Butternut Squash & Tart Cherry Quinoa

My #1 favorite healthy & hearty fall salad with butternut squash, tart cherries and a savory apple cider sage dressing. Gluten free.

Butternut Squash and Tart Cherry Quinoa Salad / @loveandlemons

My mom loves to clip articles. Newspaper clippings, magazine clippings, stories, recipes – sometimes they come in the mail, sometimes she saves them up for a visit. A couple of years ago she brought me a recipe for a couscous salad clipped from Edible Michiana that was similar to this one. We made it, loved it… then later I lost it. But I could never get this sweet & savory flavor combo out of my mind so I’ve been making versions of it ever since.

Butternut Squash & Tart Cherry Quinoa Salad / @loveandlemons

The original recipe used couscous but I used quinoa here because it’s the grain I usually have on hand. I tossed it with roasted butternut squash, feta cheese and dried tart cherries for a sweet & tangy pop of flavor. They perfectly balance the warm, savory flavors that are going on here.

Butternut Squash & Tart Cherry Quinoa Salad / @loveandlemons Butternut Squash & Tart Cherry Quinoa Salad / @loveandlemons

While the butternut squash is roasting in the oven, make your dressing. I slightly warm some olive oil and mix in apple cider vinegar, sage, honey and cinnamon. I promise – once you toss the sage in, your kitchen will instantly smell like fall… it’s just so warm and cozy.

Butternut Squash & Tart Cherry Quinoa Salad / @loveandlemons

butternut squash & tart cherry quinoa

  • ½ cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, cubed (about 2 cups)
  • 2 big handfuls mixed greens (ie. spinach & arugula)
  • ⅓ cup tart cherries
  • ⅓ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup chopped chives
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • a few leaves of fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon honey (vegan sub: maple syrup)
  • salt & pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cook quinoa - rinse ½ cup quinoa then transfer to a small pot and toast the quinoa for a few minutes (basically until it’s dry again) over medium heat. Add just over 1 cup of water, cover and bring to a boil then reduce to simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes, then turn heat off and let it sit (covered) for 15 more minutes. Check at some point before the end to make sure it’s not burning - if is starting to - stir in a little more water and probably reduce heat. (Note that I usually cook double this amount and save some for later). Set quinoa aside until ready to use.
  3. While your quinoa is cooking, roast your butternut squash. (remove the guts of the butternut squash (save the seeds to toast for later if you want). Peel and slice into 1-inch cubes. Toss with a bit of olive oil, salt & pepper and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown, flipping halfway through.
  4. In a small saucepan, gently heat olive oil (it has a low smoke point so you don’t want to heat it too much. If you’re concerned about this use grape seed oil instead). Add the sage and stir until fragrant (30 seconds or so - just until the sage is not raw). Turn off heat and add apple cider vinegar, cinnamon, honey, salt & pepper.
  5. Assemble all salad ingredients together and toss with as much dressing as you like. Taste and adjust seasonings.
tart cherries

recipe inspired by this recipe from Edible Michiana.


Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rate this recipe (after making it):  

  1. Alison

    I think sour cherry and orange compote with some Greek yoghurt on top would be a nice fall breakfast, but I also love saffron pilaf with chicken and dried sour cherries.

  2. Paige

    My mother and I make amaaaaaaazing oatmeal cookies with dried tart cherries, dark chocolate chips, dried apricots, a hint of cinnamon and walnuts. They have the perfect amount of sweetness, and the oatmeal actually keeps you filled up! A fun (and slightly naughty) alternative to a morning granola bar.

    • jeanine

      those do sound amazing!

  3. Felicia

    Tart cherry chutney served over warmed Brie with slices of baguette!

  4. Ylan

    The way you used the cherries in this recipe reminded me of sun-dried tomatoes.

    I love pasta, but sometimes it can be a bit heavy…so I often go towards soba noodles as the lighter alternative.

    I would love to see how the cherries would develop in a light, savory tomato sauce spooned over soba noodles. Maybe a bit of fresh arugula and sauteed mushrooms to top it all off.

  5. dk

    Sour cherry Dutch babies!

  6. Courtney

    Love this!! Tart cherries are amazing for joint pain also! Im obsessed with chocolate so maybe dark chocolate tart cherry brownies!

  7. Becca

    Tart cherry thumbprint cookies sound great to me

  8. Katalin

    Chilled Hungarian sour cherry soup! Complete with sugar , flour sour cream and confectioners sugar !! 🙂

  9. Lela

    Hmmm… Oatmeal with dried sour cherries, a handful of walnuts, and a bit of maple syrup is the perfect weekday breakfast! And I’ve made cinnamon-raisin buns with cherries instead of raisins – good times. Also, just eat the things by the handful, ideally with a piece of chocolate as a chaser.

  10. Annie from fallsannie.com

    I’d love to make a warm tart cherry compote/sauce to serve over vanilla ice cream!

  11. electra

    tart cherries and almond slivers in long grain wild rice and, on the sweeter side, tart cherry sorbet! (tart cherry scones would be irresistible too)

  12. Emily

    I love the idea of tart cherries with a savory dish! I think tart cherries with roasted cumin-y cauliflower would be super interesting.

  13. Mira

    Thank you for the giveaway! I love your blog!

    I would make a tart cherry chutney. I would make it really spicy and savory with lots of warm spices, like cinnamon, cardamom, red pepper flakes and fresh ginger. And, I would make it really chunky and marmalade-y. Then I would use it on everything – grilled cheese, tacos and all kinds of squash!

  14. Carol

    Tart cherries in a wild rice salad or wild rice hot dish would be delicious!

  15. Emily

    Frozen tart cherries + cottage cheese + almond-coconut milk + chocolate whey protein powder = heaven!

  16. Kristen

    A tart cherry flatbread, with plenty of roasted garlic, goat cheese (or bleu cheese if you’re feeling adventurous), arugula, and some herbs (tarragon or rosemary would work well I think) .

  17. Caitlin

    Tart cherries with spinach linguine! Sauté spinach with tart cherries olive oil and garlic; toss with ground pepitas, salt, pepper and linguine! So tasty!

  18. I love tart cherries (especially early into fall). One of my favorite recipes is a smoothie I make with tart cherries, black cherries, 1 frozen banana, 2/3 Cup Coconut Milk, 1/4 Water, and a drizzle of honey. Blend and serve, it’s like a milkshake but healthy and a bit tartly.


A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.