Fall is comfort food season, which is probably why I crave salads in fall more than any other season. Not only is the produce great – it helps balance out all of the more indulgent offerings of the season. Today, I’m sharing with you a favorite Fresh Fall Quinoa Salad with Maple Walnut Dressing that will keep you happy and well-fed for days.
There are so many wonderful components to this harvest salad, I’m not really sure where to begin!
Quinoa is always a scrumptious addition to salad and it works really well here because this salad can be served warm or cold, depending on your mood or where you plan to enjoy your salad. For this salad, I toasted the quinoa with some olive oil before cooking for a more complex and slightly nutty flavor that ties in really well with that amazing maple walnut salad dressing.
I try to stay light on the dried cranberries (about 1/4 cup for a giant salad) but I include them because they really work for getting the kids excited for this salad. The fresh cranberries add some unexpected but pleasant tartness to the salad and lots of crunch. The apples provide another nice hit of sweetness and crunch – you can include these fresh or even pan fry them a bit.
And same goes for the kale – my kids love when I fry up the kale with a bit of olive oil or butter, but you can also just shred it and include it fresh. It’s whatever you prefer.
A chopped sweet potato adds a second vegetable to the mix and brings in even more delicious fall flavor. I usually have a couple sweet potatoes cooked in the fridge during the fall, but I also included a quick microwave method in case you don’t have a cooked sweet potato on hand to use for this recipe.
But the real hero here is that delicious and creamy maple walnut salad dressing.
It’s almost like pouring walnut butter all over your salad – decadent and delicious!
I love making homemade salad dressings so I can control the ingredients and feel confident about adding it to our salads. A lot of conventional salad dressings have unhealthy fats, sugar and tons of sodium which sabotage your healthy eating efforts. While the maple syrup adds some natural sugars to this salad, it also adds nutrients like manganese, zinc, magnesium, calcium and potassium. (And it’s actually a better choice than honey or agave for these reasons.)
The dressing can be adjusted to be more sweet or savoury, depending on your personal preferences. The recipe below is a balanced sweetness that the kids and I love – rounded out by the inclusion of a bit of white pepper, apple cider vinegar and the earthiness of the nuts.
Ingredients for Fall Quinoa Salad
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small sweet potato
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup fresh cranberries, optional
- 1 apple
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 cup kale, chopped
For the Maple Walnut Vinaigrette:
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Kitchen Tools You May Find Helpful:
How to Make a Harvest Quinoa Salad with Maple Walnut Dressing
Take a fork and jab all over your sweet potato.
Place on a plate and microwave for 3 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the quinoa in a saucepan along with the 2 Tablespoons olive oil.
Toast the quinoa over medium heat until it smells nutty and several quinoa have browned, stirring often.
Add 2 cups of water to the saucepan and increase the heat to bring to a boil.
Remove the quinoa from the heat and cover, approximately 5-8 minutes.
While the quinoa is absorbing all of the water, prepare the other ingredients.
Peel and chop your sweet potato, prepare the kale as you like it (boiled, sauteed or fresh), and chop the apple and walnuts.
Place all ingredients for the maple walnut vinaigrette in a smoothie-style blender and puree for 1-2 minutes until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust seasoning to personal preference.
Check on the quinoa and fluff with a fork. If all water has absorbed, combine it with the other salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss well to combine.
Serve and drizzle the maple walnut vinaigrette as desired.
Grab your free printable for our fresh Harvest Quinoa Salad with Maple Walnut Dressing: