This butternut squash farro salad is filled with delicious fall flavors and a great mix of textures. With tender squash, crisp apple and more, all wrapped in a flavorful maple balsamic dressing. It's versatile, adaptable and so tasty, you'll have it on repeat.
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Lunches are one of those meals that I seem to go either all in or I cobble together somethign last minute. I find it easier in properly cold weather, where a tasty soup is perfect (like broccoli and Stilton soup or sopa de lima). Then in summer, a light salad or simple tapas may be all I feel like. The in-between seasons can be trickier, though.
This salad fits in perfectly for some of those in-between autumnal days. Say when it maybe doesn't feel quite cold enough for soup but you want something a bit more interesting than a sandwich or some greens.
It's also great as a side dish for a whole range of meals. You could take it for a potluck, pack some for lunch or add it to a festive spread to balance out all those richer dishes. Really, there's hardly a reason not to have it.
What is farro?
Farro is an ancient grain that is an old form of wheat. Technically, it is three species of wheat - spelt, emmer and einkorn. The name "farro" comes from the Italian names for them, farro grande, farro medio, and farro piccolo. All of them have a slightly nutty flavor and chewy texture.
Emmer is the most popular variety grown in Italy, while spelt is more common in Germany and Austria. Typically when you see "farro" grains, it's emmer as this is often considered the best type for cooking.
Spelt and einkorn are less common as grains in the US, at least, but you will find both as flours (spelt flour makes lovely spelt rolls).
Medium farro, or emmer, is as I say great to use as a grain in various ways, such as added to soups, to make into a type of risotto or made into salads, like this.
It's that bit heavier than quinoa or couscous, for example, so is great when you want to make a salad that works as a meal in itself, or as a heartier side.
While the flavor is slightly nutty, it's also a relatively mild flavor so the options are pretty endless to pair with it. You can adapt to the seasons, and this way for me is perfect for fall.
Ingredients in this fall farro salad
This salad has a few components that you bring together:
- Farro - the base of the salad. You can usually find it near the rice and other grains, and if you have options, choose the medium farro. Cook according to the packet, which is typically boiling in salted water for a few minutes.
- Roasted butternut squash - you can use leftovers from a previous meal, or roast just for this. A simple mix of olive oil, salt, pepper and a dash of allspice work well.
- Apple - apple and squash pair so well and the two have lovely contrasting textures.
- Dried cranberries - these add another tasty burst of sweetness (as well as color).
- Red pepper - for an extra bit of crunch.
- Arugula (rocket) - this adds a touch of green and has a nice slight peppery note. I don't add too much, though, as this salad is more about everything else.
- Toasted pine nuts - building on the nutty farro base, some additional nuts are a great addition both in flavor and texture. Toasting brings out the best in their flavor.
- Maple balsamic dressing - I use my simple combination of maple syrup, balsamic vinegar and olive oil as I have used in other salads like my beet apple salad. It's simple and so tasty!
Make ahead tips
One way to make this feel a little easier, or to meal prep it, is to roast the squash and cook the farro ahead of time. You can also chop other ingredients and make the dressing ahead of time, then store all in the fridge.
You could easily do the roasting and cooking of the farro a day or two ahead of everything else. The rest, I would probably only prepare the day before, at most. If you chop the apple ahead, be sure to toss in lemon juice to limit browning.
The arugula can wilt once you combine it with the dressing, so it's best not to add it in until the day you serve it, if possible. Though it will still be tasty if you have leftovers and use over a couple of days.
Substitutions and adaptations
As I mention above, this farro salad recipe is highly adaptable and some suggested ways you can change things up include:
- Instead of butternut squash, try some roasted sweet potato or other roasted squash like delicata or kabocha.
- Swap the cranberries for raisins or dried cherries.
- Other nuts or seeds are also great if you don't have or want to avoid pine nuts - try some pumpkin seeds (pepitas), pecans or hazelnuts.
- If you like, you could also roast some red onion when you roast the squash and add that in too. You can also roast the pepper, if you prefer.
- Instead of arugula, you couold shred up some kale or Brussels sprouts (you could also roast some, too).
- Make some additions like some crumbled goat cheese or blue cheese, chopped roast chicken or roasted chickpeas.
- Use other dressings/vinaigrettes - things like an apple cider vinaigrette, the orange dressing in my squash wild rice salad or even a creamy lemon tahini dressing would all work well.
I prefer to only assemble the day you will be serving, to keep things that bit more crisp. But even once it's fully made, the ingredients are pretty robust so this is a perfect salad for taking to work or to a potluck and it won't all mush and spoil.
This butternut squash farro salad has such a delicious range of flavors and textures, it's hearty enough to fill you up but doesn't feel heavy. Plus, it's so colorful, it would look great on the table as part of a potluck. Just find any excuse you like, it's incredibly tasty and so good for you too, you really need to give it a try.
Try these other tasty fall salads:
- Acorn squash wild rice salad
- Beet apple salad with maple vinaigrette
- Vegan lentil salad with roasted Brussels sprouts
- Butternut squash wild rice salad with cranberries and fennel
- Plus get more ideas for make ahead salads and fall recipes.
Butternut squash farro salad with apple
- 3 cups butternut squash peeled and diced volume/weight
- 2 tablespoon olive oil approximately
- ¼ teaspoon allspice approximately
- 1 cup farro
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 1 red pepper
- 1 apple small, or less if large
- 2 cups arugula rocket
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
For maple balsamic vinaigrette
- 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 ½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.
- Dice the squash into roughly bite-sized pieces and toss them with the 2 tablespoon olive oil and allspice. Roast for approx 40 minutes until the squash is tender and starting to brown slightly. Set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile cook the farro according to the packet instructions - it will take around 15 minutes. Drain and cool. Up to here can be done a day or two in advance, just store both in the fridge until you need them.
- Lightly toast the pine nuts either in a dry frying pan or under the broiler/grill. Keep a close eye on them as they can easily burn. Set aside to cool.
- Cut the pepper into a rough dice and apple into small slices (I generally quarter it, take out the core and then slice, cutting slices in half as needed). If you like, and particularly if you are preparing ahead, drizzle a little lemon juice over the apple and toss to coat the slices. If the arugula leaves are large, roughly tear them.
- Put the farro into a salad bowl and add the other ingredients - squash, pepper, apple, arugula, pine nuts and cranberries.
- Mix together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and maple syrup - I suggest whisking to help them stay mixed. Drizzle over the ingredients in the bowl and carefully toss everything together, taking care not to break up the squash pieces.
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.
This post was first shared in February 2016 and has been updated with new photos and some slight updates to the recipe and post.
Try these other seasonal salads:
- Blood Orange, Beet, and Apple Salad with Goat Cheese and Citrus Honey Vinaigrette from Renee's Kitchen Adventures
- Blue Cheese and Pear Salad from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Brussels Sprouts Salad with White Bean Dressing and Pecan Crisps from Beauty and the Beets
- Radicchio Pear Walnut Salad from The Bitter Side of Sweet
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Butternut Squash Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing from Cupcakes and Kale Chips
- Roasted Savoy Cabbage Slaw with Spicy Bacon Dressing from Food Lust People Love
This post was first shared in February 2016 and has been updated with a few adjustments to the recipe, new photos and added video.