Spicy Shrimp & Winter Squash Salad with Crispy Onions

Spicy Shrimp and Winter Squash Salad with Cilantro and Crispy Onions

Seldom do I get excited about salads, especially ones made at home.

Don’t get me wrong, I love salads. But I find it hard for some reason to make a really good salad at home that I would be satisfied eating for lunch or dinner by itself. I think the reason behind this is because when I cook at home I almost always prefer making something spicy, and the only spicy salads I make are the Thai variety that usually accompany another main dish. So when I found myself getting excited about making this salad at home, I knew it would be worth the experiment. And it was! 

The combination of shrimp and squash/pumpkin might sound weird to some, but if you like these two things individually then you should give this salad a try. I thought the flavors really worked well together. Shrimp curry with calabaza squash (mishti kumro chingri) is a classic Bengali dish (one of my childhood favorites), and I was trying to recreate and play with those flavors in a salad form. I might add more heat with fresh green chilies and a pinch more cumin next time I make this, as I’m pretty sure I’ll be craving it a few more times before the end of winter squash season!


  • Shrimp, 8-10 pieces
  • Winter squash (such as delicata or acorn squash), 1/2 of one medium-sized squash
  • Romaine lettuce (or use mixed greens), one small head, shredded
  • Bell peppers, 1/2 of one red & 1/2 of one green, chopped
  • Olive oil, 2 tbsp
  • Trader Joe’s cilantro dressing, 2 tbsp
  • Chili-garlic sauce or sriracha, 2 tbsp
  • Fresh cilantro (optional), finely minced
  • Paprika, 1 tsp (if you like more heat, use 1/4-1/2 tsp of cayenne instead, or add a bit of red chili flakes)
  • Sumac, 1/2 tsp
  • Cumin, 1 tsp
  • Crispy fried onions, 1/4 cup
  • Roasted squash seeds (optional), 2 tsps
  • Salt & pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Season half of one winter squash with the paprika (or cayenne), sumac, cumin, salt, pepper and half of the olive oil. Roast in 400 F oven for 25-35 minutes, or until slightly golden. When roasting is complete, let the squash cool down and then slice into 1-inch or bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
  3. Heat remaining olive oil on a skillet. Add shrimp, chili-garlic sauce or sriracha, cilantro dressing and fresh chopped cilantro, if using. Cook the shrimp thoroughly on low-medium heat, about 5-8 minutes, and set aside to cool along with any liquids remaining in the pan (you can also use frozen pre-cooked shrimp, which just needs to be heated for a couple of minutes to thaw/warm). The liquids collected in the pan will become the dressing for the salad, so add more cilantro and chilli-garlic sauce if everything dries out during the cooking process.
  4. Combine the lettuce and chopped peppers in a large bowl. Toss in roasted squash , shrimp, remaining cilantro-chili-garlic dressing and all of the crispy fried onions. Mix gently, taking care not to break pieces of squash.
  5. Test salt and seasonings, adding more chili-garlic & cilantro dressing if necessary. Top with roasted squash seeds or more crispy onions if desired.
  6. Serve immediately.


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