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Quinoa Pumpkin Salad

Quinoa pumpkin salad is packed with flavor and so filling! Slightly smoky and sweet roast pumpkin paired with quinoa and veggies all topped with a cilantro lime dressing is the perfect way to enjoy pumpkin this fall! Great for lunch or dinner and can even be made as part of your weekly meal prep!

Roasted pumpkin quinoa salad with cilantro lime dressing.

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 pumpkin salad is naturally gluten free, dairy free and can be made vegan by using maple syrup instead of honey. Quinoa is not a paleo or Whole30 friendly ingredient but you can swap it out for sauteed cauliflower rice.
Ingredients to make quinoa pumpkin salad.
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Ingredients

Quinoa Pumpkin Salad

  • Pumpkin – I used pie pumpkins but 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 probably do want to wash the skin as they typically have some dirt on them.
  • Red onion – I love roasted red onion and think it has an entirely different flavor than raw red onion. You can use any veggies you love though!
  • 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. Again you can use whatever veggies you love though!
  • 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.
Ingredients to make whole30 cilantro lime dressing

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.

Steps on how o cut a pumpkin into cubes.

Place the pumpkin cubes in a bowl and add honey, olive oil, salt, cumin and smoked paprika. Toss to coat the pumpkin.

Pumpkin cubes with salt and seasoning on top.

Cut the onion into thin wedges (about ½ inch wedges) and cut the bell pepper into 1 inch pieces.

Sliced red onion and chopped red bell peppers.

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.

Red onion, bell pepper and pumpkin before roasting.

Put the baking sheets in the 425F oven for 25 minutes.

While the pumpkin and veggies are roasting, cook the quinoa.

Start by rinsing 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.

You can 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.

Steps to making instant pot quinoa.

While the quinoa is cooking, you can 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.

Blender with cilantro lime dressing ingredients before and after blending.

 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!

Steps on how to make roasted pumpkin quinoa salad.
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Top tips

  • Time saving tip – you can 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, simply 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
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Mushrooms
  • Zucchini or Summer Squash
Fork in bowl filled with quinoa pumpkin salad.

Other additions to this 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

Can you make this 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, 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.

Storing leftovers

If you know you will have leftovers of this salad but want most of it assembled, you can pour the dressing over a bowl of quinoa, roasted pumpkin and veggies as these will not wilt with the dressing.

Simply serve this over a bed of salad greens.

You can store the pumpkin and quinoa in the fridge for up to 5 days after cooking.

I would not recommend freezing the pumpkin and veggies as they can get watery when defrosting. Quinoa freezes well though.

Honey roasted pumpkin quinoa salad in a bowl.

Substitutions

  • 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.

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Pumpkin quinoa salad with cilantro lime dressing drizzled on top.

Quinoa Pumpkin Salad

$11.39 Recipe/$2.85 Serving
Honey Roasted Pumpkin Quinoa Salad – gluten free, dairy free, can easily be made vegan – this is the perfect fall salad and is a great side dish or meal on it's own. Perfeclty spiced pumpkin with fluffy quinoa and cilantro lime dressing is great for meal prep or parties!
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Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Keyword: pumpkin quinoa salad, quinoa pumpkin salad, roasted pumpkin quinoa salad
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins
Cooling: 10 mins
Total Time: 50 mins
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 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

Cilantro Lime Dressing

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

Can you make this in advance?
Yes 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, 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.
Storing leftovers
If you know you will have leftovers of this salad but want most of it assembled, you can pour the dressing over a bowl of quinoa, roasted pumpkin and veggies as these will not wilt with the dressing.
Simply serve this over a bed of salad greens.
You can store the pumpkin and quinoa in the fridge for up to 5 days after cooking.
I would not recommend freezing the pumpkin and veggies as they can get watery when defrosting. Quinoa freezes well though.
See how I calculate food cost.

Nutrition Information

Nutrition Facts
Amount per Serving
Calories
487
Fat
 
21
g
Carbohydrates
 
69
g
Fiber
 
9
g
Sugar
 
17
g
Protein
 
14
g
Where does nutrition info come from? Nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy, sourced from the USDA Food Database.
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