Roasted pumpkin salad is nothing new but, knowing how to make it properly certainly is by the looks of google results. If you make this simple autumn salad as I show you, you will have a best friend forever. Served at lunch or dinner any day you fancy for as many friends and family you like.
What is it
Pumpkin salad usually consists of a few basic ingredients that sing rock anthems when combined.
The most common being the following:
Roasted pumpkin, some sort of cheese like feta, mozzarella, stracciatella, goat's cheese or creamy blue cheese.
Salad leaves in any good form. Like baby spinach, rocket, lamb's lettuce, or baby gem works well. Never iceberg, I don't even know how iceberg can be called food.
Roasted nuts of pretty much any kind. Pecan, walnut, pine nuts, hazelnuts, they've all made an appearance at one point or another in the many versions I've made over the years.
Finally, a dressing that compliments the pumpkin. This will always be a sweeter dressing in the form of honey and lemon dressing, balsamic glaze, maple dressing, orange dressing or something along those lines.
Why the combination works
Sweet and salty and sour. That's all you need to remember.
Pumpkin being sweet, cheese being salty and the dressing sour.
This combination works wonders. The cheese also adds creaminess and the nuts some crunch and.... well, nuttiness.
Follow that up with a little bit more sweet and sour dressing and we have ourselves the perfect flavour combination for the perfect autumn salad.
For this particular version of my pumpkin salad, I found some really great creamy young goat's cheese and decided to make a light creamy goat's cheese salad cream with it instead of chunks of cheese.
The result is a salad where every bite has a little bit of creaminess instead of dotted around the salad randomly.
- Pumpkin - Use a good type of pumpkin. Like Crown Prince Green or Hokkaido. Also, a must when making the ultimate pumpkin puree.
- Cheese - I used soft goat's cheese for this pumpkin salad recipe but, you can use anything like feta, stracciatella, blue cheese or something else creamy.
- Garlic - For the marinade when roasting the pumpkin. Use tender, juicy good quality fresh garlic.
- Rosemary - Young fresh and non-flowering.
- Maple syrup - For the marinade when roasting the pumpkin.
- Olive oil - Also going into the marinade.
- Seasoning - Salt and pepper
- Balsamic glaze - Use store-bought, or make this homemade balsamic glaze. It's the absolute gold standard.
- Salad - Anything like baby spinach, baby gem, rocket or lamb's lettuce. Stay away from flimsy salads or watery ones like iceberg.
These are the ingredients I used but, I will give you some alternatives in the variations section so that you can make your own unique pumpkin salad if you wish.
How to make it
For your convenience, I break this up into three simple steps. It's a salad recipe, but it needs to be understandable and easy to put together.
The steps are as follows:
- Roasting the pumpkin
- Making the salad dressing
- Roasting the nuts
- Making the creamy goat's cheese (optional)
- Making the balsamic glaze (optional)
- Putting it all together
Roasting the pumpkin
This is where the magic happens and doing this right sets you up for pumpkin salad success every time. Don't skip it.
We will be roasting it covered so if you want some caramelisation on the pumpkin colour it in a pan first.
I cook it this way so that it does not dry out and so that we can use the juices to make a dressing. It's double the flavour for the same price. Intelligent cooking.
Many recipes just chuck the pumpkin into the oven open and it just sits there and dries out while no juices are left for a dressing. Not very clever.
- Turn your oven to 220C and line a roasting tray with parchment.
- Cut the pumpkin into wedges and make the marinade. The skin will be tender when cooked if the pumpkin is young. Apart from decorative type little pumpkins. Their skins will be like leather. Advised not to use as they lack flavour and texture too.
- Place everything onto the tray and cover tightly with aluminium foil.
- Roast for about 15 to 20 minutes depending on the size of your pumpkin and how your oven cooks. The pumpkin should be tender but not mushy.
- Remove the pumpkin from the roasting tray and set aside.
- You need the roasting juices left in the pan for the following step.
Making the dressing
- Collect the pan juices left over from roasting the pumpkin and discard the hard rosemary stalks but keep the garlic and tender rosemary leaves.
- Pour the liquid into a blender and blend until smooth.
- Reserve until needed.
Roasting the nuts
- Roast at 160C for about 8 minutes. Take care not to burn them.
- Once done, let them cool down before using.
Making the goat's cheese dressing
If you want you can just dot the goat's cheese around the salad but, making a smooth light dressing ensures that you get a bit of creaminess with every bite.
- Simply mix the soft goat's cheese or curd with a touch of water, milk or cream.
- Season with a bit of salt and pepper and stir until the mix is homogenous, smooth and the consistency of drinking yoghurt.
Different types of cheese will require different amounts of liquid to become runny so add bit by bit until you are happy with it.
Making the balsamic reduction
Making this balsamic reduction recipe will set you apart from your friends big time. You can also use it in a million and one other dishes so go make it. It's worth it.
- Place all the ingredients into a suitably sized saucepan.
- Reduce down slowly by exactly 55%.
- Meaning that if you start with a weight of 887g in the pot. You need to remove it from the stove when the weight of the contents reach 400G. Kitchen scales are a must.
- Cooldown before using or storing for later use.
Putting together the salad
Layers. What it's all about. Don't toss it all together. It will be a huge mess.
Instead, layer it alternating between the ingredients.
Start by dressing the leaves and the pumpkin with the pan-juice-dressing.
Start building up the salad as shown in this short gif.
That's all there is to it. Serve up and enjoy!
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There are many different ways you can prepare a pumpkin salad. Let's look at a few popular alternatives:
- How you cut and cook the pumpkin - You can peel the pumpkin if you want but, the skins will be soft and edible if the pumpkin is young. Cut the pieces into cubes before roasting if you want smaller bite-sized pieces. I also like cooking this salad by wrapping the pumpkin in three layers of aluminium foil and cooking it in hot wood embers.
- Cheese - Most matured cheese like well-aged parmesan, cheddar or compté work well. Other creamy milky cheeses are great too like fresh stracciatella, buffalo mozzarella, creamy blue cheese and of course feta. Avoid rubbery tasteless cheeses except for grilled halloumi. That is a whole different level of tasty.
- Nuts - My favourites after peans are walnuts, pine nuts, and hazelnuts.
- Dressing - You can use any simple oil and acid-based dressing. Caesar dressing works wonderfully well as do green herby dressings like chimichurri and salsa verde.
- Make it vegan - This pumpkin salad is already vegetarian but if you are strict on using products of animal origin you can simply omit the cheese. Use a vegan cheese or make a coconut cream dressing to provide the much-needed creaminess.
- Make it Keto - Remove the maple syrup from the marinade and also remove the added sugar from the balsamic glaze.
- Add protein - Add grilled fish, duck breast, venison fillet, chicken or shrimps to make it a meaty salad.
Works great as a stand-alone salad for lunch or dinner. Works even better when you serve it as a side dish with the following:
- Ribeye steak
- Bavette steak
- Roasted Chicken Breast
- Chicken Kiev
- Bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin
- Pan-fried salmon fillet
- Whole fire-roasted fish
- Persian lamb koftas
Frequently asked questions
Best eaten straight away because the salad has dressings. The individual roasted pumpkin can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days stored airtight.
This recipe for pumpkin salad is naturally gluten-free unless you add bead croutons or other forms of gluten.
My choice is Crown Prince Green or Hokkaido squash. They both have the best texture and flavour for roasting, baking or making pumpkin puree.
Useful equipment for this recipe
Wooden Chopping Board
Gyuto Japanese Chefs Knife
Other recipes you might like
If you like seasonal cooking and delicious salads then you will find the following recipes useful:
- Roasted Romano peppers
- Classic Caesar salad
- Authentic Greek salad
- Creamed spinach
- Tahini and lime coleslaw
- Moroccan baked eggplant zaalouk
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