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Here's an autumn quinoa salad that's delicious, filling, and perfectly seasonal. It's tender baked sweet potatoes, fluffy quinoa, pecans, and greens tossed with an easy maple dijon dressing. It's a quick and healthy side dish or light main, and it's ready in just 35 minutes!
Table of contents
We've learned through trial and error that not all quinoa salads are created equal. It needs to have the right balance of textures, and the dressing makes all the difference. With this in mind, we're sharing this autumn quinoa salad recipe with a delicious homemade maple dijon dressing.
It's the perfect hearty salad for fall, and it's filled with good-for-you ingredients. It's quick and easy to make, too!
It's super versatile so you can add in some dried fruit, add your favorite greens, switch up the nuts, or add in some chickpeas for a boost of vegetarian protein. It's an easy meal-prep salad that tastes great on its own for lunch or for dinner as a side dish with a protein like chicken or fish.
It's enjoyable warm or at room temperature making this salad perfect for potlucks, picnics, or dinner parties. It's our go-to fall salad, and it's always a huge hit!
Autumn quinoa salad ingredient notes
This sweet potato quinoa salad is hearty and filling, and it's made with only real ingredients. Here's everything you need to make it:
- Sweet potatoes – sweet potatoes are our first choice for this salad but roasted butternut squash also tastes delicious.
- Olive oil – olive oil coats the potatoes while they're roasting, and locks in moisture.
- Seasonings – cinnamon, cayenne, sea salt
- Pecans – the delicate taste of pecans pairs perfectly with this salad but other nuts like walnuts, almonds, or even pistachios work well too.
- Quinoa – we use regular white quinoa but other varieties like red quinoa or tri-color quinoa work and look beautiful.
- Arugula – the bite of arugula plays nicely with the sweetness of this salad but you can use other greens like spinach or baby kale.
The simple maple dijon dressing
The dressing adds wonderful fall flavors to the salad. Double the recipe to have a homemade dressing on hand for quick salads all week long!
- Olive oil – a good quality extra-virgin olive oil makes the base of a great dressing.
- Maple syrup – pure maple syrup is the perfect sweetener for this salad, but honey also works.
- Balsamic vinegar – balsamic vinegar is sweet yet tart, adding richness and complexity to the dressing.
- Apple cider vinegar – when choosing an apple cider vinegar, look for the raw unfiltered variety that comes with the ‘mother' for optimal health benefits.
- Dijon mustard – dijon mustard is pungent and sharp, giving this dressing a bit of a kick.
- Sea salt – to make all the flavors pop!
Autumn quinoa salad variations
The beauty of salads is that they're always versatile, so you can tweak them to your tastes or include ingredients you have on hand. Here are a few delicious variations or add-ins for this fall-inspired salad:
- Add in some dried fruit like cranberries, cherries, or apricots.
- Add in some chopped apple or pear.
- Swap the fresh greens for some raw or roasted brussels sprouts
- For a protein boost, add in a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas.
How to make autumn quinoa salad
This autumn quinoa salad with maple dijon dressing is simple, and delicious. Enjoy it as a side dish, or pair it with a protein for a light and healthy meal. Here's how to make it in a couple easy steps:
- Start by roasting the sweet potatoes until they're tender and starting to brown.
- Add the pecans to the baking pan in the last few minutes of cooking so they can toast. Make sure to keep a close eye on them so they don't burn!
- Cook the quinoa according to the package directions, fluff it with a fork, and set it aside to cool.
- Mix all the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.
- Toss all the salad ingredients together in a big bowl with the dressing. That's it!
Full recipe instructions are in the recipe card below.
What to serve with sweet potato quinoa salad
This quinoa autumn salad works great on its own as a light meal or as a side dish with a main or proteins like fish or baked chicken. It also makes a wholesome addition to any Thanksgiving or holiday menu, and it's vegan too!
Mains that pair well with autumn quinoa salad
Can I make this salad ahead of time?
Definitely! If you're planning on making it ahead of time, just wait to toss it with the dressing until you're ready to serve it.
How long do leftovers keep in the fridge?
Store any leftovers in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
Can I use a different grain?
Absolutely! You could swap the quinoa for brown rice, wheat berries, farro, or any other grain you love.
Favorite quinoa recipes
- 1 lb sweet potatoes (chopped)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon EACH: cinnamon, cayenne, and sea salt
- ½ cup pecans
- ⅔ cup quinoa
- 1 cup arugula (or spinach)
Maple Dijon Dressing
- 1 tablespoon EACH: olive oil and maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons EACH: balsamic vinegar and apple cider vinegar
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- A generous pinch of sea salt
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the sweet potato pieces with olive oil, cinnamon, cayenne, and sea salt and place them in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 20 -25 minutes, turning once, until they are soft and starting to brown.1 lb sweet potatoes, 1 tablespoon olive oil, ¼ teaspoon EACH: cinnamon, cayenne, and sea salt
- Place the pecans on the baking sheet with the sweet potatoes and toast them in the oven for 5 minutes. Keep a close eye on them as they will burn easily at this temperature if you leave them in longer.½ cup pecans
- While the sweet potatoes are roasting, cook the quinoa according to package the directions. Usually, 1:2 quinoa to water ratio and cooked for 12-15 minutes. When the quinoa is cooked, fluff it with a fork and set it aside with the lid off.⅔ cup quinoa
- Make the dressing by whisking all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.1 tablespoon EACH: olive oil and maple syrup, 2 teaspoons EACH: balsamic vinegar and apple cider vinegar, ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard, A generous pinch of sea salt
- When the sweet potatoes are cooked, mix them and the pecans with the quinoa and arugula in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss well.1 cup arugula
We have thoroughly tested this recipe for accuracy. However, individual results may vary. See our full recipe disclosure here.
For more inspiration, check out all of our quinoa recipes!