Autumn Caesar Salad with Roasted Delicata Squash Croutons

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Give classic Caesar salad a fall-inspired twist! This Autumn Caesar Salad recipe has all the familiar flavors of the classic but uses hearty, in-season ingredients to create extra-satisfying textures. Simply toss massaged kale with shaved parmesan, toasted pine nuts, parmesan roasted delicata squash "croutons," & your favorite Caesar dressing.

Easy to make & perfect for meal prep lunches, fall dinner parties, & special occasions like Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving, this hearty fall Caesar salad is one of our favorite fall recipes ever!

An overhead shot of fall caesar salad inside of a cream colored ceramic bowl that sits atop a creamy white textured surface. The bowl is surrounded by a burnt orange colored linen napkin, a small ceramic bowl filled with shaved parmesan, and a few loose sprigs of fresh thyme. Two gold spoons rest inside of the bowl for serving.

This Simple Fall Salad Is One of the Best We’ve Ever Made!

This Autumn Caesar Salad recipe is easily our #1 fall obsession. The first time I made it for dinner, Chris took one bite, turned to me, & said it was the best fall recipe we’ve created all this year. Winning Chris over with a salad recipe of all things is a serious achievement, so you know it’s legit!

We love it so much because it has all the flavor you expect from classic Caesar (like nutty parmesan & creamy dressing), but adds tons more texture with hearty kale & toasty pine nuts. The delicata squash “croutons” are easily the star of the show though. Bite-sized roasted delicata squash crusted with herbs & cheese is a fun, in-season way to mimic the classic croutons of a Caesar salad. They’re the BEST!

We’ve pretty much been eating this fall Caesar salad over & over. We love that it’s hearty enough to enjoy all on its own, but you can easily add some crispy parmesan chicken or Italian meatballs for a little something extra. The festive fall flavors are also great for dinner parties or special occasions like Thanksgiving. It gets rave reviews from everyone who tries it – a guaranteed crowd-pleaser!

Autumn Caesar Salad Recipe Highlights

You’ll absolutely fall for this Caesar salad. 🍂 It’s…

CLASSIC WITH A SEASONAL TWIST. Seasonal ingredients like hearty kale & delicata squash give classic Caesar salad heartier flavors & textures suited for fall.

EASY & VERSATILE. You can whip up a fall Caesar salad super quickly & adapt the greens, squash, & nuts to what you love most. Enjoy it as a satisfying lunch or serve it to a big crowd.

CHRIS-APPROVED. We love this recipe here at the PWWB House! When Chris said a SALAD was one of his favorite recipes we’ve made this season, I knew we nailed it. 😏

This Caesar is seriously NEXT-LEVEL. An instant fall classic! ♡ Read on to learn more about how to make Autumn Caesar Salad, or jump straight to the recipe & get cooking!

Key Ingredients

One thing I absolutely love about this autumn Caesar salad recipe is the fact that you only need a handful of simple ingredients to create a hearty meal with epic seasonally-inspired flavor.

Note: Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.

You need…

  • Kale – Hearty kale adds tons of irresistible texture to a classic Caesar salad, typically made with crunchy romaine. I love it! If kale isn’t your favorite, we have plenty of tips & tricks below to help you prepare the best kale salad but you can always sub it with any of your other favorite greens (spinach, arugula, spring mix, etc.).
  • Squash “croutons” – Our favorite part of this salad! Inspired by our Parmesan Roasted Delicata Squash, these “croutons” come together by roasting bite-sized cubes of delicata squash with breadcrumbs, parmesan, garlic, & fresh herbs until tender & golden.
  • Nuts – Both pine nuts & chopped walnuts work well here, your choice!
  • Shaved parmesan – A Caesar salad classic!
  • Lemon juice – Not only does it add a welcomed brightness to this rich & creamy salad, lemon’s natural acidity helps break down the fibrous texture of kale.
  • Caesar dressing – I opt for my favorite store-bought Caesar dressing for ease. If you prefer to make your own, please go for it! The dressing is truly what makes Caesar salad.
Ingredient Spotlight

Caesar Dressing

Caesar salad is an iconic dish with an unexpected origin story. Legend has it that a French-inspired Italian chef, Caesar Cardini, created the iconic recipe after immigrating to North America. At the time, he was operating a restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico. On a busy day in 1924, when running low on ingredients, the only thing he could whip up was crisp romaine lettuce tossed in a creamy dressing. There are also claims that his brother, Alex, invented the salad first. (Read all the juicy drama!)

How to make Caesar salad dressing? ⇢ The invention of Caesar salad was so iconic because of its unique creaminess. Caesar dressing is an emulsification of raw egg & olive oil typically seasoned with anchovies, Worcestershire sauce, parmesan cheese, &/or lemon juice (though the original recipe likely used lime, aka limón in Spanish – an easy mix-up!).

While there’s truly nothing better than a from-scratch Caesar dressing, at home, I often turn to store-bought versions for ease. We like using Newman’s Own Creamy Caesar because it’s super creamy & packed with restaurant-quality flavor. You can really taste the anchovy & garlic, but these intense flavors are also balanced with bright lemon.

Parmesan Crusted Roasted Delicata Squash “Croutons”

These delicata squash “croutons” are my favorite component of this fall Caesar salad recipe. An easy adaptation of our popular Parmesan Crusted Roasted Delicata Squash recipe, bite-sized pieces of delicata squash are roasted with breadcrumbs, herbs, & cheese for a fun way to mimic the classic croutons of a Caesar salad. Sweet-savory seasonal goodness!

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

If delicata is a new-to-you winter squash, you’re in for such a treat. A few FAQs to get you started…

What is delicata squash? ⇢ In my opinion, it’s is the most underrated winter squash! You can identify delicata by its signature dark green & white/light yellow striped pattern & oblong, scalloped shape. Inside, you’ll find a sweet, tender flesh that’s super easy to roast.

Can you eat delicata squash skin? ⇢ Yes, it’s possibly the best thing about delicata squash! You do not need to peel delicata squash because its skin is super tender & it takes on the most wonderful crispy texture when roasted.

How to break down delicata squash for roasting? ⇢ Simply trim off its ends, cut it in half lengthwise, & use a spoon to scrape the seeds from its center using a spoon. From there, slice each piece crosswise into ½-inch half-moons, then slice each into a few bite-sized pieces – the perfect crouton alternative!

How to prepare roasted delicata squash croutons

1

Prepare the delicata squash for roasting.  Place the bite-sized pieces of squash on a baking sheet, then toss with a little olive oil & S&P. Arrange the seasoned squash in an even layer such that the individual pieces are situated kind of snugly against each other. Why? ⇢ This arrangement creates a lot of surface area for the crispy parmesan-panko crust, helping prevent burning.

2

Prep the parmesan-panko crust. This flavorful & crispy panko breadcrumb topping is super easy to prepare & adds a ton flavor & texture! In a small bowl, combine panko breadcrumbs, grated parmesan, chopped fresh herbs, garlic & a little olive oil. The mixture should be wet enough to press together, but still relatively crumbly. Sprinkle the mixture over the delicata, pressing it down so it adheres to the squash.

3

Roast the delicata squash “croutons.” Transfer to the oven & roast until the squash is tender & the crispy topping is browned, about 20-25 minutes. Tip! ⇢ If you’d like to add nuts to your autumn Caesar salad, sprinkle them on the sheet pan with the squash in the last 5 minutes of roasting, toasting the nuts beautifully by the time the squash “croutons” are ready to pull from the oven!

Prepping & Massaging Kale for Salad

This Autumn Caesar salad recipe gets another fall-inspired twist with its greens. Rather than using classic crunchy romaine lettuce, we’ve opted for hearty, in-season kale. Kale is one of my favorite greens, especially for a nutrient-dense salad. If you’ve tried it before & haven’t liked it, chances are it wasn’t prepared properly – it needs a little bit of TLC to ensure it’s nice & tender!

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

Preparing whole kale for a salad. ⇢ I always recommend buying kale whole rather than in the pre-shredded bags. Shredding kale on your own is quite simple, & it has such better texture than the bagged stuff. Here’s what you’ll do…

1

Destem the kale. Grab hold of the leaf at the base of the stem, then slide your hand along the stem to easily separate the leaf (you can also do this with a knife, if you prefer!). Why? ⇢ Kale stems are super tough & a bit more bitter than the leaves, so there’s no need to use them for kale salad. Compost the stems (or give them to your pups!).

2

Finely chop. Stack a few destemmed kale leaves, then tightly roll them into a bundle. From there, use a large knife to chop the pile of kale leaves into finely shredded pieces – the finer the better!

3

Massage. The key to a tender, easy-to-chew kale salad! Place the shredded kale in a large bowl with some finely sliced shallots, freshly squeezed lemon juice, & a good pinch of coarse salt. Using your hands, really work the salt & lemon juice into the kale, until it softens & turns vibrantly green. Why? ⇢ Massaging helps break down kale’s tough, fibrous texture, making it easier to chew. This tiny step makes a HUGE difference in the texture of your greens.

Meal Prep Tip!

Shredded kale will keep for about 1 week in the refrigerator. Destem & finely chop the kale (through Step 2 above), then transfer it to a resealable bag or airtight container, nestling a paper towel against the kale to capture any excess moisture & prevent it from spoiling. At dinnertime, all you have to do is pull it out of the fridge & give it its massage – easy!

Fall Caesar Salad Assembly (+ Easy Variations)

With the squash “croutons” roasted & the kale prepped & massaged, assembling your autumn Caesar salad is as simple as tossing it all together in a bowl – easy!

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

Autumn Caesar salad assembly. To the large bowl of massaged kale, add the roasted squash croutons, toasted nuts (if using), & shaved parmesan. Generously season with ground black pepper, then drizzle your Caesar dressing of choice over top & toss to combine well. Give it a taste to see what it needs – a little extra salt & lemon juice will help the flavors pop.

Simple salad variations. ⇢ One thing I love about this recipe is how versatile it is – it’s fall, after all, so there are tons of amazing ingredients to choose from! Feel free to use whatever components you love most or mix it up just for fun. A few ideas to get you started…

  • Use other greens. If you don’t love kale, feel free to use classic romaine lettuce. You can also grab some baby spinach or your favorite spring mix – whatever you love!
  • Try other seasonal squashes. If you have trouble sourcing delicata squash, other hardy winter squash like butternut or acorn squash work well. Don’t forget to peel your squash, as needed, depending on the variety you choose!
  • Make your own Caesar dressing for a real-deal Caesar salad. I love this recipe.
  • For a vegetarian fall Caesar salad, be sure to use rennet-free parmesan.
  • For a vegan fall Caesar salad, be sure to use dairy-free parmesan & plant-based Caesar dressing – this recipe is great!

Serving Suggestions

This fall Caesar salad is seriously SO good all on its own – the hearty kale, roasted squash, & toasted nuts always leave us feeling super satisfied.

Feel free to amp up the heartiness by adding a protein like shredded rotisserie chicken or our favorite Crispy Parmesan Crusted Chicken. Sliced roasted sausage or Italian-style meatballs are also delicious! There are tons of different ways to enjoy this salad all fall long & never get bored.

Feeding a crowd? ⇢ As written, this autumn Caesar salad recipe is a great hearty entrée salad for 2 or side salad for up to 4. Feel free to scale it up for a fall dinner party, Thanksgiving, or Friendsgiving. (Look for the “scale” button in the recipe card below to easily double or triple the recipe.) Everyone will LOVE having this fall salad as either a hearty main or festive side!

We can’t wait for you to try this Autumn Caesar Salad! It’s truly one of the best salads we’ve ever had here at the PWWB House. Everyone who tries it loves it, & we’re pretty sure you will too!

If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. We LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations! ♡ Happy cooking!

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A close up macro shot of autumn caesar salad inside of a cream colored ceramic bowl that sits atop a creamy white textured surface.

Autumn Caesar Salad with Roasted Delicata Squash Croutons

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 1 review
  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: serves 2-4 1x
  • Category: Entree Salads & Bowls, Side Dish Recipes
  • Method: Roasted
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

This Autumn Caesar Salad is easily the most well-loved recipe we’ve shared here on PWWB this fall! It’s one of Chris’ favorite recipes we’ve made all year & it’s gotten rave reviews from everyone who has tried it since. 

One of the reasons we love it so much is that it has all the flavor & texture you crave from a classic Caesar salad, but it uses in-season ingredients for the perfect fall-inspired twist. 

We’ve swapped classic crunchy romaine lettuce for massaged kale to create an especially hearty & nutrient-dense base to the salad, & the “croutons” are bite-sized pieces of parmesan-panko crusted roasted delicata squash. Toss it all in your favorite Caesar dressing, & dinner is served – so simple, so satisfying, & so perfectly seasonal!

Perfect for meal prep lunches, fall dinner parties, & special occasions like Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving, this hearty fall Caesar salad is one of our favorite fall recipes ever, & we can’t wait for you to try it. Be sure to check the Recipe Notes, below, for a few serving suggestions + easy variations. ♡ Happy autumn!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 bunch kale, destemmed & shredded or finely chopped (about 3 cups chopped) ⁠
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced⁠
  • ½ lemon, juiced⁠
  • delicata squash “croutons” (below)⁠
  • ⅓ cup pine nuts or chopped walnuts
  • ⅓ cup shaved parmesan⁠
  • ⅓ cup Caesar dressing of choice

for the squash croutons:⁠

  • 1 medium delicata squash (roughly 1 pound), deseeded & sliced into 1/2-inch cubes⁠
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided⁠
  • ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs⁠
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan⁠
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped hardy fresh herbs, such as rosemary, sage, or thyme
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper⁠, to season

Instructions

  1. Prep: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, ensuring an oven rack is positioned in the top third of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil for easy clean up & set aside. Gather & prep ingredients according to Ingredients List, above, e.g. clean & chop the squash, destem & shred the kale, etc.Autumn caesar salad ingredients arranged on a creamy white textured surface: kale, shallot, lemon, delicata squash, pine nuts or chopped walnuts, parmesan, Caesar dressing, olive oil, panko breadcrumbs, garlic, and hardy fresh herbs.
  2. Prepare the squash: Place the cubed delicata on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil, seasoning with a good pinch salt & ground black pepper as desired. Toss to combine, then arrange in an even, flat layer. In a medium bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, parmesan, garlic, & fresh herbs. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over top, then toss to combine well – the mixture should be relatively crumbly but wet enough to clump when pressed together. Sprinkle the parmesan coating over the seasoned delicata squash, pressing to adhere.Cubed & seasoned delicata squash is arranged atop a baking sheet pan that sits atop a creamy white textured surface prior to being roasted to make delicata squash "croutons" for Fall caesar salad.
  3. Roast the squash croutons: Transfer to the oven & roast 20-25 minutes, until the squash is tender & the parmesan crust is golden brown. In the last 3-4 minutes of roasting, add the pine nuts or chopped walnuts to the sheet pan to toast. Remove from the oven & set aside.Roasted delicata squash "croutons" for autumn caesar salad are arranged atop a baking sheet pan that sits atop a creamy white textured surface.
  4. Massage the kale: Meanwhile, as the squash roasts, massage the kale. Place the shredded or finely chopped kale in a large bowl, topping with the thinly sliced shallots & a good pinch of salt. Squeeze the lemon juice over top. Use your hands to massage the kale,  working the lemon into the leaves until they’re vibrant green & wilty. Set aside. ⁠Kale massaged in lemon juice fills a large clear glass mixing bowl that sits atop a creamy white textured surface.
  5. Assembly: To the massaged kale, add the squash croutons, toasted nuts, & shaved parmesan. Drizzle the Caesar dressing over top, then toss to combine well. Taste & season with additional salt & ground black pepper as needed. Serve immediately. Enjoy!A close up macro shot of autumn caesar salad inside of a cream colored ceramic bowl that sits atop a creamy white textured surface. A gold spoon rests inside of the bowl for serving.

Notes

  • Ingredient Notes:
    • Delicata squash is my favorite winter squash. Its flavor is naturally sweet, & its skin is tender enough to eat – no peeling required! Identify it by its signature dark green & white/light yellow striped pattern & oblong, scalloped shape. If you cannot find delicata squash, cubed butternut squash is a great substitute for this recipe – aim for about 3 cups cubed. 
    • Easy Variations: This Autumn Caesar Salad recipe is naturally meatless. For a vegetarian version, omit the asiago/parmesan or use your favorite rennet-free asiago/parmesan. To take it a step further & make it vegan, opt for your favorite dairy-free asiago/parmesan instead or omit added cheese altogether & use your favorite plant-based Caesar dressing. 
  • Portions & Serving Suggestions:
    • Portions: As written, this recipe yields a large salad, suitable for feeding 2 as a main dish (perhaps with another add-in) or 4 as a side dish. To feed a larger crowd at a fall dinner party or Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving celebration, feel free to double or triple as needed. 
    • Serving Suggestions: While we love the flavors & textures of this salad all on their own, you can easily add a protein to make it a little heartier. To keep things simple, toss in some shredded rotisserie chicken or slice some chicken sausage up to roast alongside the squash croutons. For a next-level add-in, cube up some Crispy Parmesan Crusted Chicken or serve with meatballs – delicious! 
  • Storage & Make-Ahead: 
    • Storage Instructions: While best enjoyed fresh, Autumn Caesar Salad leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Enjoy leftovers cold or at room temperature.
    • Make-Ahead Instructions: This Autumn Caesar Salad is best enjoyed fresh, within a few hours of assembly. If you’d like to make it ahead of time, for meal prep or a holiday dinner, I suggest prepping the components in advance. Roast the squash croutons, massage the kale, & store in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator. At dinnertime, simply toss together as directed in Step 5, above. 
  • 10-Minute Meal Prep: Despite it being a pretty simple recipe, a little meal prep goes a long way in pulling this Autumn Caesar Salad recipe together for a weeknight dinner or holiday meal. Take care of chopping the squash & kale in advance – it takes 10 minutes, tops – & you can jump straight into roasting & assembly at dinnertime!
    • Destem & finely shred 1 bunch of kale. 1 Halve, deseed, & slice 1 large delicata squash into ½-inch pieces. Finely chop your fresh herbs of choice. Transfer to separate airtight containers & store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. (10 minutes active prep)

Recipe and Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.

A close up macro shot of autumn caesar salad inside of a cream colored ceramic bowl that sits atop a creamy white textured surface.

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Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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Comments

  1. 11.20.23
    Lisa said:

    Would any type of squash work in place of the one listed in the recipe?

    • 11.21.23
      Emma @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Lisa, cubed butternut squash would be a great substitute for the delicata squash!! Hope that helps 🙂

  2. 10.22.23
    Marie said:

    Another vote for best salad I’ve ever had in my life. My guests had multiple helpings!!

    • 10.23.23
      Emma @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      We LOVE to hear that!! Thank you for the kind comment, Marie!

  3. 3.5.23
    Brooke said:

    This was the BEST salad I have ever had in my lifetime! My husband has requested it every week since I made it & I’m always happy to oblige. I did use Newman’s Own Creamy Ceaser dressing, but thats the only thing I did to make my life easier. Brilliant recipe!!!






    • 3.6.23
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      You definitely can’t go wrong with the Newman’s Own Creamy Caesar! We’re so glad you enjoyed this salad & that it’s become a new favorite for your family!