This hearty, beautiful, Fall Orzo Salad showcases all the best parts of autumn! We’ve got whole wheat orzo, maple roasted butternut squash, hearty kale, feta, dried cherries, toasted almonds and pepitas, parsley, shallots, scallions, and a maple dijon apple cider vinaigrette. It’s filled with loads of texture and flavor, and the best part is, it can be made ahead of time, making it the perfect addition to any holiday table or prep-ahead lunch!
I’m all about a hearty holiday salad. This one is everything I love about fall, all bundled up into a beautiful, colorful, incredibly delicious fall salad. I am a lover of orzo, and have been since I was little, but I feel like it’s mostly only made in more summery applications. It lends itself super well to being a veggie-packed, cold, warm-weather salad, but I wanted to create a fall/wintery version because I love it so much! And here we are.
I like to use a whole wheat orzo for this recipe, because it just adds a little nuttiness to the salad which I think is really nice, but you can use whatever orzo you love! It makes the perfect base to complement all of our delicious mix-ins.
Which brings me to the salad.
All of the best fall recipes include some kind of roasted squash, right?!
Maybe it’s just me, but I just really, really love any kind of roasted squash. It’s literally candy. Especially when you roast it with cinnamon, nutmeg, and maple syrup! This squash recipe is in many of my recipes on the blog, and even in my cookbook. It’s incredibly simple, and way too good!
If you aren’t a squash fan, you could 100% use sweet potato here, and it will be just as delicious. As far as this salad goes, you truly can’t mess it up.
Which brings me to all of our star ingredients!
- maple cinnamon nutmeg roasted butternut squash (you already know 🙂)
- dried cherries (you could also use dried cranberries, I just LOVE the dried cherries!)
- feta (enough said)
- chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley (unpopular opinion, but maybe my favorite herb)
- thinly sliced shallots and scallions (the perfect combination of oniony bite)
- toasted almonds and pepitas (gotta have crunch!)
- kale/greens of your choice (I like to use lacinato/dino kale for a heartier base that keeps well, but you could use curly kale, arugula, spinach, baby kale, or mixed greens if you’re serving right away)
- and our apple cider maple dijon vinaigrette to finish!
Again, this salad is incredibly customizable. If you want to use toasted pecans instead, you absolutely can. You want to add a handful of pomegranate arils because they’re just too gorgeous and you want to add them to everything during the fall and winter months? Go for it. You’re vegan? You can omit the feta or use vegan feta. You’re gluten free? Use a gluten free orzo. You’re out of apple cider vinegar? Use a champagne or white balsamic vinegar.
Here’s a quick rundown of exactly how you make this fall orzo salad:
- Roast your butternut squash. A little olive oil, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and pepper go a long way.
- Cook your orzo. Don’t forget to heavily salt you pasta water, and don’t overcook it, or else it will get gummy! Not good for this salad.
- Make your vinaigrette. No need for a food processor for this one, just whisk it up or shake it up in a jar! All you need: apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, dijon mustard, garlic, salt, pepper, and good quality extra virgin olive oil. Delish.
- Toast your almonds and pepitas. In a dry skillet, you’ll toast the sliced almonds and pepitas over medium-low heat. You’ll notice the pepitas will start to “pop”. Be sure to stir frequently, watching very closely as they can burn quickly.
- Mix up the salad! Add the baby kale, scallions, shallot, feta, toasted almonds and pepitas, dried cherries, and flat-leaf parsley. Then the butternut squash, desired amount of vinaigrette, and a few good pinches of salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Season it to taste with additional salt and pepper, and serve with extra vinaigrette!
It’s great served at room temperature, or slightly chilled! It can be made several hours ahead, and it even keeps well in the fridge for a couple days for easy lunches.
It’s an all-in-one fall orzo salad and I know you’ll love it. 🙂
If you love this salad, I know you’ll love these recipes as well:
Winter Salad with Rosemary Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Bacon, and Pear
Crunchy Wild Rice Salad with Orange Maple Vinaigrette
Fall Harvest Salad with Maple Dijon Vinaigrette
Honeycrisp Apple Arugula Date Farro Salad
Roasted Cauliflower Kale Salad with Dried Cherries, Walnuts, and Feta
Spinach Arugula Salad with Roasted Fennel, Tangelos, Pumpkin Seeds, and Citrus Vinaigrette
Shaved Brussels Kale Salad with Butternut Squash, Mandarins, and Candied Pistachios
And don’t forget to share a photo on Instagram and tag me @spicesinmydna if you make this recipe! Nothing makes me happier than seeing what you create in the kitchen!
Fall Orzo Salad
This hearty, beautiful, Fall Orzo Salad showcases all the best parts of autumn! We've got whole wheat orzo, maple roasted butternut squash, hearty kale, feta, dried cherries, toasted almonds and pepitas, parsley, shallots, scallions, and a maple dijon apple cider vinaigrette. It's filled with loads of texture and flavor, and the best part is, it can be made ahead of time, making it the perfect addition to any holiday table or prep-ahead lunch!
For the salad:
- 1 1/2 cups orzo (whole wheat or regular)
- 3 cups cubed butternunt squash
- pinch of cinnamon
- pinch of nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 3-4 cups de-stemmed and shredded lacinato kale or greens of your choice*
- 2 scallions thinly sliced
- 1 shallot, very thinly sliced
- 4 ounces crumbled feta*
- 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
- 2 tablespoons pepitas
- 1/3 cup dried cherries
- 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- salt and pepper
For the apple cider maple dijon vinaigrette:
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped or grated
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 400℉. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Add the butternut squash and toss with cinnamon, nutmeg, olive oil, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes until tender and golden, tossing once during cooking.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the orzo. Cook according to package directions, or until al dente. Drain, drizzle with a little olive oil, stir, and set aside to let cool completely.
While orzo is cooking, make the vinaigrette. In a medium jar, combine the apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, dijon, garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Shake until combined and emulsified. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Alternatively, you can make this in a food processor and blend until smooth. Or, if you're short on time, just whisk it up in a bowl!
Toast the almonds and pepitas. In a small, dry skillet, add the sliced almonds and pepitas over medium-low heat until golden. You’ll notice the pepitas will start to “pop”. Stir frequently, watching very closely as they can burn quickly.
Once orzo has cooled, add to a large bowl. Add the baby kale, scallions, shallot, feta, toasted almonds and pepitas, dried cherries, and flat-leaf parsley. Stir to combine. Add the butternut squash, desired amount of vinaigrette, and a few good pinches of salt and freshly cracked black pepper, and stir gently to combine. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if needed. Serve with extra vinaigrette.
*I like to use a mixture of lacinato/dino kale and a handful of hearty spring greens, but you can use whatever you like. Curly kale, arugula, and spinach would all work!
*I like to buy feta in block form, and crumble it myself. It's so much better!
*This salad can be made several hours ahead of time and kept in the fridge. It also keeps well for a couple of days in the fridge for easy lunches!