Winter Squash and Beluga Lentil Salad

One of the things I like most about fruits and vegetables is their bright colors. I find them so beautiful and enticing! Salads in particular are great vehicles for serving up an edible rainbow, since you can include so many different types of produce.

This Winter Squash and Beluga Lentil Salad definitely does the fruit and veggie rainbow justice. There are bright red cranberries, big pieces of bold orange squash, and a bed of deep green kale. All the colors really pop against the backdrop of the black beluga lentils.

Beluga lentils are my favorite lentil, not just for their color but also for their texture. They have a more toothsome feel than red lentils, an appealing round shape, and they cook more quickly than their larger green cousins. Plus of course that deep black color looks so nice with brightly-colored fruits and veggies!


The flavors and textures of this salad are as diverse as the colors. There's a nice balance between the sweet squash and apple, the nutty lentils, the charred onion, and the tart cranberries. The squash and onions are succulent and soft, while the apple and walnuts add crunch, and the lentils make it feel hearty. The zingy maple mustard dressing really makes all these winter veggies sing.

This is a fun salad to play with. I cubed up only half of the squash, saving the other half to grill and roast in its entirety; it seemed like the perfect vessel for presenting the salad. I put the salad on a bed of kale, but you could also integrate the kale into the salad if you prefer. You could serve this cold, room temperature, or warm, making it an easy make-ahead option for entertaining or for a potluck.

Regardless of how you choose to present it, savor this beautiful rainbow of winter's best veggies. Not only are they pretty, they're loaded with nutrients, and a dinner like this will really nourish your body.

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Thoughts About Ingredients
(These are all just suggestions, since rogue is more fun than recipe)

For the salad:
  • Beluga (black) lentils. Another type of lentil would work here too, but I love the texture and the color of belugas. I used 1.5 c.
  • Butternut squash. I like butternut here because of its bright orange color and its ability to hold its shape when cubed and roasted.
  • Sweet onion
  • Handful of dried cranberries
  • Handful of walnuts
  • Apple. I used honeycrisp because I love the juiciness and crunch.
  • Kale
  • Handful of fresh cranberries
For the dressing:
  • A few tbsp of mustard. Learn how to make your own here, it's totally worth it.
  • A few tbsp of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • Little splash of bourbon, optional
Thoughts About Method
(These are all just suggestions, be creative and make it yours)
  1. Boil the lentils until tender, but still maintaining their shape; it will take 25-30 minutes. Make sure to salt the water. Drain the excess water when they're done and return the lentils to the pot.
  2. Assemble the dressing, add salt and pepper, taste, and adjust as you see fit. Fresh winter herbs like thyme could work nicely here too.
  3. Dress the lentils while they're still warm; this will encourage them to drink up all the flavor. Add the dried cranberries at this stage so that they can plump up slightly in the steam. Let everything sit for a few minutes.
  4. While the lentils are cooking, peel and dice the butternut squash, add salt and pepper, then roast at 425 until just tender so that it will hold its shape in the salad.
  5. Toast the walnuts until browned and fragrant. You can do this on a sheet tray in the oven while the squash is roasting or in a dry skillet. Regardless, keep a close eye on them.
  6. Grill or caramelize the sweet onions. I like to grill them with a splash of bourbon at the end, so that the slices could be both integrated into the salad and could serve as a pretty garnish.
  7. Prep the kale by removing the stems and cutting into ribbons.
  8. Slice up your apple. Cubes would work well in the salad, but you might save a few bigger slices for garnish.
  9. Once the lentils have cooled slightly, transfer them to a large mixing bowl. Mix in your squash, onions, apple, toasted walnuts, and kale if you want to integrate it (versus keeping it as a bed for the salad). Set aside anything you want to use as garnish; perhaps a few apple or onion slices, or a few particularly pretty walnut halves.
  10. Assemble the salad in whatever way makes you happy. Be creative and have fun. For these photos, I used a bed of kale (dressed with the same dressing as above) and a grilled and roasted squash half, but this could just as easily all go into a single big bowl
  11. Garnish with some fresh cranberries for that bright pop of red color and tart flavor, plus whatever other garnishes you desire. Some cheese (feta?) would be great too.


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