I had some hesitation as I decided to try out this recipe, to be honest. On the one hand, I love a hearty salad (I’m on the record as not generally loving lettuce salads…). But on the other hand, I’m not a massive fan of lentils. I don’t hate them, just tend to find the texture weird and flavor a bit underwhelming. So I wasn’t sure how this lentil, butternut squash, and kale salad would land with me.
But I was pleasantly surprised both by the flavor and texture, and how satiated it kept me for hours! I didn’t feel cheated or dread having to heat up my lunch, and for me that is a win…the cafeteria chicken tenders are always calling, and I have to avoid that call!
Besides the lentils, the base of this salad is a delicious blend of roasted vegetables. Butternut squash for heft, red onion for flavor, and kale for texture (and greenery). Personally I could have left out the pecans and wouldn’t have missed them, since I’m not hugely into nuts and they add calories. And I loved the subtle dressing that blended everything together—sometimes dressings can overpower a salad, especially on leftovers, and that’s not the case at all here.
If you’re looking for other delicious hearty salads, I’m particularly in love with this roasted vegetable and barley salad with a yummy creamy shallot dressing, and this sweet potato and chickpea buddha bowl with maple tahini dressing. Along with this dish, they all three make DELISH leftovers and are perfect for taking to work for lunch as well.
Preheat to 425°F. Line a couple of rimmed baking sheets with foil (for easy cleanup).
The full detailed instructions are below with the recipe, but I’ll give it to you here in broad strokes. You’re going to roast some delicious butternut squash and red onion at 425 F until it’s tender and caramelized. If you have a head of garlic, lop the top off that and roast it as well. I also tore up and roasted my kale to make it not be tough, since I could only find curly kale.
For convenience, I used Trader Joe’s pre-cooked lentils, but you can also cook your own easily. While the vegetables are roasting, put the lentils in a saucepan with enough water to cover them by an inch. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until they’re tender (usually 15-20 minutes). Drain and season.
Now we make a simple and yummy dressing. If you roasted your garlic cloves, squeeze them out into a bowl and add the remaining oil, vinegar, and mustard with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. I didn’t have a whole garlic head to roast, so just added pre-minced garlic here.
Whisk everything together, then put all your roasted veggies and your lentils into the same giant bowl you prepped the veggies in. Pour on the dressing and toss gently until everything is well coated. Then add the pecans and golden raisins and stir them in.
Taste it and see if you need to adjust the salt and pepper at all. Serve warm or at room temperature.
This lentil & butternut squash salad makes amazing leftovers for work, and will keep in the fridge for a few days.
Other hearty vegetarian dinners you’ll love:
- Frittata with Spinach, Goat Cheese, & Sweet Potato Hash
- Farro & Roasted Vegetable with Lemon Tahini Dressing
- Korean BBQ Cauliflower & Chickpeas
- Farro Salad with Butternut Squash, Goat Cheese, & Pepitas
- Winter Roasted Vegetable & Grain Salad with Balsamic Dressing
Hearty Fall Kale, Lentil, & Butternut Squash Salad
I made a few modifications based on what I had on-hand as well as convenience. I left out the bay leaves since I was using pre-cooked lentils, and ended up using pre-minced garlic (which I did NOT roast, to avoid burning) instead of roasting whole cloves (I didn’t read far enough ahead so didn’t have fresh garlic). Since I didn’t have golden raisins, I used a combination of dried cranberries and dried bing cherries. And flat-leaf kale wasn’t in season so I couldn’t find it, so I used curly kale and roasted it with olive oil and seasonings ahead of time, to make it tender.
- 1 medium butternut squash (2 1/2 to 3 pounds), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
- 2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
- 8 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
- Fresh-ground kosher salt and black pepper
- 3 cups of French green lentils (I used pre-cooked Trader Joe’s lentils)
- 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar + a pinch of sugar (or sherry vinegar, if you have it)
- 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
- 1 small bunch of flat-leaf kale (about 6 ounces), stems removed and leaves thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup of toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup of golden raisins
- Preheat to 425°F. Line a couple of rimmed baking sheets with foil (for easy cleanup).
- Place the butternut squash, onion, garlic, 2 tablespoons of the oil, a big pinch of salt, and a few grinds of black pepper in a very large bowl and toss to combine. Transfer to the baking sheets and spread into an even layer…and make sure not to overcrowd them or you’ll get soggy veggies. Keep the bowl, you’ll use it later to assemble the salad.
- Roast the vegetables until they are tender and very caramelized (anywhere from 25 to 40 minutes depending on the size). Stir every 15 minutes or so.
- (You can skip this step if you’re using pre-cooked lentils). While the vegetables are roasting, place the lentils in a saucepan. Add enough water to cover the lentils by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until just tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Drain the lentils, then return them to the pan and stir in 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Taste and season with more salt as needed.
- Once the vegetables are roasted, remove the garlic cloves and set aside until they are cool enough to handle, about 5 minutes. Then squeeze the roasted cloves out of their paper covering into a medium-size bowl, and mash them with a fork.
- Add the remaining 6 tablespoons of oil, vinegar, mustard, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of black pepper to the bowl with the garlic, and whisk to combine.
- Put the roasted veggies and the cooked lentils into the bowl you initially used to prep the veggies. Add the kale and pour on the dressing, and toss until everything is well coated. Then add the pecans and golden raisins and stir them in. Taste it and see if you need to adjust the salt and pepper at all. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Adapted from The Kitchn
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