This hearty farro salad is filled with a vibrant blend of sweet and savory ingredients that offer a balanced blend of flavor and contrasting textures. It blends the nutty chewiness of farro with the sweet, earthy tones of roasted butternut squash, the tart flavor of dried cranberries, and the creamy, mild tang of crumbled goat cheese.
Farro is an age-old staple of Italian cuisine and a nutritious, flavorful alternative to pasta and rice. It adapts to a wide array of dishes and its ability to absorb flavors and seamlessly blend with other ingredients makes it an excellent base for bowls like this one.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
These are the primary ingredients for this salad along with some suggestions for possible alternatives. A full list, along with quantities, and step-by-step preparation instructions can be found in the printable version of the recipe below.
- Pearled farro: Pearled farro is the variety most frequently found in supermarkets. It’s very convenient to use as all it needs is a quick rinse before cooking and it’s done in 30 minutes or less. For this recipe, you’ll want to cook farro according to the directions in our basic farro recipe and consider making an extra batch to put away for a Caprese chicken bowl – another easy one-dish dinner.
- Roasted butternut squash: With its beautiful orange color, tender texture, and subtle caramelized sweetness, roasted butternut squash is a great ingredient to combine with farro in a salad. For convenience’s sake, our recipe calls for a 10-ounce bag of frozen cubed butternut squash, but if you want to use fresh, cooking instructions are included in the recipe notes. If you don’t care for squash, try cubes of roasted sweet potato instead.
- Dried cranberries: We love the sweet-tart burst of flavor dried cranberries add to any dish, but for this salad, you could easily switch them out for diced fresh apple or pear.
- Goat cheese: Crumbled goat cheese (chevre) has a grassy flavor and creamy consistency that pairs particularly well with the farro, cranberries, and toasted pine nuts in this salad. From a nutritional standpoint, it also adds a little extra protein. You can use crumbled feta in its place if desired.
- Salad greens: Any type of salad greens will do for this recipe, but we like a combination of butter lettuce, red leaf lettuce, and hearts of romaine. If you’re looking for a little extra nutritional punch, you can use fresh spinach or baby kale instead.
- Radishes: Thin slices of radish add a bit of sweet pepperiness and a crisp crunch that contrasts nicely with the texture of the squash. Thin slivers of red bell pepper or shredded carrots could be substituted for texture, but they won’t add the same flavor as radishes do.
- Cherry tomatoes: Sweet, yet slightly acidic, cherry tomatoes are a delicious addition to any salad. For this dish, you can substitute just about any type of tomato, but grape tomatoes would be our next choice.
- Red onion: Sliced red onion adds a distinctive pop of flavor to this salad, but not everyone enjoys its intensity. If you’d like something more subtle, you could try pickled red onions, sliced sweet onion, or a sprinkling of chopped scallions.
- Toasted pine nuts: The rich, buttery flavor of toasted pine nuts complements both the farro and the goat cheese in this salad beautifully. Toasted walnuts or pecans are both acceptable substitutions.
- Homemade croutons (optional): Everyone loves a crisp, crunchy crouton, not just because they add texture to a salad, but because they balance the acidity of most dressings. Instructions for making easy homemade croutons are included in our recipe notes.
How to Make Hearty Farro Salad
Here’s an overview of how to make this dish. The ingredient list, quantities, step-by-step instructions, and notes are in the recipe’s printable version below.
Cook the butternut squash: Place a sheet pan in the oven and set it to preheat. Break up the squash cubes, add them to a mixing bowl, and toss them with olive oil, making sure they are thoroughly coated. Once the oven has preheated, transfer the squash to the hot baking sheet and spread in a single layer, leaving a little space between the cubes to allow for browning. Season lightly, roast for about 10 minutes, then toss and sprinkle with brown sugar. Continue roasting until tender and caramelized.
Prepare the toppings: While the squash is roasting, finish prepping the toppings. Note: If you’re making croutons, save yourself a pan and pop them in the oven before you roast the squash (instructions in the printable recipe notes). Slice the radishes, tomatoes, and red onion, and measure the crumbled goat cheese. Plump the dried cranberries by soaking them in hot water. Drain and pat dry before using. Toast the pine nuts in a small non-stick pan over medium heat.
Make the orange vinaigrette: To make the dressing, whisk orange juice, rice vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard, and garlic together in a small bowl. Slowly add the olive oil and continue whisking until well blended.
Finish the salads: To assemble the salads, divide the farro between four serving bowls, add portions of roasted squash and salad greens. Top with cranberries, pine nuts, goat cheese, radishes, tomatoes, red onion, and croutons. Drizzle each salad with dressing and serve immediately.
Make Ahead Tips
This recipe calls for cooked farro which can be prepared and refrigerated three to five days in advance. The butternut squash can be roasted a day ahead, refrigerated, and brought to room temperature before serving. Both the toasting of the pine nuts and prepping of the croutons can be done a day in advance. They should be refrigerated and brought to room temperature before serving as well. The dressing can be made ahead too (be sure to whisk). The dried cranberries, salad greens, radishes, onions, and tomatoes however should be prepped just before serving.
Hearty Farro Salad
- 4 servings cooked farro
- 10 ounces frozen butternut squash cubes, (or fresh – see notes for cooking instructions)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons dried cranberries
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 1 cup crumbled goat cheese
- Salad greens
- 4 Radishes, thinly sliced
- 8 Cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 4 Thin slices of red onion, separated into rings
- 1 cup homemade toasted croutons, optional (see notes)
For the orange vinaigrette:
- 3 tablespoons orange juice
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1/2 clove garlic, pressed
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cook the butternut squash
- Place a sheet pan in the oven and set it to preheat to 425°F. If the squash cubes are stuck together, break them up and add them to a mixing bowl. Toss with the olive oil, making sure the squash cubes are thoroughly coated.
- Once the oven has preheated, transfer the squash to the hot baking sheet and spread in a single layer, leaving a little space between the cubes to allow for browning.
- Season lightly with salt and pepper and roast for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, toss with a spatula to ensure even browning, and sprinkle with brown sugar. Continue roasting until the squash is tender and nicely caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Prepare the toppings
- While the squash is roasting, finish prepping the toppings. Note: If you're making croutons, save yourself a pan and pop them in the oven before you roast the squash (instructions below).
- Slice the radishes, tomatoes, and red onion, and measure the goat cheese.
- Plump the dried cranberries by soaking them in hot water for 10 minutes. Drain and pat dry before using.
- Toast the pine nuts in a small non-stick pan over medium heat. Shake the pan occasionally to ensure even browning. Watch carefully because pine nuts burn quite easily.
Make the orange vinaigrette
- To make the dressing, whisk the orange juice, rice vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard, and garlic together in a small bowl. Slowly add the olive oil and continue whisking until well blended.
Finish the salads
- To assemble the salads, divide the farro between four serving bowls, add portions of roasted squash and salad greens.
- Top with cranberries, pine nuts, goat cheese, radishes, tomatoes, red onion, and croutons. Drizzle each salad with dressing and serve immediately.