5 Ingredients or Fewer

Butternut Squash Salad With Feta, Dates & Chile

October 12, 2020
11 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine. Food Stylist: Samantha Seneviratne.
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6 as a side
Author Notes

Yes, you can eat butternut squash raw. And you should! When left in its natural state—not roasted, not sautéed, not boiled—it tastes like the superhero alter-ego of a carrot, with a buttery flavor, snappy texture, and ultra-vivid color.

Though you can shave the squash into ribbons (see this salad from our co-founder Amanda Hesser), I love the crunch of matchsticks. Salting these amplifies their flavor and wilts their texture just enough.

A note about the other ingredients: Any hot pepper works, depending on your preference. Fresno, serrano, and jalapeño are all popular with me. Likewise, the vinegar is flexible here—rice is a soft-spoken backdrop, cider brings lots of fall vibes, and red or white wine never hurt anybody. Work with what you’ve got. In lieu of dates, dried tart cherries would be awesome. And try to find a block of feta in water if you’ve can—it’s loads livelier than the pre-crumbeld sort.

This is one of our Big Little Recipes, our weekly column all about dishes with big flavor and little ingredient lists. Do you know (and love) a recipe that’s low in ask, high in reward? Let us know in the comments.Emma Laperruque

What You'll Need
  • 1 to 2 fresh chiles
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 medium to large butternut squash
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 Medjool dates
  • 4 ounces feta
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Thinly slice the chile(s) and combine in a small bowl with the vinegar.
  2. Peel the squash and chop into thin-as-possible matchsticks. (I like to do this by cutting the top part into rounds, stacking those, and julienning. Then you can halve the bottom part, scoop out the seeds, and julienne from there.) Add the squash matchsticks to a large bowl and season generously with salt.
  3. Halve, pit, and slice the dates. Add to the butternut squash, along with the chiles and vinegar. Break apart the feta with your fingers and sprinkle on top. Drizzle with oil (I eyeball a couple tablespoons) and toss. Adjust the salt, vinegar, and oil as needed.
  4. Transfer to a serving platter if that’s your thing.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Elizabeth Detrich
    Elizabeth Detrich
  • Barb Vanorsdale Hartley
    Barb Vanorsdale Hartley
  • Kathy Bowen Sorells
    Kathy Bowen Sorells
  • Emma Laperruque
    Emma Laperruque
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

18 Reviews

sara March 1, 2023
what a great idea!!!!! so many possibilities Any suggestion for switching out the Feta @emma for a non-dairy option?
Carroll N. December 24, 2020
I highly recommend this salad. I was not sure about raw butternut squash, but I'm glad I gave it a try. I like to add more dates. Also, I was concerned it would be too hot, so I didn't include the jalapeño seeds and pith, but did use two peppers. It is a nice change!
Elizabeth D. November 21, 2020
We made this as a Thanksgiving side dish - it was so delicious! There wasn't one drop left. I used goat's milk Feta from the Marin Cheese Company. Delicious, tart, and very moist, not dry like the typical supermarket variety. Marin Co's Sheep's milk Feta is also delicious!
Elizabeth D. November 21, 2020
I would add, I made this as a test run for Thanksgiving dinner. It bears mentioning, this recipe requires a lot of chopping (hand strength), knife skills and a sharp knife will go a long way. If not, shave the squash on a box grater or use a food processor.
Merry November 9, 2020
Another winner from Emma - this was just amazing and like others, our first time to eat raw butternut squash. A great combination of crunchy, sweet and tart! Oh, and beautiful, too.
Heather B. November 6, 2020
Made this today for lunch - really tasty, and this is going to be a big favourite!
nicole October 20, 2020
Took this to a girls night with a bunch of foodies and it was a big hit. At first glance, a couple of folks thought it was a big bowl of cheddar cheese! LOL. Will make it again.
Neena October 20, 2020
I like all the ingredients in this salad. I was a little hesitant to use raw butternut squash. I made the salad. My husband had one bite and asked if I was suppose to cook the butternut squash . I said no as this is a healthy salad. He could not stop eating it. I loved the colors of the salad and the flavors are well balanced. A perfect salad for the Fall. I recently discovered Food 52 and Emma. I am on a mission to try other recipes from her,
Barb V. October 18, 2020
OMGS!!! I love this almost as much as I love my Basset Hound! I only used about 1/3 of the squash because it is just hubby & me. I cut down the other ingredients accordingly, except for the peppers and vinegar. I used 2 serrano peppers and white wine vinegar. I may cut back to one pepper next time I make it. We love spicy food, but this was almost too much.
anne7hall October 18, 2020
Keeper recipe alert! This is soooo good. Make it now.
Carol W. October 17, 2020
We were not sure about raw butternut squash, but all I can say is WOW! The squash is softer than a carrot and has tons of flavor. I used a nondairy feta because I have dairy allergy. We loved this recipe! Are there other squash that can also be eaten raw, like a delicata squash?
mingus October 15, 2020
I made this last night, and my husband made a funny face when he saw it--and then raved about it after he ate it. I agree; it's going into our seasonal rotation! I'm not a strict recipe follower, and I had a small-ish (8") squash, so I added the full 4 oz of feta, and minced 8 dates together with that one last candied jalapeno I had in the bottom of the jar. Tossed it all with a little apple cider vinegar, olive oil and a pinch of salt, and voila! It looked exactly like your photo, but we ate most of it before I thought to take a picture. What a brilliant alternative to roasting!
Emma L. October 15, 2020
Yay so happy to hear it!
S October 14, 2020
Did I miss a step where the butternut squash is rinsed after sufficiently salted? If not, won't it make the salad too salty when the feta is added? In addition to the extra liquid in the bowl after salting. So, what do you say is the right approach?
Emma L. October 14, 2020
No need to rinse! Just add as much salt as you’d like to taste. The salt seasons the squash and slightly wilts its texture, but doesn’t draw out a noticeable amount of water (as it would with, say, a cucumber or zucchini).
Kathy B. October 13, 2020
Check out this website to get the answer to the "honey-like" residue:http://www.gardeningblog.net/2011/10/12/why-butternut-squash-hurts-your-hands/

Thanks for a great alternative to preparing a butternut squash. Sincerely, Kathy
Emma L. October 14, 2020
Thanks for sharing this link, Kathy!
cosmiccook November 10, 2020
That and the smell of Butternut squash is why I don't care for it!