This warm roasted cauliflower, butternut squash and bacon salad is perfect for the cooler autumnal weather. It's a great healthy meal too!
Summer may have come to an end but that is no need for salad eating to come to an end too. Especially not when autumn salads can be as tasty as this warm roasted cauliflower and butternut squash salad with streaky bacon and caramelised pecans served with a sweet but sharp honey and balsamic dressing. Trust me, this is not a boring salad. This is a salad that once made, you'll be craving again and again.
As I was thinking up ideas for this salad I couldn't help but think about Halloween and pumpkin pie. I liked the idea of a savoury salad using some of the warming spices of a pumpkin pie but with a bit of a chilli kick as well.
Roasting the butternut squash and cauliflower with the spices gives the vegetables a lovely flavour.
I added a few spiced candied nuts because a little sweetness contrasts well with the saltiness of the bacon and although they may look like they are simply a garnish, this salad would not be the same without them.
And finally the dressing. The combination of sweet and sharip in this honey and balsamic vinegar dressing is a perfect match for this salad and is so quick to mix together too.
Ingredient notes for Cauliflower, butternut squash and bacon salad
To make this salad you'll need:
- Spices - Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cayenne pepper
- Pecans - Feel free to replace these with walnuts as they work just as well.
- Honey - Runny honey is best
- Soft brown sugar
- Butternut squash - You can replace it with another orange squash or pumpkin
- Olive oil - I use extra virgin olive oil for the dessing and a light olive oil for roasting the vegetables
- Seasoning - A little salt and black pepper if you want
- Streaky bacon
- Balsamic vinegar
- Salad leaves - These are optional but I like to add a few leaves such as rocket (arugula)
How to make this roasted vegetable salad
There are a few components to make for this salad. I usually make the caramelised pecan nuts first. Mix the pecans together with the spices, brown sugar and honey. Put them on a baking tray lined with non stick baking paper and bake in the oven for 5 minutes. Take them out and stir them around so they are coated in the melted sugar and spice mix. Then return them to the oven for another 5 minutes. I like to make a much bigger batch than the recipe states so that I can use the pecans in other recipes or just snack on them!
Dice the butternut squash and cauliflower and put in a bowl with more of the spice mix, the light olive oil and a little salt. Toss so the veggies are coated in the spicy oil. Then roast in the oven for about 30 minutes. Alternatively you can air fry the vegetables for about 20 minutes at 180C.
Fry the bacon until well cooked and crispy. Drain on kitchen paper.
Mix together all the ingredients for the dressing.
Serve the roasted vegetables topped with the bacon, dressing and caramelised pecans.
Can you adapt this salad?
Yes of course! You can add in some other roasted vegetables if you want. Broccoli works well here. You can also replace the butternut squash with sweet potato or another orange squash such as pumpkin.
Sometimes I serve this salad on top of a bed of salad leaves and sometimes I serve it without as it is here.
I also like to top it with a sliced chilli pepper to add a little heat.
I love the roasted caramelised pecans in this salad but to make it a little simpler you could just dry fry a few pecans to toast them a little.
Can you substitute the bacon to make it vegetarian?
Yes, if you don't want to use bacon then this salad works really well with halloumi as it also has that slightly salty flavour that goes so well with the sweetness in this salad.
Can you make it vegan?
Yes, if you omit the bacon and replace the honey with maple syrup or agave nectar then this salad becomes a great vegan option. There is still protein in the nuts and you could use slightly more of them.
Or you could roast some chickpeas along with the cauliflower and butternut squash.
What can you do with the leftovers?
Any leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days although personally I like to eat leftover roasted vegetables within 24 hours.
Roast cauliflower and butternut squash salad with bacon and caramelised pecans
For the Spice Blend
- 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ⅓ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
For the Candied Pecans
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1.5 tablespoon soft brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon spice blend
- 50 g pecans
For the Salad
- 1 butternut squash cut into wedges
- 1 cauliflower cut into wedges
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoon spice blend
- Pinch of salt
- 8 slices streaky bacon
- 200 g salad leaves optional (I didn't use to serve it with salad leaves but now I do)
For the dressing
- 2 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Preheat the oven to 180C.
- Mix together all the spices for the spice blend.
- Mix together the honey, brown sugar and spice mix for the candied pecans. It will be quite thick and sticky.
- Put the pecans on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper. Put spoonfuls of the honey, sugar and spice mix on top of the pecans.
- Bake in the oven for 5 minutes. The mixture will now have melted and you can stir the pecans around in it so they are all coated in it. Return them to the oven for another 5 minutes.
- Take the pecans out and put them on another piece of non-stick baking paper to cool. Make sure they are not touching each other. This prevents them from being over-coated in the caramel.
- Put the cauliflower and butternut squash in a large bowl and pour over the olive oil, spice blend and a little salt. Stir the vegetables well with your hands so they are coated all over in the oil and spices.
- Roast the vegetables in the oven at 180C for about 30 minutes until they are cooked through and lightly browned. These days I often use my air fryer instead and it takes about 20 minutes to cook the vegetables.
- At the same time fry the bacon until well cooked and crispy but not overdone.
- Mix together all the ingredients for the dressing.
- Arrange the cauliflower and butternut squash on a plate with the bacon. Put a few candied nuts around the sides and drizzle on a little of the honey and balsamic dressing. Add some salad leaves if you want.
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