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The BEST Broccoli Salad

The best Healthy Broccoli Salad Recipe with a tangy creamy dressing, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds and red onion. This light yet comforting and flavorful recipe is a healthier take on classic broccoli salad and is the perfect side dish to any meal.

Wooden bowl full of broccoli salad with a striped napkin to the side and a bowl of sunflower seeds

For those times you’re avoiding cooking in the heat and are craving cooling foods, this broccoli salad checks all the boxes.

It is easy to prepare, loaded with creamy, tangy, sweet flavors and all sorts of fresh crunchy textures. 

The way I see it, broccoli salad is the perfect sidekick to any summer entrée. It goes great with Grilled Chicken Thighs, BBQ Tri Tip, Smoked Brisket, Perfect Grilled Steak, Grilled Salmon, and more!

Classic broccoli salad that you’ll find in the deli section of grocery stores or at restaurants closely resemble this recipe. 

Traditional recipes include a mayo-based creamy dressing and typically red onion, raisins (or other dried fruit), sunflower seeds (or other types of nuts), and sometimes bacon.

This recipe is a lighter healthy broccoli salad using less mayonnaise for a dressing that is still luscious and creamy, but lower in calories and fat.

Let’s dive into the ingredients and whip up this easy broccoli salad recipe!

close up broccoli salad photo in a wooden bowl with dried cranberries

Broccoli Salad Ingredients:

For the Creamy Broccoli Salad Dressing: Mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, pure maple syrup, rice vinegar, and sea salt is all we need for the dressing ingredients.

This combination makes a creamy, sweet, tangy dressing that is just perfect for broccoli salad.

The pure maple syrup can be replaced with cane sugar, and the rice vinegar can be replaced with apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, or lemon juice. You can also omit the creamy Greek yogurt and add more mayonnaise if you prefer.

For a mayo-free broccoli salad, use Homemade Italian Dressing for a tangy herby vinaigrette instead of the creamy mayo-based dressing.

For the Salad: Fresh broccoli, red onion, sunflower seeds, bacon, and dried cranberries. 

Omit the bacon to make the recipe vegetarian and substitute raisins for the dried cranberries if desired. 

You can also change up the broccoli salad ingredients by adding grated or chopped sharp cheddar cheese, gorgonzola cheese, goat cheese, pumpkin seeds, red bell peppers, roasted or candied walnuts, pecans or crunchy almonds, etc.

For the best results, be sure to measure out the broccoli florets to ensure the proportions of the other ingredients is accurate relative to the raw broccoli. You can use the broccoli stalk by finely chopping it if you’d like (the broccoli stem is completely edible!), although I prefer sticking with the florets and I save the stem for sautéed veggies.

horizontal photo of a wooden bowl of classic broccoli salad

Now that we’re experts on the ingredients for broccoli salad, let’s make this easy side dish recipe!

How to Make Broccoli Salad:

Cut florets off of the heats of broccoli, either saving the stems for later use or chopping them to add to this healthy broccoli salad recipe.

In a large bowl, add the chopped broccoli, red onion, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, and cooked chopped bacon.

Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl until creamy and well combined.

Pour the dressing over the broccoli salad and toss until everything is well-coated in dressing. At first it may seem like there is too much dressing, but the broccoli will absorb the dressing as it sits.

For the best results, refrigerate the broccoli salad for at least one hour before serving it with your main dish and other side dishes. 

Store any leftover broccoli salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. 

Broccoli salad becomes more flavorful the longer it sits! For this reason, I recommend making it ahead of time (several hours to two days) so that it has a chance to marinate in all its flavors for the perfect summer salad.

Should I Blanch the Broccoli?:

While some people blanch broccoli before adding it to broccoli salad, I leave mine raw the majority of the time.

It saves time and ensures the broccoli is nice and snappy. Plus, you don’t have to wait for the broccoli to cool off before serving it.

That said, you can blanch the broccoli in boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute and then transfer it immediately to an ice water bath then pat it dry with paper towels or spinning with a salad spinner to remove the water before proceeding with the salad. 

For some people, blanched broccoli has a more desirable texture because it’s softer and it can also be easier for people to digest.

classic broccoli salad in a wooden bowl with golden spoon.

Also try my Broccoli Salad Recipe with Honey-Toasted Walnuts for a unique, great addition to your summer gatherings.

If you love fresh, healthy side dishes, also check out these tasty side dishes, which are perfect for summer bbqs and picnics.

More Summer Salad Recipes:

Enjoy the best broccoli salad as a classic side dish the next time the occasion arises for a great salad!

Wooden bowl full of broccoli salad with a striped napkin to the side and a bowl of sunflower seeds

The BEST Broccoli Salad

Yield: 6 Servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

Creamy classic broccoli salad with bacon and creamy dressing is the perfect healthy side dish for any gathering!

Ingredients

Broccoli Salad:

  • 6 cups broccoli florets (2 large heads, chopped)
  • 1/3 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup raw or roasted sunflower seeds
  • 4 to 8 strips thick cut bacon, cooked and chopped*
  • ¾ cup dried cranberries or raisins

For the Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt (1 (5.3-oz.) container)**
  • 3 Tbsp pure maple syrup***
  • ⅓ cup rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice
  • ¾ tsp sea salt, to taste

Instructions

    1. In a large bowl, add the chopped broccoli, red onion, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, and cooked chopped bacon.

    broccoli salad ingredients in a mixing bowl

    2. Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl until creamy and well combined.

    creamy broccoli salad dressing in a measuring cup.

    3. Pour the dressing over the broccoli salad and toss until everything is well-coated in dressing. At first it may seem like there is too much dressing, but the broccoli will absorb the dressing as it sits.

    Pouring creamy dressing over broccoli salad

    4. For the best results, refrigerate the broccoli salad for at least one hour before serving it with your main dish and other side dishes.

    finished broccoli salad in a mixing bowl

Notes

*Adjust the amount of bacon to your personal taste. You can also omit the bacon for a vegetarian version of the recipe.

**Replace the Greek yogurt with more mayonnaise if you prefer. 

***Use cane sugar instead of pure maple syrup as a substitution.

Nutrition Information
Yield 6 Serving Size 1 Serving (of 6)
Amount Per Serving Calories 366Total Fat 21gCarbohydrates 36gFiber 4gSugar 21gProtein 7g
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collage for broccoli salad

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Jasson

Saturday 17th of September 2022

Very nice recipe chef ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿ‘. I have added some roasted pumking seeds and some flax seeds yammy ๐Ÿ˜‹. Thank you for your effort ๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒž๐Ÿ˜Ž

Julia

Saturday 17th of September 2022

My pleasure! I'm so happy you like it! Love the idea of adding pumpkin seeds and flax seeds :) xoxo

Wanda

Wednesday 1st of June 2022

Oh my word! This was so good!! Hubby gave it a 10 out of 10! I did use green onion instead of red onion since I find raw onions so strong. I also swapped the raisins for green grapes and since they weren't dried, I doubled the measurement. The sauce was perfect and soooooo yummy!!

Sue

Saturday 18th of June 2022

@Wanda, If you find raw onions to be too powerful, try soaking them in cold water for ten minutes or so, before adding them to the salad.

Julia

Saturday 4th of June 2022

This is amazing feedback, Wanda! I'm so happy to hear it! I love the idea of using green onion and green grapes. I'll definitely be trying this on my next round! Much love! xoxo

Diane

Tuesday 31st of May 2022

How much is a cup size

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