The ultimate broccoli salad is made with crunchy almonds, bacon, sunflower seeds, tart cranberries, and a creamy citrus poppyseed dressing! Easy to make ahead (in fact it tastes better that way), it’s great to make for potlucks, bbq’s and other Spring/Summer gatherings!
This Broccoli Salad is one of those recipes we have with so many of our family potlucks and bbq’s. We also love easy side dish recipes like my Fail-Proof Roasted Corn on the Cob and Best Potluck Pasta Salad. This is one of my Side Dishes I know you’ll want to keep on hand!
Broccoli salad is a very popular Spring/Summer side dish, and everyone usually has their own way of making it.
My version uses dried cranberries, sliced almonds, roasted sunflower seeds (although pumpkin seeds would be yummy as well), sharp cheddar cheese cubes instead of shredded cheese, and is all tossed together in a lightened up creamy citrus poppyseed dressing.
Every bite of this broccoli salad will be full of great flavors and textures, which all compliment one another beautifully!
My Grandma always used to make a fabulous broccoli salad, and it was always one of my favorite side dishes when we’d get together.
This isn’t her recipe, but based off of it, with some added crunch, and a citrusy spin on the dressing!
HOW TO MAKE BROCCOLI SALAD
- Briefly blanch broccoli florets, then cool in ice bath and dry off. This helps soften the broccoli just slightly, as well as flavor it a bit. I’ll go into this more below.
- While broccoli is drying, add chopped red onion to a bowl of cold water and let sit 5 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Soaking the onion in the cold water helps take some of the “bite” out of the raw onion.
- Combine mayo, cider vinegar, sugar, citrus zest, citrus juice, poppyseeds and pepper. Set dressing aside.
- Add broccoli florets, red onion, crumbled bacon, cranberries, almonds, sunflower seeds and cheese. Toss with dressing. I like to toss the salad with about half of the dressing, and add more if I want it. You can always add more, but can’t take any away! Plus you can save any extra dressing for tossing right before serving.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. This helps all the flavors really combine, and lets the dressing really soak into the salad ingredients.
- Toss and serve cold. Right before serving, I like to toss the salad with some of the leftover dressing to freshen it up.
ADDITIONAL COOKING TIPS FOR THIS RECIPE
- BLANCHING THE BROCCOLI – as I mentioned above, it does help soften the crunchy raw broccoli slightly, but it also flavors it from the inside out – like when you boil pasta! Just bring some water to a boil, add the chopped fresh broccoli and boil it for about 20 seconds. Then transfer the broccoli to a bowl filled with ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain the broccoli on paper towels, and allow it to continue to air dry while you make the dressing and chop other ingredients. If the broccoli isn’t dry when you try to toss the salad with the dressing, it’ll slide right off the broccoli and won’t be nearly as flavorful.
VARIATIONS OF THIS RECIPE
- TOPPINGS – this is your broccoli salad, so feel free to add in whichever toppings sound best to you!
- DRESSING – a lot of broccoli salad recipes call for more sugar, so feel free to taste the dressing and adjust per your tastes!
- VEGETARIAN – you can omit the bacon for a vegetarian-friendly version of this recipe.
MAKING BROCCOLI SALAD AHEAD OF TIME
I love making this broccoli salad ahead of time for parties! It can be made up to 24 hours ahead of time – just keep it refrigerated in an airtight container.
Leftovers should be refrigerated in an airtight container and consumed within 5 days.
This broccoli salad is one of those recipes that’s great for parties, potlucks, and even a summer dinner… but also for holidays! Easter is a great time to break out a dish like this one!
Speaking of Easter, some other dishes that would be perfect alongside this salad are:
- Copycat HoneyBaked Ham
- Cheesy Brussels sprouts with Bacon
- Garlic Parmesan Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes
- No-Boil Mashed Potatoes
- Cheesy Funeral Potatoes
- My Mom’s Classic Carrot Cake
- Peach Raspberry Lemonade
- Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake Dip
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Recipe originally published in Mar. 2017, and has been updated in Mar. 2020 with additional information.
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- 4 1/2 cups fresh broccoli, cut into small florets about 2 heads of broccoli
- 5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
- 2/3 cup dried cranberries (reduced sugar would work too)
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 1/3 cup roasted sunflower seeds
- 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, cut into very small cubes (or shredded if you prefer)
CREAMY CITRUS POPPYSEED DRESSING:
- 2/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- zest of 1 small lemon
- zest of 1/2 orange
- 1-2 Tbsp lemon juice freshly squeezed
- 1/2 Tbsp poppy seeds
- pinch of black pepper
- Bring a pot of water to boil. Chop broccoli into very small florets and set aside. Fill a large bowl with cold water and a cup of ice cubes.
- Add a generous pinch of salt to boiling water and add broccoli. Boil for 20 seconds. Drain broccoli and transfer to prepared bowl with ice water. Let broccoli sit in cold water for a few minutes, until cool. Drain and lay broccoli out onto some paper towels to drain. Allow to continue air drying while you prepare other parts of the recipe.
- Add finely chopped red onion to a small bowl of cold water and let sit 5 minutes, then drain. This takes some of the "bite" out of the raw onion.
- To a small mixing bowl, add poppyseed dressing ingredients, then whisk together until smooth and combined. Set aside.
- To a large mixing bowl, add dried broccoli florets, bacon, drained raw onion, cranberries, almonds, sunflower seeds, and cheddar cheese. Toss with citrus poppyseed dressing (start with about half the dressing, and increase to your liking).
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Toss and serve.
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The Chunky Chef is not a dietician or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, we recommend running the ingredients through whichever online nutritional calculator you prefer. Calories can vary quite a bit depending on which brands were used.