Perfectly cooked wild rice, with just the right amount of earthiness and chew, balanced out with creamy, golden-browned butternut squash, paired with the savory meatiness of roasted baby bella mushrooms, and caramelized sweet onions; with tart dried cranberries, toasted pecans, and the vibrant verdence of fresh cilantro; all married together with a bright yet and savory maple-balsamic dressing.
This Forest Floor Salad, or Easy Fall-Inspired Sheet Pan Salad, or Wild Rice and Butternut Squash Salad, or whatever you want to call it, will be a hit no matter where you decided to eat it. This one salad, or side dish, can work in so many ways. It’s a holiday side dish. It’s a prep-ahead salad. It’s a hearty lunch on the go.It’s a fresh and seasonally appropriate addition to your fall or holiday dinner table.
It’s at its best when tossed together right before serving, but you could easily layer the prepared ingredients together in a jar and throw it in your bag (bottom to top: dressing, rice, roasted veg, cilantro), or make the components ahead of time, and assemble on-site at your upcoming holiday dinner parties.
Did I mention that this dish is also easily customizable for any specific dietary needs. It’s naturally gluten free, but you could easily remove the oil and salt to make it completely S.O.S free. You could sub the oil in the dressing for water, tahini, or your favorite unsweetened nut butter. Nut allergy? Don’t add the pecans. Aversion to squash? Use sweet potato.
Scroll down to me prepare this quick and easy autumn dish on my YouTube channel, and then continue onto the full written and printable recipe.
And don’t forget to check out my other Holiday Side Dish videos and recipes:
- Vegan Funeral Potatoes (Cheesy Hash Brown Casserole)
- Vegan Pecan Crusted Sweet Potato Stuffing
- Vegan Wild Rice and Butternut Squash Salad
- Vegan “Oyster” Stuffing (Scalloped Mushrooms)
- Caramelized Brussels Sprout Casserole
A fall inspired salad or side dish that's perfect to take to your next holiday party, or to pack with you to work or school for an easy make-ahead meal.
- 1 cup uncooked wild rice, soaked overnight
- 2 ½ to 3 cups butternut squash cut into ¾ to 1 inch cubes
- ½ sweet yellow onion, cut into ¼ inch thick half-moons (about 1 cup)
- 2 cups sliced baby bella mushrooms
- ½ cup pecan pieces
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup cup dried cranberries
- ¼ cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 tablespoons (¼ cup) balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or low sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons real maple syrup, or agave nectar
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- pinch of red pepper flake, or to taste
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Prepare your wild rice according to package directions. Or, soak your wild rice in the refrigerator overnight. To cook soaked rice: bring about 4 cups of lightly salted water to a boil. Add your drained wild rice, and allow it to simmer on low, stirring occasionally, for about 25 to 30 minutes. The rice is done when most of the grains have split open, and they quite tender with just a bit of chew. Turn off the stove, and allow the rice to rest for about 5 minutes before draining.
Peel and chop your butternut squash and onions, slice your mushrooms, and then add your prepped veggies to a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, and add salt and pepper to taste. Toss to combine, and then pour your seasoned veggies onto a lined baking sheet. Bake at 425 for about 30 to 35 minutes, turning and tossing them about every 10 minutes. The veggies are done when butternut squash is tender and lightly browned, and the onions are slightly caramelized.
Just when the veggies are ready to be removed from the oven, sprinkle the chopped pecans on top, and continue to bake another 3 to 4 minutes. DO NOT WALK AWAY! You do NOT want your pecans to burn.
To make the dressing, combine all of the dressing ingredients and stir or shake to combine. Chop your cilantro
To serve, add the cooked rice, squash, mushrooms, and onions to a large bowl. Top with dried cranberries and cilantro. Pour on your dressing a bit at a time, and toss to combine. Taste for dressing, salt, and pepper.
Garnish with extra pecans, dried cranberries, cilantro, and (very optional) sweetened dried orange pieces.
This dish is best served right after tossing. The rice, veggies, toppings, and herbs can be stored separately until you’re ready.