpkin Salad$11.39 Recipe/$2.85 Serving
- 1 medium pie pumpkin (3-4 cups) - $2.50
- 1 tbsp olive oil - $0.22
- 2 tsp honey - $0.18
- 1 tsp cumin - $0.10
- 1 tsp smoked paprika - $0.10
- 1 tsp salt, divided - $0.05
- 2 medium red onions, cut into wedges - $0.66
- 1 medium bell pepper (red, orange, yellow) - $1.29
- 1 cup quinoa, dry - $1.12
- 1.5 cups water - $0.00
- 8 cups mixed salad greens - $1.99
- Preheat oven to 425F.
- Wash and dry the pumpkin. Cut the top and bottom off pumpkin and cut in half. Remove seeds with spoon. Cut into 1 inch strips then cut the strips into 1 inch cubes.
- Add cubed pumpkin to a large bowl. Add olive oil, honey, cumin, smoked paprika and 1/2 tsp. salt. Stir well to coat.
- Cut the onions into 1/2 inch wedges
- Cut the bell peppers into 1/2 inch cubes.
- Place parchement paper down on an extra large baking sheet or between 2 regular baking sheets.
- Add the coated pumpkin, red onion and bell peppers to the baking sheets. Sprinkle the onions and bell pepper with the remaining 1/2 tsp. salt.
- Place baking sheet(s) in the 425F oven for 30 minutes.
- While the veggies are roasting, make the quinoa. Rinse the quinoa well (I like to soak it first) then add quinoa to a pot or instant pot with 1.5 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook covered 15 minutes. Or cook on high pressure in instant pot for 1 minute, with 10 minute natural release. Fluff quinoa when done cooking.
- Make the cilantro lime dressing by adding all the ingredients to a high speed blender and blending on high for about 1 minute until smooth.
- Once veggies are done roasting, allow them to cool 10 minutes.
- Build the salad by putting down the mixed salad greens, then quinoa then topping with the roasted vegetables. Drizzle with salad dressing and serve immediately.
- Chop and roast the pumpkin and veggies
- Cook the quinoa
- Make the dressing
- Store all of these items separately until assembling the salad. On the day you want to serve the salad, bring the pumpkin, veggies and quinoa up to room temperature or warm them up in the oven and/or microwave. Assemble the salads and pour dressing over them right before serving.