Easy, delicious and layers upon layers of flavour! This roasted pumpkin salad is a little sweet, tangy, savoury, crunchy and creamy all at the same time. The creamy, salty goats cheese is mild in flavour and compliments the sweetness of walnuts and roasted pumpkins perfectly. No boring salads here!
Using a mix of spinach and rocket (arugula) baby leaves adds a nice slight peppery touch that you just don't get if only using baby spinach leaves.
For more healthy and refreshing dishes to make, check out my summer worthy San Choy Bow (lettuce wraps), Chicken Salad with Cranberries and almonds, Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls (Summer Rolls) or Red Cabbage Salad! Aside from the red cabbage salad, all of these are perfectly on their own as a light main meal.
- Baby spinach and rocket (arugula) leaves not only adds freshness to the salad, it's also dense in nutrients! Go for a 50/50 ratio mix.
- Pumpkin any variety will work fine, I love using the kent variety. Kent or Japanese pumpkin is also called Kabocha squash in other parts of the world.
- Goat's cheese is my preferred cheese for this salad due to its creaminess. Otherwise, feta cheese will work really well with this roast pumpkin salad too.
- Walnuts add crunch (and flavour of course!) but not too hard (such as almonds). Feel free to substitute with other types of 'softer' nuts such as pine nuts, cashew nuts or pecan nuts.
Step by step instructions
Before you do anything, get the oven going. Preheat to 220°C/430°F. You want the oven to be on quite high to ensure pumpkins get those delicious caramel sides/corners.
After seasoning, roast the pumpkin for 30 minutes on the top shelf. No need to flip halfway through.
To prevent the deliciously soft roasted pumpkins from breaking apart once roasted is by scooping (lightly scrap from the bottom) with a flat spatula. Stay away from tongs! Pumpkins will stick a little even if you use a non-stick baking tray.
Whilst the pumpkin is roasting away in the oven, make the candied walnuts (or other nuts you prefer).
To do this, melt caster sugar with a little water in a small pan. Once sugar is completely melted and bubbly, turn the heat off and stir walnuts in. Lay walnuts on a baking tray, ensuring wiggle room in between each nut (so they don't stick together!).
Roast for 5 minutes in the middle or bottom shelf.
To make the delicious and tangy sweet vinaigrette, combine honey, balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl and mix with a teaspoon until well combined. Well combined here means balsamic vinegar and the olive oil have emulsified (mixed into each other so that they're no longer separated).
If you've got a mason jar, add vinaigrette dressing ingredients, close the lid and embrace your inner bartender and give it a good shake.
Lay the salad in the following order so that it looks beautiful and at the same time, showcasing all the ingredients. First, lay the leafy greens then, roast pumpkins, goat's cheese and walnuts. When ready to serve, drizzle vinaigrette all over.
Tips for making this perfect every time
- Let the roasted pumpkin cool for about 5 minutes before making the salad. Piping hot pumpkins will lightly cook and therefore soften the leafy greens. Making it look a little sad and less crisp/fresh.
- Use a butter knife to cut the goat's cheese into small pieces instead of trying to use your hands like you would with feta cheese. Unlike feta cheese, goat's cheeses are creamy and much softer.
- Like all salads, such as my Chicken Salad with Cranberries and Avocado, you want to dress it seconds before serving! This way the leafy greens stay fresh and crisp. If you've ever had day-old salad (or even one that's been sitting around for a couple of hours), you'll know what I mean. The lettuce or leaves are always sad and wilted.
- Revive soft baby spinach and rocket leaves by soaking in a bowl of cold water. Soaking in cold water for about 10 minutes is all it takes to turn lightly soft but otherwise fresh leafy greens into their vibrant, glorious selves!
- Use a good quality balsamic vinegar when making a dressing. This makes a big difference on taste.
Good to know (FAQs)
Since this is a flavour packed salad and on the sweet side, pair with pan-seared pork chops or roast pork crackling. Pork works perfectly with something vinegary and sweet (think the classic apple sauce or balsamic glazed pork crackling!)
Yes! If making for a dinner that's a few hours away, keep the prepared ingredients (so roast the pumpkin and walnuts, make the vinaigrette) separate and only combine them when ready to serve.
More delicious side dishes to make
Made this recipe? Let me know your thoughts or questions by dropping a note in the comments section below! I'd love to hear from you 🙂
Happy eating! - Gen
Pumpkin Salad with Spinach and Goat's Cheese
- 120 g /4 oz baby spinach and rocket leaves mix 50/50, about 3 big handfuls
- 60 g /2 oz goat's cheese or feta cheese
- 800 g /1.7 lb pumpkin skin peeled, cut into 2cm/1inch cubes (about 7 cups)
- ½ tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
Candied roast walnuts
- ½ cup walnuts or pecan, cashews, pine nuts
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- ½ tbsp water
Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
- 1½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tbsp honey
- salt and pepper
- Toss roast pumpkin ingredients in a baking tray, space pumpkin cubes out into a single layer with wiggle room in between each cube. Roast at 220°C/430°F for 30 minutes or until lightly charred around the corners, on the top shelf of the oven. No need to flip halfway. (note 1)
- Whilst pumpkin is roasting away, prepare the candied walnuts. In a small pan, add water and sugar on medium-high heat. Swirl the pan around until the sugar has dissolved. Add walnuts and coat by mixing walnuts around with a spoon or spatula.
- Spread candied walnuts out onto a lined baking tray. Ensuring wiggle room in between each walnut so they don't come out stuck together. Roast for 5 minutes in the oven together with the pumpkin, on the middle shelf.
- To make the vinaigrette, combine all ingredients into a small bowl and mix well with a teaspoon spoon for about 30 seconds. (note 2) Shake it out in a mason jar if you have one instead.
- Once the pumpkin is roasted, allow it to cool down a little (so that it doesn't cook the leafy greens when tossed together).
- To put the salad together, lay the spinach and rocket first onto the serving dish. Then, in the following order, pumpkin, goat's cheese (use a butter knife to cut into small pieces) and candied walnuts.
- When ready to serve, drizzle vinaigrette dressing all over.