A delicious hearty vegan spinach and butternut squash salad with sweet roasted red onions, salty vegan feta, and divine mushroom bacon adding a smoky salty flavour kick! This salad is hearty enough to be a complete meal in itself and is full of delicious earthy flavours. So, if you've overdosed on heavy food recently, try this delicious salad to lighten things up a little or to take as a fabulous vegan potluck dish or party salad!
This vibrant winter squash salad is full of delicious earthy flavours. It is made with the same divine smoky mushroom bacon that I used in my black garlic and mushroom bacon tartlets at Christmas time. I am a little obsessed with this mushroom bacon!
The flavours in this spinach and butternut squash salad are perfectly balanced with sweet, salty and umami flavours. Fresh earthy spinach leaves combine with the sweet roasted red onion and butternut squash, all counter-balanced out by the salty vegan feta cheese and smoky salty mushroom bacon. It is the perfect pick-me-up for the colder months of the year!
I think we all know how brilliant dark leafy greens are for us and this salad is full of them! Both spinach and parsley are great plant-based sources of iron. Butternut squash is very high in vitamin A and also contains vitamin C which will help your body to absorb the iron from the spinach.
- Greens - baby spinach and parsley - make sure to choose the baby spinach that is sold as salad leaves rather than the bigger, older spinach leaves that would be too tough for this salad. If you're not a fan of spinach, you can swap to any other dark green salad leaf. Or, if you prefer, you can use kale. If using kale, make sure to massage it first and leave it for a few hours to soften. See this kale salad recipe for full instructions of how to do this!
- Portobello Mushrooms - I have tried making mushroom bacon with other mushrooms and it never works quite as well. It can work at a push but they don't seem to soak up the flavour as well or go as crispy as portobellos, so I recommend going for the portobellos if you can!
- Mushroom bacon marinade - tamari, maple syrup, liquid smoke, sweet smoked paprika, garlic powder, and salt. These ingredients are what give portobello mushrooms the dreamy bacon flavours! Tamari is a naturally gluten-free type of soy sauce. You could substitute it for coconut aminos if you prefer. Liquid smoke is a wondrous ingredient that adds a smokiness without the need for a smoker! I like the Colgin liquid smoke which contains only natural ingredients and I find it in the supermarkets and on Amazon.
Roasted Butternut Squash
- Butternut squash - you could use pumpkin instead, if that's what you have. I'm sure Crown Prince Squash would also be amazing in this salad! It has a heady sweetness and dreamy texture but I can't get hold of them here in Doha.
- Red onions - I wouldn't substitute for other onions in this recipe as the red onions roast with a delightful sweetness without the pungency that other types of onions can have.
- Flavourings for roasted squash and onions - dried oregano and ground cumin - these flavours work really well to enhance the natural flavours of the butternut squash. You can of course switch to your own preference instead though!
Other Salad Ingredients
- Vegan feta cheese - I'm not usually a great fan of vegan cheeses but I do like vegan feta. Almost all the ones I have tried are tasty (whereas I can't say the same for the other vegan cheeses!). However, if you are not keen on this, a good swap would be kalamata olives which would provide the saltiness and provide interest in the salad much as the vegan feta does.
- Pumpkin seeds - these provide crunch, nutrition and extra interest to the salad. You could use sunflower seeds instead or even your favourite nuts, roughly chopped.
- Dressing ingredients - extra virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard and salt and pepper. I find the apple cider vinegar adds enough sweetness to this vinaigrette so that it doesn't need any sweetener added. You could swap to balsamic vinegar (for more sweetness) or even the classic white wine vinegar. If you swap to a less sweet vinegar, you may need to add a little maple syrup to balance out the flavours.
Please see the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post for quantities of ingredients and full instructions.
How To Make This Vegan Spinach and Butternut Squash Salad
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. The steps are as follows:
- Slice the mushrooms and marinate them.
- Chop the butternut squash and red onions and roast them with the spices for ½ hour at 200°C.
- Add the mushrooms to the oven 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. Or, toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry frying pan over a high heat until they start to pop.
- Make the dressing by shaking the ingredients in a jar.
- Mix all the salad ingredients together.
Chefs Tips for Making Mushroom Bacon
- 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 won't be crispy when you take them out of the oven but they should crisp up within a few minutes of taking them out and leaving them on a cooling rack.
- 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 probably won't need all of the butternut squash for this salad. 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!
Vegan Spinach and Squash Salad FAQs
Yes but you need to keep the constitutent parts separate in sealed containers in the fridge until serving. You can keep each part for a few days in the fridge.
- Make the mushroom bacon, cool it, and keep it in a sealed container in the fridge. It will go soft and a little soggy in the fridge so you will need to re-heat it for a few minutes in the oven before serving so that it crisps up again.
- Roast the butternut squash and red onion, then leave them to cool and leave in a sealed container in the fridge. Make sure to take them out of the fridge for a good half an hour or more before serving so that it is not fridge cold.
- Make the dressing and keep in a jar in the fridge. Then when you are ready to serve, just shake the jar vigorously to re-emulsify the vinaigrette ingredients.
Then when you are ready to serve, just mix all the parts together.
This salad is perfect for lunchboxes and picnics as you can bring it all in a tupperware but keep the dressing separate or the delicate baby spinach leaves will go soggy. Then add the dressing and mix it all together when you're ready to eat or serve it. Likewise, for taking to a party as a potluck dish! Everyone will be absolutely wowed by the mushroom bacon I'm sure!
📖 Recipe 📖
Spinach and Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Mushroom Bacon & Vegan Feta
Roast Butternut Squash
- 300 g butternut squash (or pumpkin)
- 3 red onions
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- a large pinch of salt
- a small handful pumpkin seeds
- 120 g baby leaf spinach (or other salad leaves)
- 20 g flat leaf parsley
- 40 g vegan feta cheese (or kalamata olives)
- 3 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon dijon mustard
- a 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 add the sliced mushroom 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.3 portobello mushrooms, 1 tablespoon tamari, 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, ½ tablespoon liquid smoke, 2 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon maple syrup
- 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.300 g butternut squash, 3 red onions, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, ¼ teaspoon ground cumin, a large pinch of salt
- 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. (Or if you prefer, you can toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry frying pan over a medium high heat, stirring and tossing constantly until they start to pop and brown a little).a small handful pumpkin seeds
- Meanwhile, make the dressing by putting all the dressing ingredients into a small jar and shaking vigorously (or whisking together in a small jug). You can wash and dry the spinach and chop the parsley at this point too.120 g baby leaf spinach, 20 g flat leaf parsley, 3 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, ¼ teaspoon dijon mustard, a small grating of nutmeg, salt and pepper
- When the mushrooms are dried out, 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 ready). Tip the mushrooms onto a piece of kitchen towel to cool and crisp up a bit 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.40 g vegan feta cheese
- 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 more after they come out of the oven.
- If making ahead or to take somewhere, keep the dressing separate and mix together just before serving.
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a ⭐ star rating ⭐ on the recipe card!
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