This pumpkin salad is the perfect side salad for your Fall dinner or holiday table. Fresh pumpkin slices roasted until perfectly tender, then paired with goat cheese, red onion, barley, pepitas, and a maple balsamic vinaigrette. Ready to make it?
Why You'll ❤️ This Pumpkin Salad
"One of my favorite recipes. This salad makes a fabulous side dish at dinner parties, weeknight dinners, and holidays. I like to prep everything ahead of time and then assemble when ready to serve."
The best flavor
This salad has the perfect balance between savory, sweet, salty, and tangy. You'll love the crunch of the pepitas with the creaminess of the pumpkin and goat cheese! The freshness of this salad balances the richness of roasted and pan-seared meats. I make it every Thanksgiving to offset the richness of the turkey, gravy, and stuffing. 🙂
Easy to assemble
I like to roast the pumpkin slices, cook the barley, and make the dressing ahead of time. They will keep in the fridge for several days. When it comes time to serve your salad, just layer it all on a plate and voila!
This salad is full of healthy ingredients from the pumpkin, spinach, and barley and loaded with Vitamin A. It is gluten free, vegetarian, and you can make it low carb and keto by omitting the barley and making the dressing using a sugar free maple syrup substitute.
What You'll Need
Here are the ingredients you will need to make pumpkin salad:
- Baking Pumpkin - I used a small sugar pumpkin about 2 pounds in size. The salad only needs about 1 pound of roasted pumpkin slices, so you may have extra - I usually just roast it all, and any I don't use goes into an air-tight container for other uses.
- Pearled Barley - pearled barley cooks much like rice; I like to buy the quick cooking barley. You can substitute quinoa or couscous or omit it altogether.
- Spinach - use fresh baby spinach
- Red Onion - use red onion in this salad for the color and sweetness.
- Red Wine Vinegar - the vinegar is added to the onion to soften the flavor and pickle it.
- Pepitas (Pumpkin Seeds) - for the best flavor, buy the roasted and salted variety. You could also toast pine nuts in olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
- Goat Cheese - use pre-crumbled goat cheese for speed. You can also use feta or blue cheese. You want to use cheese that has tang for the best flavor.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Kosher Salt - kosher salt is a favorite of mine but sea salt also works well.
- Ground Black Pepper
For exact ingredient quantities, please see the recipe card below!
How To Make It
Here are the step-by-step instructions for making this pumpkin salad:
Make the vinaigrette, cook the barley and cool, crumble the cheese, peel and slice pumpkin, and slice the onion.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, add onion and red wine vinegar. Toss to coat, then let sit while pumpkin is roasting, about 20 minutes.
Roast the Pumpkin
In a large bowl add pumpkin slices. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until just tender but not too soft. Let cool completely.
Assemble the Salad
In a salad bowl, layer barley, onion, spinach, pumpkin, goat cheese, and pepitas.
Drizzle with maple balsamic vinaigrette dressing, toss to coat, then serve.
How To Serve It
Here are a few ways to serve this roasted pumpkin salad:
Serve on a platter, on individual serving plates, or in a bowl.
Assemble ahead of time, but don't add vinaigrette until you're ready to serve.
Make it low carb and keto by removing the barley and using a sugar-free maple syrup substitute.
Make it vegan by omitting the cheese.
Here are a few ways you can vary or make substitutions to this recipe:
- Sweet potato and butternut squash can be used instead of pumpkin.
- Use toasted and salted pine nuts, pecans, or walnuts instead of pepitas (pumpkin seeds).
- You could also use a honey balsamic instead of the maple balsamic vinaigrette.
- Use romaine lettuce or baby greens in place of spinach. Arugula would add a nice peppery taste too!
- Substitute goat cheese with feta or blue cheese crumbles.
💭 Top Tips
- Make ahead tips: cook the pumpkin and barley, and make the vinaigrette a few days ahead time for quick assembly.
- Don't add the salad dressing until right before serving, or it will wilt the salad.
- Only cook the pumpkin until it is just starting to get tender. Watch it carefully because it can become soft quickly. Over soft pumpkin will break apart in the salad (but it will still taste good).
How To Store
This salad does not keep well; only make what you plan to eat.
Baking pumpkins (also called sugar pumpkin, pie pumpkin, or pumpkin pie squash) are smaller, sweeter, and firmer than traditional carving pumpkins, so they work well in salads.
The best way to cook a pumpkin depends upon the recipe you are making. Roasting or sauteing in a pan gives the pumpkin added flavor through caramelization, which is perfect in salads, with other roasted vegetables or soups. While boiling, steaming, or microwaving cooks, the pumpkin has a much more subtle taste. Boiling or microwaving is great when you want to make a pumpkin mash, puree (for pies, bread, cookies, and muffins), or need pumpkin in its purest form.
Adding vinegar to onion helps to soften it and reduce the sulfurous compounds. In this recipe, we use red onion and red wine vinegar to essentially pickle the onion, smooth out the flavor - and it turns a nice pink giving the salad pretty color!
More Pumpkin Recipes
In search of the perfect pumpkin recipe? Be sure to check these out:
- Gluten Free Pumpkin Muffins
- Pumpkin Cold Brew
- Pumpkin Soup in the Slow Cooker
- Healthy Pumpkin Spice Donuts
- Easy Pumpkin Soup Recipe
- Broccoli Salad Recipe with Bacon
- Cauliflower Broccoli Salad
- Creamy Tortellini Pasta Salad
- Red Cabbage Salad with Apples and Walnuts
- Roasted Beet Salad with Feta and Citrus Vinaigrette
- Easy Taco Salad Recipe
- Easy Fruit Salad
- Grilled Peach Salad with Burrata
Roasted Pumpkin Salad
- ½ medium red onion (peeled, cut in half then thinly sliced)
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1½ pound baking pumpkin (peel, halve, seed, and slice the pumpkin into ½" slices)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup pearled barley (cooked)
- 4 cups baby spinach (stripped of center stem, cut leaves into ½" slices)
- ¼ cup crumbled goat cheese
- ¼ cup pepitas (shelled, roasted, and salted)
- ½ cup maple balsamic vinaigrette dressing
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, add onion and red wine vinegar. Toss to coat, then let sit while pumpkin is roasting, about 20 minutes.
- In a large bowl add pumpkin slices. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
- Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until just tender but not too soft. Let cool completely.
- Drain the vinegar from the onion.
- In a salad bowl, layer barley, onion, spinach, pumpkin, goat cheese, and pepitas.
- Drizzle with maple balsamic vinaigrette dressing, toss to coat, then serve.
- Don't miss all of our helpful hints, substitution ideas, cooking tips, and other delicious recipes that can be found in our post. Check it out!
- VARIATIONS: use feta cheese or blue cheese; swap spinach for baby greens or romaine.
- TOP TIPS: roast the pumpkin slices, cook the barley, and make the salad dressing up to several days in advance for quick assembly.
- SERVING SUGGESTIONS: serve on a platter, in a large bowl, or on individual plates.
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