As the leaves begin to change color and the weather cools down, it seems all we can think about is pumpkin spice lattes and soups. Yet these aren’t the only things that taste great in the fall though. Salads in autumn can be just as delicious and satisfying when made with seasonal fruits and vegetables. Plus, they’re a great way to get your daily dose of vitamins and minerals. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite autumn salad recipes that are perfect for this time of year. There’s something for everyone from a harvest grain salad to a roasted beet and goat cheese salad. And, we’ve also included a few tips on how you can make your salads even healthier.
What Is An Autumn Salad?
An autumn salad is a salad that is made with seasonal fruits and vegetables which are available in autumn. This usually includes ingredients like apples, pears, cranberries, squash, and sweet potatoes. Fall salads are typically hearty and filling, but they can also be light and refreshing.
The Best Autumn Salad Recipes
Below are some of the best autumn salad recipes that are perfect for this time of year:
Fall Harvest Freekeh Salad (16)
Freekeh is a type of roasted green wheat that has a nutty flavor. It’s a great grain to use in salads because it goes well with other earthy flavors.
This Fall Harvest Freekeh Salad is made with toasted pecans, black beans, and roasted butternut squash among other vegetables. It’s a filling and satisfying salad that is perfect for a fall lunch or dinner.
For the salad:
- ½ cup whole-grain freekeh
- 1 ½ cups water
- 1 (1 ½ -pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 cups kale leaves (stems removed), finely shredded
- 1 medium apple, cut into ½ -inch cubes
- 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
- ½ cup dried cherries
- ½ cup toasted pecans
- Freshly ground pepper
For the balsamic Dijon vinaigrette:
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- Freshly ground pepper
- ⅔ cup olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- To cook the freekeh, bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat.
- Add the freekeh and stir to combine.
- Bring the mixture back to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the grain is tender. Drain any excess water and transfer the freekeh to a large bowl.
- While the freekeh is cooking, toss the butternut squash cubes with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Spread them out on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until they’re tender and lightly browned.
- To make the balsamic Dijon vinaigrette, whisk together the lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, and garlic in a small bowl. Whisk until the ingredients are well combined. Slowly add the olive oil, whisking constantly, until the mixture is emulsified.
- To assemble the salad, add the kale, roasted butternut squash, apples, black beans, dried cherries, and pecans to the bowl with the freekeh. Toss with the balsamic Dijon vinaigrette until all of the ingredients are evenly coated.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or refrigerate for later.
Read More: Healthy Mediterranean Eggplant Salad Recipe
Autumn Apple Salad With Maple Dijon Vinaigrette (4)
Crispy bacon, crunchy pecan, sweet apple, and tart cranberry come together in this salad. The salad is tossed in a maple dijon vinaigrette that brings all of the flavors together. It’s the perfect salad for a fall lunch or dinner.
For the salad:
- 2 cups baby spinach, raw
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- ¼ cup pecans halved
- 2 tbsp feta cheese
- ½ granny smith apple, sliced
- ½ fuji apple, sliced
- 2 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
For the dressing:
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1½ tsp dijon mustard
- salt & pepper to taste
- In a small mason jar or container with a tight-fitting lid, combine all of the dressing ingredients. Shake until emulsified.
- In a large bowl, combine the baby spinach, dried cranberries, pecans, feta cheese, apples, and bacon.
- Drizzle with dressing and toss to coat. Serve immediately.
Roasted Sweet Potato And Maple Cider Vinaigrette Salad (5)
This Roasted Sweet Potato Salad is a hearty and filling salad that is perfect for a fall lunch or dinner. The sweet potatoes are roasted to bring out their natural sweetness and then they’re tossed with a maple cider vinaigrette.
- 1 – 10 oz package of Spring Mix with Baby Spinach plus a couple of handfuls of Arugula if desired
- 1 Fuji apple cored and sliced thinly (any apple will do)
- ½ cup crumbled blue cheese
- ½ cup whole pecans, toasted at 400 degrees for 10 minutes on a sheet pan
- ½ cup cooked, crumbled bacon
- 1 cup roasted cubed sweet potatoes one average size sweet potato
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- ¾ cup light olive oil
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice about half a lemon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Peel and cube one average size sweet potato into small bite-sized pieces. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and spread onto a baking sheet lined with foil for easy cleanup. Bake at 375 degrees F for 25-30 minutes until fork tender.
- While the sweet potatoes are roasting, prepare the rest of the salad ingredients.
- Toast ½ cup of whole pecans at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes on a baking sheet. Allow cooling before adding to salad.
- Cook ½ cup crumbled bacon, and allow to cool before adding to salad. You could also use real bacon bits.
- Core and slice 1 Fuji apple thinly.
- Add all salad ingredients to a large bowl.
- In a small jar or container with a tight-fitting lid, combine all of the dressing ingredients except for the olive oil. Shake until emulsified. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while continuing to shake until completely combined.
- Drizzle the salad with the desired amount of dressing and toss to coat. I like to serve the salad with the dressing on the side so people can add as much or as little as they like.
- Serve immediately. Enjoy!
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What Are The Health Benefits Of Autumn Salads?
Autumn salads are a great way to:
Keep Your Gut Healthy
Your gut consists of trillions of microbes that are responsible for many functions, including influencing immunity, digestion, and nutrient absorption (10). To keep your gut healthy, it’s a good idea to eat a variety of foods that contain prebiotics and probiotics.
Prebiotics are a type of fiber that feeds the good bacteria in your gut. Probiotics are live microorganisms (good bacteria) that promote a healthy gut (14).
Some of the best prebiotic and probiotic-rich ingredients for autumn salads include:
- Sweet potatoes
Get Your Daily Dose Of Vitamins And Minerals
Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are essential for good health. For example, sweet potatoes are a good source of beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is essential for vision, immunity, and cell growth (22).
Generally, the color of fruits and vegetables can give you a good indication of what nutrients they contain:
- Yellow/orange: contains beta cryptothanxin which is an antioxidant which may have anticancer properties and may be good for bone health, as well as other carotenoids like beta carotene (1). Includes carrots, yellow peppers, corn, pineapple, mango, and papaya.
- Green: contains cancer-preventing chemicals like sulforaphane, isocyanate, and indoles, as well as vitamins A, C, and K (18). Includes leafy greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, avocado, honeydew, and kiwi.
- Blue and purple: contain anthocyanin, which is a powerful antioxidant that may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer (2). Includes blueberries, blackberries, plums, and eggplant.
- Red: contains lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant that may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer (20). Includes watermelon, tomatoes, strawberries, and cherries.
- White and brown: contain allicin, which is an antimicrobial compound that may help fight infection (3). Includes garlic, mushrooms, garlic, leeks, onions, and cauliflower.
Manage A Healthy Weight
As the weather gets cooler, we tend to crave heavier, comfort foods. This can lead to weight gain if we’re not careful. Autumn salads are a great way to enjoy all the flavors of fall without the extra calories.
In general, salads are a low-calorie food. But, there are a few things you can do to make them even healthier:
- Limit or avoid high-calorie toppings: Cheese, croutons, bacon, and fried onions are all common salad toppings that can add a lot of calories to your dish. If you’re watching your weight, consider avoiding these toppings or using them sparingly.
- Choose a light dressing: Creamy salad dressings can add a lot of calories and fat to your salad. Opt for a light dressing made with olive oil and vinegar instead.
- Use volume to your advantage: Load up your salad with lots of low-calorie, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables. This will help you feel full without adding a lot of calories.
Read More: Blackened Chicken Salad Recipe (Quick, Easy, And Healthy!)
Boost Your Energy Levels
In the fall, daylight hours get shorter and temperatures start to drop. This can lead to a decrease in energy levels.
Eating a healthy diet can help boost your energy levels and improve your overall mood. Autumn salads are a great way to get the nutrients your body needs to stay energized.
Some of the best energy-boosting ingredients for autumn salads include:
- Leafy greens: Spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are all excellent sources of iron. Iron is a mineral that helps carry oxygen to your cells, which is important for energy production (17).
- Citrus fruits: Oranges, grapefruits, and lemons are rich in vitamin C. Vitamin C is important for immunity, wound healing, and iron absorption (21).
- Beans and legumes: Chickpeas, lentils, and kidney beans are all good sources of protein and fiber. Protein is essential for cell growth and repair, while fiber helps keep you feeling full and provides long-lasting energy (15) (19).
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds are all excellent sources of healthy fats, protein, and fiber. These nutrients can help promote satiety and stable blood sugar levels, both of which are important for sustained energy (13).
Chronic inflammation is linked to many diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease (6).
Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may help reduce inflammation (7). Autumn salads are a great way to get your daily dose of fruits and veggies.
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Boost Heart Health
Eating a healthy diet is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of heart disease (9). Autumn salads are a great way to get the nutrients your heart needs to stay healthy.
Some of the best ingredients for heart health include:
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Salmon, sardines, and mackerel are all excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for heart health because they may help reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure (12). Walnuts and flaxseeds are also great plant-based sources.
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds are all good sources of fiber, magnesium, and protein. The healthy fats found in nuts and seeds may also help reduce cholesterol levels and keep your heart healthy (11).
- Fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation which helps keep your cardiovascular system healthy (8).
The Bottom Line
Autumn salads are a great way to enjoy all the flavors of fall without the extra calories. They’re also a great way to get the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. The next time you’re looking for a healthy and flavorful meal, consider making an autumn salad.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Absorption, metabolism, and functions of β-cryptoxanthin (2016, academic.oup.com)
- Anthocyanins in Chronic Diseases: The Power of Purple (2022, mdpi.com)
- Antimicrobial properties of allicin from garlic (1999, sciencedirect.com)
- Autumn Apple Salad (with a Maple Vinaigrette) (2021, houseofyumm.com)
- Autumn Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Maple Cider Vinaigrette (n.d., laughingspatula.com)
- Chronic inflammation in the etiology of disease across the life span (2019, nature.com)
- Diet-Derived Antioxidants and Their Role in Inflammation, Obesity and Gut Microbiota Modulation (2019, mdpi.com)
- Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality—a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies (2017, academic.oup.com)
- Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables (2012, academic.oup.com)
- Introduction to the human gut microbiota (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Nutritional Recommendations for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention (2013, mdpi.com)
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Heart Health (2015, ahajournals.org)
- Optimising foods for satiety (2015, sciencedirect.com)
- Probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics- a review (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Protein Function – Molecular Biology of the Cell – NCBI Bookshelf (2002, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Recipe: Fall Harvest Freekeh Salad (2020, thekitchn.com)
- Review on iron and its importance for human health (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Sulforaphane in broccoli: The green chemoprevention!! Role in cancer prevention and therapy (2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Role of Fiber in Energy Balance (2019, hindawi.com)
- Tomato lycopene and its role in human health and chronic diseases (2000, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Vitamin C in Disease Prevention and Cure: An Overview (2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- β-Carotene Is an Important Vitamin A Source for Humans (2010, academic.oup.com)