This recipe was originally published on A Food Lover’s Kitchen.
This Broccoli salad combines fresh broccoli, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, and bacon bits in a creamy homemade dressing.
This is the best broccoli salad recipe that we’ve been making for years. It’s a barbecue party staple that proves to be a crowd favorite every time. There’s just something about the flavor combination that makes it an irresistible salad.
I’ve looked for where this salad originates, but haven’t been able to find it. My family has been making a version of this salad for years, so it’s practically a classic summer salad at this point. I make it almost as often as a Classic Wedge Salad.
Most people don’t really like eating raw broccoli. It’s something about the texture or the taste that’s hard to put a finger on. But I get it. Large florets aren’t fun to eat. That’s why we chop the broccoli into small pieces for this salad.
Small pieces of broccoli changes the game. It transforms raw broccoli into crunchy bits of sweetness. I’m not kidding. It’s completely changes the experience of eating raw broccoli.
Now add in bacon bits, sweet dried cranberries, freshly toasted sunflower seeds and a creamy dressing and you have one of the best salads you’ll ever eat.
Even if you don’t care for broccoli, you’ll likely find this salad is pretty darn good. Every time I show up at a barbecue or outdoor party with this salad, it’s gone before anyone even thinks about seconds.
Ingredients in Broccoli Salad
This is a crowd favorite, and only a few ingredients involved.
- Broccoli – 1 large head of fresh broccoli chopped into small pieces for this salad.
- Bacon – 6 slices cooked and chopped.
- Dried cranberries
- Sunflower seeds – Toasted. While not required it is amazing how much flavor comes out of sunflower seeds when they’re toasted.
- Cheddar cheese
- Onion – We use red onion, it adds a nice zing to the salad.
- Dressing – Mayonnaise, white wine vinegar, and sugar.
- Salt and pepper – To taste.
How to Make Broccoli Salad
As I’ve already mentioned, one of the key things about this salad is to chop the broccoli into smaller pieces. Don’t leave the full florets – chop them into two or three pieces each. This takes away the huge fuzzy tops of broccoli that cause texture issues. Small pieces also allows a better ratio of ingredients in each bite.
Once you’ve chopped the broccoli, add it to a large bowl, then add in the bacon, sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries. Stir this all together.
On a side note, toasting the sunflower seeds is optional. If you want that extra boost of flavor that toasting gives, definitely go the extra mile. It’s amazing how much flavor comes out of sunflower seeds when they’re toasted.
Next, mix together the dressing ingredients: mayonnaise, white wine vinegar, and sugar. Stir until the sugar is mostly dissolved.
Add the dressing to the salad and stir well to coat all the little bits in the salad. This is when I add the cheese and onion. I find that the cheese becomes a little soggy if added too soon, and the onion has a way of permeating the whole salad. Adding them at the end keeps both in check.
There’s no set amount of salt and pepper in the recipe because it really comes down to personal taste. It doesn’t require much of either. Just a few sprinkles will do.
The salad benefits from at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator before being served, so all the flavors have time to meld.
It will keep for just a day or two, if you have left overs, before it becomes a little watery. You can revive it by adding a bit of extra mayonnaise and stirring well.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you cut broccoli for broccoli salad?
One of the key things about this salad is to chop the broccoli into smaller pieces. Don’t leave the full florets – chop them into two or three pieces each. Small pieces also allows a better ratio of ingredients in each bite.
Do I have to blanch the broccoli first?
We don’t recommend blanching the broccoli. It really isn’t needed and it is just one more step. If you prefer to then go ahead. Just make sure to dry the broccoli really well after to help the dressing stick and not get to watery.
Tips and Notes
- Make sure to dry the broccoli well after washing. This helps the salad dressing stick better and not get watered down.
- The dressing can be made up in advance and left to chill in the refrigerator until you need it.
- Mix all the salad ingredients together with the dressing and allow to chill in the refrigerator before serving. This allows the flavors to meld.
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- 1 large head fresh broccoli cut into bite size pieces
- 6 slices bacon
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/8 cup red onion chopped
For the dressing
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1/2 tablespoon white sugar
- Cook and crumble the bacon.
- Chop the broccoli into small pieces. In a large bowl, mix the broccoli pieces, bacon, and cranberries.
- In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, white wine vinegar, and sugar. Stir well until sugar is mostly dissolved.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and stir to coat. Add the sunflower seeds, cheese and onion to the salad and stir.
- Cover the salad and place it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld before serving (optional).
Other Summer BBQ Side Dish Recipes To Try
- Creamy & Spicy Chipotle Coleslaw
- Bacon, Jalapeno, and Corn Salad
- Corn & Black Bean Pasta Salad
- Classic Mexican Street Corn
- Instant Pot Baked Beans Recipe
- Smoked Mac & Cheese
Click for Even More Summer BBQ Side Dish Recipes
🥧 If you’re interested in more great recipes, I share all my favorite recipes at A Food Lover’s Kitchen, Instant Pot recipes over at A Pressure Cooker Kitchen, air fryer recipes at Air Fry Anytime, and cocktails and drinks at Savored Sips. Check it out today!
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Laura is a passionate home cook and grill enthusiast who has spent years perfecting her culinary skills, with a particular focus on grilling techniques and flavor combinations. Her fascination with the grill, smoke, and the mouthwatering results they produce has led her on an exciting journey to discover the best methods for grilling delicious and unforgettable meals.