This Harvest Cobb Salad is full of fall textures and flavors from roasted butternut squash, toasty pecans, crispy bacon, apples, dried cranberries, and a maple vinaigrette that’s so good you could drink it. Atop a bed of mixed salad greens and kale—this fall harvest salad is one heck of a hearty entrée salad!
What makes up a chicken (or turkey) cobb salad?
The classic cobb salad is an American main-dish salad packed with a variety of flavors, textures and protein. The base of the salad most often consists of chopped crisp lettuce such as romaine or iceberg, and is topped with tomato, crispy bacon, roasted chicken, hard-boiled eggs, avocado, blue cheese, chives and a basic red wine vinaigrette.
Harvest salad: a fall twist on the classic chicken cobb salad
I changed most everything about the chicken cobb salad for my fall, or “harvest” version. Of course I kept the good stuff, like the bacon, but revamped the rest. Instead of crisp flavorless lettuce (not hating—there’s a time and place) I instead use more nutrient-dense kale and mixed salad greens. Not only are they healthier, but I find they pair better with the autumn flavors of the dish.
In keeping with tradition, this salad does still feature roasted chicken and bacon—but frankly it would also be delicious with leftover turkey from Thanksgiving, which is why I’ve listed either in the ingredient list.
The toppings also include roasted butternut squash, toasted pecans (toasted is a MUST), sweet red apple, dried cranberries, and finally, nutty strips of Manchego cheese. Ahh this is one of my favorite salads!
How to toast nuts
The best way to toast nuts is to arrange them on a baking sheet in an even layer and toast in a 350°F oven. Depending on the type of nut, it can take anywhere from 5–10 minutes, pecans will take about 8 minutes. To ensure even toasting, give the baking sheet a quick toss halfway through baking.
The key to know when nuts are done toasting? You’ll start to smell their nutty aroma! But set a timer for 5 minutes to check them, then keep setting timers until they’re done—they can easily be forgotten!
I prefer the oven method over the stove-top method because it’s quicker, the nuts toast more evenly, and it’s easier to avoid burning the nuts.
Massage the kale?
Depending on the type of kale you’re using—giving it a quick 30 seconds to a minute of massaging goes a long way. Regular kale (with the frilly, curly leaves) and Lacinato kale, also labeled Tuscan kale (with the flatter, bubbly leave), are tough and fibrous. Not a bad thing—but can be a mouthful in a salad.
To avoid a chewing catastrophe, chop or tear the kale into bite sized pieces, add to a large bowl, and massage for about 30 seconds using your hands—squeezing and pressing—until the kale is somewhat softened.
If you aren’t a fan of mature kale, simply grab some baby kale at the store and mix that in. It’s also nutritious, but a bit more tender!
Variations on this harvest salad:
- Swap some of the oil in the vinaigrette for a few tablespoons of warm bacon drippings.
- Swap the butternut squash for acorn squash, pumpkin or sweet potato.
- Swap the pecans for pumpkin seeds.
- Swap the chicken or turkey for white beans or lentils to make it vegetarian (leave the bacon out).
- Make it more “fall” and use apple cider vinegar for the vinaigrette (which would make a delicious cider vinaigrette with the maple syrup!)
What to serve with this chicken cobb salad:
- Healthy Skillet Cornbread
- Garlic Naan Bread
- Milk Bread Rolls
- Grain-Free Nut & Seed Bread
- Garlic Rosemary Focaccia
More salad recipes you may also like…
- Moroccan Carrot Salad
- French Lentil & Salmon Salad
- Mediterranea Pasta Salad
- Salmon Cake Niçoise Salad
- Winter Salad with Oranges and Candied Pistachios
- Autumn Kale Apple Salad
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Don’t forget, if you make this Fall Harvest Salad, leave a comment and rating below!
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Harvest Cobb Salad with Butternut Squash
- 4 cups butternut squash cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 4 slices bacon
- 4 cups chopped kale
- 6 cups mixed spring greens
- 2 cups cooked shredded turkey or chicken 8 ounces
- 1 Honeycrisp or Jonathan apple cored and diced
- ⅔ cup pecan halves toasted and chopped
- ⅓ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup peeled Manchego or Parmesan 2 ounces
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons minced shallot
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Place squash on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil, ½ salt, and ¼ pepper; toss to coat. Arrange the squash in a single layer and roast until squash is tender, 25–30 minutes, tossing halfway through.
- Meanwhile, cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crispy. Transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and discard drippings; chop bacon.
- Add kale to a large serving bowl or platter and briefly massage and squeeze kale to soften. Add greens and toss to combine.
- Arrange roasted squash, chopped bacon, shredded turkey or chicken, apple, pecans, cranberries, and Manchego over top.
- Whisk together oil, vinegar, shallot, maple syrup and Dijon in a small liquid measuring cup. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Drizzle vinaigrette over salad and toss to combine; season salad with salt and pepper to taste.