This quick and easy recipe for Broccoli Salad combines the best ingredients for a no-cook side dish perfect for warm summer gatherings.
I’m a sucker for a classic, easy broccoli salad recipe, but I want mine loaded up. The more stuff mixed in it the better. I think there’s something about the sweet and savory flavors of this dish that just make it one of my favorite salads. But, everybody’s classic broccoli salad recipe is a bit different, so I decided to create a recipe that has all of my favorite ingredients in one fresh broccoli salad – crisp broccoli florets, bacon, red onion, sunflower kernels, cheddar cheese, dried cranberries, and a sweet, tangy, and creamy dressing.
What is broccoli salad?
Broccoli salad is a popular side dish in the warm summer months. Typically served cool, broccoli salad is crisp, refreshing, and full of flavor. Most broccoli salads feature a few typical ingredients – lots of broccoli florets, a creamy sauce, seasonings, and a variety of toppings. Some of the most common toppings found in broccoli salad in the south are bacon bits, onions, sunflower seeds or almonds, and raisins. Yum!
How to cut broccoli florets for broccoli salad:
If you can, go ahead and purchase the bite-sized broccoli florets and save yourself a step and time. However, if you can’t find those, you can easily make bite-sized broccoli florets out of heads of broccoli by following these three simple steps:
- Remove the leaves attached to the stem.
- Begin by cutting the large stem off the broccoli. Leave only the florets with a small piece of the stem attached.
- Cut the florets that are too large for a bite by taking the floret and making a straight cut across the stem.
Why does my broccoli salad get watery?
I don’t typically run into this issue with my broccoli salad recipe. But, I would imagine that is mainly because the broccoli is not fully dry.
Some recipes call for you to blanch the broccoli first. I don’t think that step is necessary. However, if blanching is your thing, make sure the broccoli is super dry before adding it to the salad. Extra water on the broccoli can make for a runny mixture.
The same goes for rinsing your broccoli! Make sure you give your broccoli adequate time to dry after rinsing. You get enough moisture from the dressing mixture that any extra water will make your salad too watery.
How to store broccoli salad:
Broccoli salad can be stored in the refrigerator for about 3 to 4 days. It should be kept in an airtight container or tightly covered with plastic wrap or aluminum foil in the fridge. Avoid storing your broccoli salad near foods with strong odors. Broccoli absorbs the smells of foods around it. Lastly, be sure to give a good stir and add additional seasoning if desired before serving.
Ingredient FAQs & Variations
Broccoli – For this recipe, I call for about 8 cups of raw broccoli florets. For me, that was about 3 medium-sized heads of broccoli, which equated to about 2 1/2 pounds.
Real Bacon Bits – Y’all know I like easy, so I opted to use a (3.5-ounce) bag of chopped real bacon from the grocery store rather than cooking my own. Just be sure to get the real stuff, not imitation bacon bits. If you’re feeling super ambitious and want to cook your own bacon, you’ll need to cook about 16 slices or 1 pound of bacon to crisp, then drain, and crumble to create 1 cup of crumbled bacon. Hey, y’all know I love me some bacon!
Sunflower Kernels – Get 1/2 cup of dry roasted sunflower kernels. Any brand will work.
Dried cranberries – Don’t skip this step! The sweetness of the cranberries goes so well with the broccoli salad flavors.
Cheese – When it comes to the cheese, I want to actually see it and taste it, so I avoid the finely shredded cheese and go with thick-cut shredded sharp cheddar.
Red Onion – While red onion can be pretty powerful, I think it’s an important flavor in this dish. I like to dice it finely so there aren’t huge chunks of it and only use just enough to add a hint of flavor. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup which should equal about 1/4 of a medium-sized red onion. If you find the onion to be super pungent, you can dice it and soak the onion in 1 cup of water mixed with about 1 tablespoon of baking soda. This mixture helps to draw out some of the acid, making the onion a little less strong. Just be sure to rinse them very well and dry them off before adding them to the salad.
Mayonnaise – This broccoli salad recipe calls for one cup of mayonnaise. I’m not brand conscious about many things, but Duke’s mayonnaise is one of the exceptions. It’s that good!
Vinegar – I use white wine vinegar. It’s a bit milder than the pantry staple apple cider vinegar. And while I used to not even know it existed, the more I use it in recipes, the more I love it. But, apple cider vinegar can certainly be used in this recipe. Just use what you have on hand.
Sugar – I do like my broccoli salad a touch sweet, but not too sweet. If you like it sweeter, it’s super easy to add a little more white sugar to suit your taste.
Try this Bacon and Blue Cheese Broccoli Salad, too!
Easy Broccoli Salad
- 8 cups bite-size broccoli florets (about 3 heads of broccoli), rinsed and dried well
- 1 (3.5-ounce) package real chopped bacon (about 1 cup) (or 14 to 16 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled)
- 1/2 cup dry roasted sunflower kernels
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup red onion, finely diced (about 1/4 medium red onion)
- 1 cup thick cut shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- In a very large bowl, combine the broccoli, bacon, sunflower kernels, cranberries, onion, and cheese. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, make the dressing by whisking together the mayonnaise, vinegar, and sugar.
- Pour the dressing over the broccoli mixture and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour. Toss again before serving.
If nutritional values are provided, they are an estimate and will vary depending on the brands used. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, I recommend grabbing your favorite brands and plugging those ingredients into an online nutritional calculator.