Creamy, crunchy, and vibrant this easy broccoli salad recipe makes a popular side dish for all your summer cookouts or outdoor picnic gatherings. Equally delicious cold or at room temperature, it only gets better as it sits and soaks up all the flavours.
A Broccoli Salad Recipe To Love
In honour of Summer, I always go on a bit of a salad bender. I will make a leafy green salad almost every night and it always gets devoured. Occasionally, to keep things interesting, I enjoy making salads with leafless vegetables, or fruit, and omit any leafy greens. This broccoli salad, a true blast from picnics-past, is one I have revisited lately and I’m absolutely loving.
If you’ve had your share of mayo-globbed, flavourless broccoli salads at outdoor parties or picnics through the years, I know this recipe isn’t making you turn cartwheels. But hear me out, this one isn’t like that. There is a creamy dressing in this broccoli salad, yes, but it’s made with tangy yogurt and just a bit of vegenaise. Lots of lemon juice, vinegar, and a bit of honey keep the dressing light and fresh, and just a tad healthier.
The rest of the ingredients in this broccoli salad stay pretty classic; nuts, seeds, salty bacon, cheese, and handfuls of irresistible sweet-tart dried cherries. Loaded with crunchy little broccoli florets, this salad is light, refreshing, easy to make, and will be a nostalgic hit to offer up at your next cookout. Best of all, this broccoli salad is similar to a slaw salad which benefits from being made ahead and keeps well in the fridge for days.
Ingredients And Notes
I love a salad that has a lot going on with contrasting flavours and textures. This one, full of crunchy ingredients and a creamy dressing, really fits the bill. It’s also a very easy one to customize so feel free to adapt the ingredients to your needs and preferences.
- Broccoli – We are using an entire head of broccoli for this salad, including the stalk which gets shaved and chopped into tiny pieces. Yes it’s a little more work to chop up the stalks but they’re truly delicious, and nutritious, and it would be a shame to waste them.
- Bacon – I rarely buy bacon but wow is it delicious in this broccoli salad! I use turkey bacon because I really enjoy the more mild flavour but use regular bacon if you prefer. If you opt to use turkey bacon, keep in mind it is still a processed food, with high sodium and fat content so use it sparingly.
- Red Onion – For punchy flavour. If you prefer, you could use white onion or thinly sliced scallions.
- Raisins or dried Cranberries – Raisins are a more classic ingredient in broccoli salads but I love the sweet-tart flavour of cranberries.
- Toasted seeds and nuts – To add more crunchy goodness I use a mix of pepitas (pumpkin seeds), sunflower seeds, and almonds. Feel free to leave the nuts out if allergies are a concern.
- Cheese – I used a bit of cubed Manchego cheese which is creamy and slightly mild and we absolutely love it in this salad. A sharp cheddar would also be great and so would a creamy goat cheese or feta. If you’re dairy free, use your favourite vegan cheese, or simply leave the cheese out. The salad will still be delicious.
- Yogurt – For this dressing I like to use a non-Greek, full-fat yogurt, that has a looser consistency.
- Vegenaise – Only a few tablespoons of mayo are used in this dressing and if you have been reading my recipes for a while you know I love to use vegenaise instead of mayo. I really prefer the flavour and consistency of vegenaise but feel free to use regular mayo if you prefer. Alternatively, you could also use all yogurt in which case reduce the lemon juice and vinegar by 1 tablespoon each.
- Lemon juice – Keeps this salad fresh and bright.
- Apple cider vinegar – Vinegar will tone down the strong broccoli flavour and keep it fresh longer.
- Honey – Just a bit to mellow the sharp tang of the yogurt, vinegar, and lemon juice.
- Salt and Pepper – A pinch of both makes this dressing perfectly seasoned.
Should you cook the broccoli?
A classic broccoli salad is made with raw broccoli. If allowed to sit for a little while, the acid in the dressing will soften the little florets. That said, some people really dislike raw broccoli, or have a hard time digesting it. Truth be told, I do prefer it when the broccoli has been quickly steamed or blanched. Of course it’s a bit more time consuming so I will often skip this step and just allow the broccoli to sit a little longer before I serve it.
If you do steam, or blanch the broccoli, make sure you only do this for about 1 minute, then transfer to an ice bath to prevent it from cooking any further. You really can’t skip the ice bath or the broccoli will lose all it’s crunch which is the beauty of this salad.
How To Prepare And Wash Broccoli For Broccoli Salad
As mentioned, this recipe uses the entire head of broccoli. Here is how I prepare and wash the broccoli for this salad:
- Shave the thick skin off the stem. I find this easier to do when the stalk is still attached to the broccoli head. Slice 1-inch off the bottom of the stalk, then use a vegetable peeler, or pairing knife, to peel away the outer thick skin.
- Separate the the florets from the stalk. Slice the top off to separate the florets from the stems. Tip: To cut really tiny florets, without losing all the little green buds, avoid cutting through the top of the broccoli floret. Once you have cut the broccoli into mid-size florets, use the tip of a small knife to cut through the stem part only. Then, using your hands, pull the floret apart.
- Chop the stalk into small pieces. I like to slice the stalk into 1/2-inch rounds then chop the rounds into smaller pieces.
- Wash the broccoli. It is best to wash the broccoli after cutting it into florets. Dried broccoli will be easier to cut up and the smaller pieces of broccoli will clean better. To do this, I like to place the florets and stems in a large mixing bowl, fill it with cold water, swish the broccoli around with my hands, then drain and rinse in a colander.
How To Make
Once you have the broccoli, cheese, and onion chopped, the rest of this salad is effortless.
- If using turkey bacon: Preheat the oven to 425 F degrees and line a small sheet pan with parchment paper. Place the turkey bacon slices on the sheet pan and bake for 10 minutes. Flip each slice and cook until crispy, about 4-5 minutes. If using regular bacon, cook using your preferred method, then place on paper towels to drain. Once cooled, chop the bacon into pieces. I use a knife to chop the turkey bacon.
- Toast the seeds and nuts: Pour the nuts and seeds into a medium skillet set over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently until the nuts and seeds start to smell toasty and are lightly golden on both sides, about 5 minutes. Immediately transfer to a small bowl or plate to prevent the from burning.
- Prepare the dressing: Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a jar or small bowl and whisk together until well blended.
- Assemble the salad: Place broccoli, red onion, cheese, seeds, nuts, cranberries, and bacon in a large bowl. Drizzle with 3/4 of the dressing, tossing well to combine. Allow the flavours to meld before serving, about 10-15 minutes. Alternatively, cover the bowl and refrigerate until ready to use, for up to 3 days.
Broccoli Salad Recipe Tips
- Cut the broccoli really small. Raw broccoli florets will not soften enough in the dressing, and will be unpleasant to eat if they aren’t cut really, really small. Think of this almost as a chopped salad where all the ingredients are similar in size.
- Don’t add all the seeds, nuts, and bacon at once. These ingredients will lose their crunchiness after sitting in the dressing for a while so save some to sprinkle just before serving.
- Don’t use all the dressing at once. Depending on how much broccoli you use, you might not need all the dressing. Start with mixing in only 3/4 of it, then add more as needed.
- Let it the prepared salad marinate. This broccoli salad is delicious served immediately but even better if you allow the flavours to meld for at least 30 minutes.
- Omit the bacon: This salad is very delicious even without the bacon so feel free to leave it out.
- Omit the dairy: If avoiding dairy, omit the yogurt and use all vegenaise, or use a dairy-free yogurt. Alternatively, use your favourite dairy-free dressing.
- Add other vegetables: Sure this is a broccoli salad but you can certainly bulk it up even more by adding cauliflower florets, blanched asparagus, raw radishes, etc.
The amount of veg action in this broccoli salad makes it a fairly substantial side dish so your main can be easy and light. Pair it with fish, grilled lemongrass chicken , this quick grilled skirt steak, or this tasty chicken burger.
Other Summer Salads You Might Enjoy
- Pineapple Slaw with Yogurt Dressing
- Jicama Slaw
- Summer Tomato Panzanella Salad
- Horiatiki Salad
- Tuna and White Bean Salad with Cherry Tomatoes
If you give this Broccoli Salad Recipe a try, please feel free to leave a comment and/or a star rating below. We appreciate and welcome all your feedback. Thank you!
Broccoli Salad Recipe
For The Salad
- 4 slices bacon I used turkey bacon
- 1/2 cup mix of sunflower seeds, pepitas, and chopped almonds toasted
- 1 large broccoli head, florets and stems cut into bite-size pieces (read notes for guidance)
- 1/3 cup diced red onion
- ½ cup cranberries or raisns
- 1/2 cup Sharp cheddar cheese, shredded or cubed can also use goat cheese, feta, manchego, or any other cheese
For the Salad Dressing
- 1/3 cup plain full-fat yogurt (a non-Greek, runnier variety is best)
- 1/4 cup vegenaise or mayo
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- If using turkey bacon, preheat the oven to 425 F degrees and line a small sheet pan with parchment paper. Place the turkey bacon slices on the sheet pan and bake for 10 minutes. Flip each slice and cook until crispy, about 4-5 minutes longer. If using regular bacon, cook using your preferred method, then place on paper towels to drain. Once cooled, chop the bacon into pieces. I use a knife to chop the turkey bacon.
- To toast the nuts and seeds, place a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the nuts and seeds and cook, stirring frequently until they start to smell toasty and are lightly golden on both sides, about 5 minutes. Immediately transfer to a small bowl or plate to prevent them from burning.
- To make the dressing, combine the yogurt, vegenaise (or mayo), vinegar, honey, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a jar or small bow. Whisk together until well blended.
- Before assembling the salad, set aside some of the bacon, nuts, and seeds to use as a garnish for the salad. Place bacon, seeds, nuts, broccoli, red onion, cranberries, and cheese in a large bowl. Drizzle with 3/4 of the dressing, tossing well to combine and adding more dressing, if needed.
- Allow the flavours to meld for at least 15 minutes before serving. Alternatively, cover the bowl and refrigerate until ready to use, for up to 3 days. Sprinkle with remaining nuts and seeds just before serving.