A simple, classic Broccoli Salad recipe that serves as a great fast side dish for any party or potluck. Made with bacon, cranberries, sunflower seeds, cheddar cheese and a homemade dressing, this is one of my favorite side dishes and it can be prepped in under fifteen minutes!
Please do not be alarmed by the amount of green in today’s post! I know broccoli salad is a little different from what you’re used to seeing here, where sugar and chocolate and cookies and definitely not broccoli are the norm, but bear with me.
Broccoli salad is one of my favorite side dishes (right up there with deviled eggs and macaroni salad). It’s perfect for serving alongside Easter dinner (or any holiday dinner) and is a simple and refreshing side dish for summer parties and pot lucks. It can be thrown together in under fifteen minutes and I guarantee you that at least one person is going to ask for the recipe, wherever you bring it.
In contrast to the broccoli, onion, and savory bacon and cheddar, this recipe has a surprising bit of sweetness thanks to a pinch of sugar and dried cranberries. The contrasting flavors blend perfectly together, and a splash of vinegar gives the dressing a subtle bite. This really is the perfect summer salad, and the best broccoli salad I think you’ll ever try.
Tips for Making the Best Broccoli Salad
Broccoli salad is easy to make, but there are a few tips I want to share to make everything come together perfectly for you.
Notes on Cheese
When buying cheese for your broccoli salad, the thicker the shred the better. Buy sharp or extra sharp cheddar and stay away from the finely shredded variety. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you can just buy a block and shred it yourself. Another option is to cut the cheese into small cubes instead.
Broccoli: To Blanch or not to Blanch?
I never blanch my broccoli when making broccoli salad, and I’ve never received any complaints (in fact, I always get requests for this recipe!). If you prefer to do so, you can. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and then blanch your broccoli for no longer than 60 seconds. Immediately drain and rinse in cold water to stop the broccoli from over-cooking. Dry your broccoli thoroughly before proceeding.
You can buy pre-cut florets, but for me it was cheaper and not much more difficult to just buy a few heads of broccoli and cut it myself. This recipe required about 2.5 heads of broccoli for me to make it, but your mileage may vary depending on the size of your grocery store’s broccoli!
For best taste, let it sit!
While this easy broccoli salad can be served right away, I prefer to let it sit in the refrigerator for a few hours to let all of the flavors really meld together. Broccoli salad can be prepared up to 3 days in advance of serving.
How to Lighten Up Broccoli Salad
Broccoli salad certainly isn’t health food, but there are a few modifications you can make to make it a bit less fattening. I’ve found that when people see broccoli salad they think they’re getting something healthy, so if that’s what you’re looking for, there are a few modifications you can try.
- Instead of using regular mayo, use one made with olive oil. I’m very picky about the type of mayo that I use and can’t stand the taste of reduced fat (and don’t get me started on Miracle Whip). I’ve found that using olive oil mayo in my broccoli salad recipe gives you all of the same creaminess and flavor while saving a few calories.
- You can replace some or all of the sour cream with plain Greek yogurt.
- Using pre-cooked bacon will save time and fat and calories. Make sure you’re using real bacon pieces and not imitation flavored “bits”. These are usually found in the salad dressing aisle and should say that they’re “real” bacon on the packaging. I’ve also found that this bacon holds up best to the moisture from the broccoli salad.
Keep in mind that ultimately broccoli salad (especially this broccoli salad with bacon and cheese!) is meant to be an indulgent side dish, and not health food!
OK, I hope I didn’t lose you with all of the broccoli photos!
More Easy Side Dishes You Might Like:
- 5-6 cups broccoli florets¹ 1 lb, this was about 2 ½ heads of broccoli for me (450g)
- 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese thicker, not finely shredded (115g)
- ⅔ cup dried cranberries (85g)
- ½ cup crumbled bacon² (60g)
- ½ cup salted sunflower seeds (60g)
- ⅓ cup red onion diced into small pieces (50g)
- ¾ cup mayo I use olive oil mayo (175g)
- ¼ cup sour cream³ (70g)
- 1 ½ Tablespoon white wine vinegar⁴
- 3 Tablespoons sugar (40g)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- Combine broccoli florets, cheddar cheese, dried cranberries, bacon, sunflower seeds, and onion in a large bowl.
- In a separate, small bowl, whisk together mayo, sour cream, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper until smooth and well-combined.
- Pour dressing over broccoli combination and toss or stir well.
- Broccoli salad may be served immediately, but for best flavor refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. Make sure to toss broccoli salad thoroughly again before serving.Keep refrigerated if not consuming right away.
How to Store Broccoli SaladBroccoli Salad may be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days. If you are making several days in advance, I recommend storing the salad and the dressing separately, then tossing everything together at least an hour before serving.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
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This Broccoli Salad Recipe was originally published 07/06/2017, re-published 04/15/2019.