A delicious hearty vegan salad with divine smoky mushroom bacon, iron-rich spinach and parsley, sweet roasted red onions and butternut squash, and salty vegan feta. This is such a filling and earthy flavoured salad. If you've never tasted mushroom bacon for, you are in for a treat! So easy to make and so tasty!
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Hello and a belated happy new year! I’m sorry for the radio silence. I’ve been staying with my mum in the UK for the last few weeks due to a family bereavement and, although I have done a lot of cooking, I haven’t really been in the right frame of mind for blogging. So, huge apologies for seemingly abandoning you.
The final hurdle before getting home is hotel quarantine. Being stuck in a hotel room with three children has been challenging (to put it mildly!), but the thing I’m struggling with most is the food (well, that and home schooling). The hotel quarantine menu is full of rich food (hardly any of it vegan) and I am really craving some simple home cooked vegan meals.
So, while I sit in my hotel room dreaming of cooking, I bring you this winter salad that I came up with at the end of last year but never had a chance to post onto my blog!
This vibrant winter squash salad is full of delicious earthy flavours. Made with the same divine smoky mushroom bacon that I used in my Christmas tartlets plus lots of iron-rich spinach and parsley, and sweet roasted red onion and butternut squash balanced out by salty vegan feta cheese (or you could add some kalamata olives too which would also be delicious!), this salad is the bright little pick-me-up that we all need right now in deepest, darkest, locked-down, fed-up-with-2021-already, January.
It may seem like there's a lot of work to make the different constitutent parts but it's actually mostly done together in the oven. You basically do the following:
- Slice the mushrooms and marinate them.
- Chop the squash and the red onions and roast them with the spices for ½ hour at 200°C.
- Add the mushrooms to the roasting pan and roast for another 10 mins at 180°C.
- Turn the mushrooms over, add the pumpkin seeds and roast for another 10 mins at 180°C.
- Make the dressing by shaking the ingredients in a jar.
- Mix all the salad ingredients together.
- The width of your mushroom slices and the marinating time will affect the cooking time so this is a guide only. Essentially, you want to cook them until they lose their moisture and become like the texture of crispy bacon. Keep an eye on them. I’ve found it takes between 18 and 25 minutes. They will crisp up a little bit after they come out of the oven as well.
- I have tried this recipe with normal chestnut mushrooms, and although it is still flavoursome, they don’t soak up the flavours in the same way nor do they have the chewy meaty texture that the portobello mushrooms give, so I think it’s worth sticking to the portobello mushrooms if you want it to replicate bacon.
- I like to leave the mushrooms to marinate for half an hour or more in the mixture because it allows the mushrooms to soak up the flavours and release some of their juices, making it easier to crisp up in the oven. However, if you are pushed for time (and already have leftover roast squash), it will be fine to just mix them in the marinade and stick them straight in the oven. They will just take a little bit longer to dehydrate in the oven.
You could add kalamata olives to this salad or some nuts instead of the seeds. Also, choose any type of squash or pumpkin instead of butternut.
This winter squash salad would be a good lunch to take to work. Just make sure to keep the dressing separate to add just before eating so it doesn’t all go soggy.
You probably won't need all of the butternut squash. Just use as much as you like for the salad and save the rest in a tupperware in the fridge to be used for salads in the rest of the week or re-heated to eat as a side to other meals, or used in a risotto or lasagne, or whizzed with vegetable stock to make into soup… the uses are endless!
Recipe Card 📖
Spinach, Squash and Mushroom Bacon Salad
- 3 portobello mushrooms
- ½ tbsp liquid smoke
- 2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp tamari
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp maple syrup
Roast Butternut Squash
- 300 g butternut squash or pumpkin
- 3 red onions
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ¼ tsp ground cumin
- 1 large pinch of salt
- 120 g baby leaf spinach
- 20 g flat leaf parsley
- 40 g vegan feta cheese
- 1 small handful pumpkin seeds
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- ¼ tsp dijon mustard
- 1 small grating of nutmeg
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- Set the oven to 200°C.
- While the oven is heating up, start on the mushrooms. Mix all the marinade ingredients together. Then slice the mushrooms thinly and add them to the marinade and stir around gently until all are covered. It may look like there is not enough marinade for the mushrooms but you’ll be amazed that in a few minutes the juices start to release and you can stir again and it will all mix in easily. Now leave the mushrooms to marinade while you start on the squash.
- Peel and chop the butternut squash into quite large pieces (the smaller the cubes, the sweeter it will be in the salad because there will be more caramelised edge bits). Peel the onions and chop off the ends then cut into quarters. Put the squash and the onion into a roasting tin and sprinkle over the olive oil, dried oregano, ground cumin and a large pinch of salt. Mix it all together with your hands then put the roasting tin in the oven. Roast for half an hour at 200°C.
- After 30 mins, toss the squash and put back in the oven. Lay a piece of baking paper on a baking tray and, with a slotted spoon, carefully take the mushrooms out of the marinade and lay on the baking paper in a single layer. (Try not to get too much of the marinade mixture onto the baking tray as, the more liquid there is, the longer it will take to evaporate off.) Pop the tray in the oven with the squash, turn the oven down to 180°C and roast for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, turn the pieces of mushroom over and add the pumpkin seeds to one end of the tray then pop the tray back in the oven for another 10-12 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the dressing by putting all the dressing ingredients into a small jar and shaking vigorously. (I like to make my salad dressings in a jar because it’s easy to shake it together and to put any spare dressing in the fridge for another day). You can wash and dry the spinach and chop the parsley at this point too.
- When the mushrooms are dried out and crispy, take the mushroom tray and the butternut squash tray out of the oven (the butternut squash is very forgiving and will sit in the oven for however long you want it to without too much fuss so it can wait until the mushrooms are nice and crispy). Tip the mushrooms onto a piece of kitchen towel to cool and crisp up a bit more while you assemble the salad.
- Put the spinach leaves and parsley in a big bowl. Dot the butternut squash and red onions around and add little knobs of vegan feta cheese, then sprinkle the mushroom bacon and toasted pumpkin seeds all over the top. Drizzle the dressing on and toss together well. Serve immediately once the dressing is added or, if you want to make it ahead, hold off on the dressing until you’re ready to serve.
- See the blogpost for tips on what to do with the leftover roasted squash and you probably won't need it all but it's worth roasting it all together in any case.
- Cooking the mushroom bacon is not an exact science so it might take slightly more or less time depending on the width of your mushroom slices and the marinating time. They need to cook until they have dehydrated and take on a texture like crispy bacon. It takes about 18-25 minutes but they will also crisp up a little bit after they come out of the oven.
If you like this recipe, you may like these other delicious vegan and gluten-free recipes too:
I’d love to know how you get on with this recipe. Let me know what you think in the comments section below and please give it a 5 star rating too! Thank you!