Tropical Butternut Squash Salad


Picture this. It’s a Sunday afternoon and you have yet another summer barbecue. July 4th. Your friend’s kid’s 1st birthday. Your cousin’s neighbor’s graduation. Your parents complained they haven’t seen you all summer, even though it’s only July 5th. Your buddy bought too much beer (?) and needs help getting rid of it. The Red Sox are playing the Yankees. Again. Yes, I know. It’s tough having so many commitments.

It’s sweltering hot, but feels nothing like the tropics, save for one dish amidst all the all mayonnaise-laden, indistinctly-seasoned bowls of pasta and potatoes. There’s a stray bowl of vegetables that seems like a good choice in theory, but one bite proves it was ruined with an abundance of… is that more mayonnaise?

Didn’t your neighbor/aunt/boss serve the exact same dishes yesterday/last weekend/last summer? How is it that everyone you know that you thought didn’t know each other is in cahoots over menu planning? They’re all… out to get you. It hurts. I know. I’m sorry.

But as I was saying, there’s one saving grace. A dish so colorful and mind-blowingly delicious that has everyone asking, “Honey, did you try the sweet potato salad? You’re gonna love it!” Snicker.

And, “This is why it’s so hard to keep my girlish figure in the summer. All these parties with so much good food. Ugh (as they go for more).” Snicker.

You know the truth, of course, and decide to make it known, because while it’s fun to keep everyone in the dark, it’s more fun to see their reaction when the facts are revealed.

Sweet potatoes? phooey. So five years ago. They’re all well and good and surely most people nowadays get that they’re more nutritious than a regular potato, but really? They’re still rather calorie-dense. Butternut squash is where it’s at. Lower in calories* and just as creamy, sweet, nutty, delicious. Like butternut squash fries are just as good better than sweet potato, butternut squash salads make everyone think they’re eating the most delicious sweet potatoes ever. And when you tell them it’s butternut squash, I guarantee you’ll get all kinds of ego-stroking along the lines of, “Butternut squash? Really? I never would have thought of that. You’re so smart! You should do this for a living!” You won’t need to pat yourself on the back. They’ll do it for you.

And since you really want to knock their socks off, you’ll go on to tell them what else is in it. Or rather, what’s not. Nothing fatty, refined-sugary, processed, or chemical-y. Simply put, nothing icky. Just wholesome, natural fruits, vegetables, yogurt and spices. Which all marry together so well that even the trained chef at the party gives a surprising revelation: “I guess you really can eat awesome food and still be healthy.”

I guess they only teach butter and cream in culinary school? Oh, and mayonnaise. Who could forget that.


Tropical Butternut Squash Salad
Printable Recipe

3lbs peeled, diced butternut squash
1 large red pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup sliced scallions (white and light green parts)
20oz can pineapple tidbits, drained, juice reserved
1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened flaked coconut

4oz nonfat plain Greek yogurt
4 tablespoons reserved pineapple juice
juice from 1 lime
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh ground pepper, to taste
1/3 cup chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and arrange the squash in an even layer. Spray the squash with more cooking spray. Roast for 40-50 minutes, turning occasionally with a spatula, until the squash is fork-tender and caramelized in spots. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

Meanwhile, place the coconut in a dry skillet over medium-low heat, and cook for about 5 minute, stirring often, until lightly browned and fragrant. Immediately remove from heat and allow to cool. 

Transfer the squash to a large bowl and add the pepper, scallions, pineapple tidbits, and toasted coconut.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the yogurt, pineapple juice, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Pour over the squash mixture in the large bowl and gently stir until thoroughly combined. Fold in the cilantro, and chill until ready to serve.

Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe: 10
Amount Per Serving
Calories 129.8
Total Fat 2.9 g
Saturated Fat 2.4 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 135.8 mg
Potassium 582.2 mg
Total Carbohydrate 25.9 g
Dietary Fiber 4.2 g
Sugars 9.1 g
Protein 3.1 g

* Don’t believe me about the calories? You can certainly make this salad with sweet potato instead of butternut squash if you wish, but it will have 55 more calories (that’s 42%) per serving. I don’t know about you, but I like to maximize my consumption. The more low-calorie, clean, awesome-tasting foods I can stuff my face with, the better.

Looking for more healthy, delicious summer barbecue ideas? Try my…
Grilled Eggplant Wrapped Dates with Goat Cheese
Smoky Eggplant Guacamole
Black Bean, Mango and Quinoa Salad
Sweet Roasted Corn and Strawberry Salad
Thai Cucumber Salad with Roasted Peanuts
Tandoori Grilled Chicken 
Chicken Tequila Burgers
Spiced Skirt Steak with Arugula, White Beans and Grape Tomatoes
Vegan, Sugar-Free High Protein No Bake Cookies

Or try my friends’…
Deviled Egg Trio (Guacamole, Bufflo, and Sundried Tomato- Basil)
Pineapple-Tequila Glazed Chicken
Grilled Portabello and Goat Cheese Sandwiches
Simplest, Most Delicious Grilled Fish – Rustic Italian Style
Spicy Cold Soba Noodle Salad
Roasted Chickpeas with Feta, Mint and Lemon
Cilantro Fiesta Jicama Slaw
Grilled Tomatillo Salsa

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37 Responses to “Tropical Butternut Squash Salad”

  1. 1

    ErinsFoodFiles — June 23, 2011 @ 4:28 am Reply

    I know that you mean a 20oz can of pineapple, but some people may think you really meant 20 cans. 🙂 Might want to correct that!

  2. 2

    Apples2zucchini — June 23, 2011 @ 11:55 am Reply

    When I think of butternut squash, I think of all of these spicy, heavy fall dishes and never consider it for the summer. You have totally changed my mind – beautiful! It looks delicious!

  3. 3

    Emily — June 23, 2011 @ 12:48 pm Reply

    interesting… i never would have thought about squash and pineapple! I really enjoy making greek yogurt-based spreads and sauces these days. So much healthier!

  4. 4

    Laura — June 23, 2011 @ 1:11 pm Reply

    Cara, I love your creative recipes! I think I will make this side for an upcoming barbeque, maybe even the 4th. This looks amazing!

  5. 5

    Cara — June 23, 2011 @ 1:14 pm Reply

    Thankyou so much laura! Hope you like it 🙂

  6. 6

    Junia @ Mis Pensamientos — June 23, 2011 @ 2:06 pm Reply

    wow, cara, this just looks fantastic. LOVE this recipe! i have some butternut in my fridge now! 😀

  7. 7

    Tracey Jones — June 23, 2011 @ 2:11 pm Reply

    This sounds delicious! Thanks for sharing! The local Super Walmart sells bags of fresh diced butternut squash making this a super easy dish to throw together!  🙂 

  8. 8

    Shannon — June 23, 2011 @ 2:28 pm Reply

    hehe, i love the dialogue 🙂  but this is awesome.  i've never picked up a butternut in the summer…  are they still pretty good?  i can't wait to make this 🙂

  9. 9

    Cara — June 23, 2011 @ 2:29 pm Reply

    you can get some very good ones, yes!

  10. 10

    Kalynskitchen — June 23, 2011 @ 3:23 pm Reply

    Very interesting salad.  I love the combination here.

  11. 11

    Onefitfoodie — June 23, 2011 @ 3:56 pm Reply

    OH MY GOSH! i love the sound of this! the combo of flavors and pineapple, greek yogurt…jut delicious!!!

  12. 12

    Kelly — June 23, 2011 @ 4:25 pm Reply

    I can imagine this tastes fantastic because I love pairing tropical flavors with sweet potatoes so I bet they work quite well with squash as well.  Nom nom! 

  13. 13

    Joanne — June 23, 2011 @ 6:40 pm Reply

    Um yeah.  The pictures are KNOCKING MY SOCKS OFF.  Sorry I never responded to your last email!  I'll get on it tonight 🙂  But really…they look amazing.And this salad.  it's like you know the way to my heart.  And my thighs.  (But not really my thighs because this is just so damn good for me.)  And my summer bbq menu.

  14. 14

    Jennifurla — June 23, 2011 @ 7:35 pm Reply

    he he..I love your dish here, fetching color on it.

  15. 15

    Elina (Healthy and Sane) — June 23, 2011 @ 8:26 pm Reply

    Man, you have your way with words! Honestly, this sounds like a totally crazy combo to me but despite my reservations, I'm now dying to try it. Totally going to be served on my next cookout!! 🙂

  16. 16

    Brittany — June 24, 2011 @ 1:35 am Reply

    This looks amazing. I've been wanting to make a healthy potato type salad and this looks like it might just fit the bill.

  17. 17

    Julia Mestas — June 24, 2011 @ 3:04 am Reply

    I'm almost at a loss for words.  Please, just get me a shovel and a bib.  

  18. 18

    Cara — June 24, 2011 @ 3:08 am Reply

    Those are some good words!

  19. 19

    Cara — June 24, 2011 @ 3:09 am Reply

    Thanks Brittany, keep me posted if you make it 🙂

  20. 20

    Cara — June 24, 2011 @ 3:09 am Reply

    Glad to have that effect 🙂 Hope you like it!

  21. 21

    Cara — June 24, 2011 @ 3:11 am Reply

    Unexpected, I know, but it really works and is so nice for summer 🙂

  22. 22

    Cara — June 24, 2011 @ 3:12 am Reply

    Thanks! I eat squash and pumpkin year round pretty much. It's really a muchmore versatile veggie than people think!

  23. 23

    Dawn Hutchins — June 24, 2011 @ 1:50 pm Reply

    Brillian, as usual.  I have a kabocha. You think it would be ok with that?  Cause I also have some frozen cubed butternut I could use too.  I think I shall be making this over the weekend.

  24. 24

    Dawn Hutchins — June 24, 2011 @ 1:51 pm Reply

    Sorry meant to say BrillianT.

  25. 25

    Chrysta — June 25, 2011 @ 4:49 pm Reply

    omg, perfect! Im heading out to visit my hubs family for fourth of July and I gotta arm myself with some healthy picnic recipes. Pinning this one so I can bring it with me…Not only does it sound delicious but looks so pretty too! Who can resist a dish full of bright colors? I cant…I eat with my eyes alot. I might have to make this and save it for myself. Hope your having a fantastic weekend hon!

  26. 26

    Nicole, RD — June 25, 2011 @ 10:44 pm Reply

    You're freakin' genius. If I weren't heading out of the country for 2 weeks, I would be making this NOW!

  27. 27

    megi — June 26, 2011 @ 2:31 am Reply

    We eat butternut squash year round, in fact I think my daughter eats more butternut squash than any other vegetable combined and naturally I am always looking for new ways to use it. Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe.

  28. 28

    grace — June 26, 2011 @ 7:35 pm Reply

    this is the most unique potluck salad i've ever seen, and i fully intend to take it to my next event.  excellent creation!

  29. 29

    Melissa — June 26, 2011 @ 9:15 pm Reply

    Great post! This sounds so good, I would definitely make this for a BBQ, or for myself.  I think I'll make for my little trip next weekend!

  30. 30

    Cara — June 27, 2011 @ 5:59 pm Reply

    Thanks! Hope you like it :)www.carascravings.comsent from my DROID

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    Jane — July 1, 2013 @ 6:12 am Reply

    This looks amazing! I have one of those above-described parties this week, and I am going to bring this salad. I’ll let you know about all the rave reviews it gets! 🙂

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