This honeynut squash kale salad is the perfect way to indulge simply in the flavors of fall--and the bright colors are unparalleled!
Why I Love this Honeynut Squash Kale Salad
What I love most about this salad is how well it holds up when prepped ahead of time. Because kale leaves are so sturdy, the salad can be dressed ahead of time without the risk of it getting soggy.
To make prep even easier: when I have leftover roasted honeynut squash, I'll scoop the flesh out of its skin, quickly pan-fry it & throw it on top of the salad.
Honeynut Squash Kale Salad FAQs
Where can I buy honeynut squash?
Finding honeynut squash may be tricky, depending on where you live. From what I've gathered online, honeynut squash isn't readily available everywhere--likely because it's a fairly new variety of squash. Your best bet is to look at local farmer's markets, or if you're feeling bold, ask the produce staff at your local grocery store. I've been able to find it easily here in Connecticut, and it was even available for one week with Imperfect Foods!
If you can't find honeynut squash, you can easily swap in a buttercup or butternut squash. The honeynut squash is actually a cross between those two, so it's the closest you can get.
How can I tell if my honeynut squash is ripe?
One of the most fascinating features of this squash is that it was bred to have a ripening indicator, meaning that it changes color as it ripens. This may seem obvious when you think about how vegetables like tomatoes and peppers ripen, but a traditional squash does not change color as it ripens, making it difficult to tell when it reaches peak ripeness.
The honeynut squash rind begins dark green, similar to zucchini, and slowly turns to orange over its 8-week ripening process. If you look closely around the stem, you may be able to see remnants of the dark green hue.
Why did you use avocado oil to pan fry the honeynut squash?
Smoke point is an important factor to consider when pan-frying; using an oil that has a lower smoke point can leave your food susceptible to a change in flavor as the oil breaks down, and it will set off your fire alarm. In this recipe, I chose to use avocado oil because of its high smoke point of 520°F, compared to extra virgin olive oil's smoke point of 405°F.
Why is it important to season the honeynut squash while it's cooking?
It's important to season the honeynut squash with salt at the beginning of the cooking process to allow the salt to permeate through the entire squash slice during the cooking process. Seasoning the squash at the end will leave you with a superficially seasoned vegetable that is less flavorful & tastes more immediately salty.
Honeynut Squash Kale Salad Nutrient Notes
At this point in time, I'm having trouble finding a reputable source that gives specifics on the nutrient profile of honeynut squash. I don't want to mislead you in any way, so at this point, I can't speak to the nutrient benefits of honeynut squash. Because of this, I will use butternut squash to generate the nutrition facts for this recipe. I'll keep tabs on this and update the article as sources become available. Thanks for understanding!
Kale vs. other greens: Because the honeynut squash has such a soft, creamy texture, I prefer to use a sturdy green like kale to create a variety of textures. The kale also holds up well against the warm squash--it won't wilt like the more delicate greens.
Honeynut squash vs. butternut squash: Because honeynut squash is a fairly new variety of squash, it may not be easily found everywhere. If you can't find honeynut squash, buttercup or butternut squash will suffice. The honeynut squash is actually a cross between those two, so it's the closest you can get!
Dried cranberries vs. other dried fruits: I always have dried cranberries on hand & I love the color contrast of the deep fruit punch color of the cranberries with the orange hues of the honeynut squash. With that said, dried cherries or dried blueberries would also be a welcome addition to this salad.
Deconstructed dressing vs. fully mixed dressing: I love this salad for the sole reason that you don't have to dirty extra dishes to make the salad dressing. Simply drizzle the olive oil, balsamic vinegar & honey straight from their bottles, top with salt & pepper and you're done! If you do want to pre-mix your dressing, I recommend adding a squeeze of dijon mustard. The mustard acts as an emulsifier, helping to keep the oil & vinegar from separating.
Honey vs. maple syrup: I prefer to use honey in this salad because the viscosity of the honey allows it to stick to the kale leaves, giving you a hint of sweetness in every bite. However, if you're diving into the deep end with autumn flavors, 100% maple syrup can be a delicious swap.
Take Your Salad Up a Notch
Protein Boost: A spicy grilled chicken breast or barbeque pulled pork is a great addition to this salad. If you want to keep it vegetarian, seasoned cannellini beans are a great option.
Cheese, Please: There are SO many delicious cheese options that bring this salad to a whole new level, depending on your taste. My top picks would be pan-fried salty halloumi, nutty gruyere, or a dab of creamy goat cheese.
Add a Little Crunch: Toasted honeynut squash seeds, pomegranate seeds, or crispy fried garlic are all delicious options!
Whether you're ready to enjoy this salad in all its original simplicity, or you want to take it up a notch with your own combination of flavor-packed toppings, this honeynut squash kale salad is a great choice for any fall gathering!
All my love & a little butter,
Olivia Sokolowska, MBA, RD
This simple honeynut squash kale salad with cranberries is the perfect way to indulge in the flavors & colors of autumn.
- ¾ TBSP avocado oil
- 2 small honeynut squash ( about 4.5 oz)
- ½ cup red onion, sliced
- 6 cups fresh kale, rinsed & chopped
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp honey
- Salt & Pepper
Prep the Vegetables
1. Using a sharp chef's knife, cut off the stem and bottom end of the honeynut squash. Using a standard vegetable peeler, peel the honeynut squash.
2. Cut the honeynut squash in half lengthwise & scoop the seeds out of the bulbous end. Place each half of the honeynut squash, flat side down, on a cutting board and slice into ⅛ inch-thick slices. Slice the red onion.
3. Pull out 2 large flat bottomed salad bowls. Add 3 cups of kale to each bowl, and tear off any of the kale stems that are too thick. Sprinkle ⅛ cup of dried cranberries onto the kale in each bowl. Set the bowls aside.
Brown the Squash & Onions
4. At medium heat, warm the avocado oil into a saute pan; heat until the oil starts to bubble.
5. Add the onions to the pan & sauté until brown, about 3 minutes. Once the onions are cooked, sprinkle them over the top of each salad.
6. Arrange the honeynut squash slices in the pan so they are all lying flat. Season generously with freshly cracked salt & pepper. Cook the squash until fully browned--for about 4-5 minutes on the first side, flip, and then cook about 2 minutes on the opposite side. Remove the squash from the pan and place directly on top of the salad.
Dress the Salad
7. Drizzle 1 tsp balsamic vinegar, ½ tsp extra virgin olive oil, and ½ tsp honey over each salad, as well as salt and pepper. Eat right away, while the squash is still warm.
*Yields 2 salads
*I like to buy pre-chopped, pre-washed kale. Because of the pre-washing, you're less likely to find sand in your kale, which prevents that gritty feeling in your teeth no one wants when you're eating your salad.
*If you have room in the pan, feel free to cook the onions & squash together at the same time.
*NOTE: Because a reputable source for honeynut squash's nutrition information cannot be found, the nutrition facts for this recipe were calculated using butternut squash as a replacement.
Serving Size3 cups
Amount Per Serving Calories 226Total Fat 7.5gSaturated Fat 1gSodium 382mgCarbohydrates 36gFiber 5.5gProtein 7g