This healthy Broccoli Salad is crunchy, fresh, and full of flavor! It has just a touch of creaminess and lots of texture. It tastes great either enjoyed at room temperature or cold, and a batch will keep in the fridge for several days. It packs up well for lunches and picnics, and only takes 20 minutes to make!
One of the things that has worked best for me when trying to eat healthier is simply having healthy food ready to eat in the fridge. Salads like this are perfect for this, as they are meant to be eaten cold, and a batch will keep for several days.
I’ve tried a few variations of broccoli salad (my 2nd favorite being this Asian broccoli salad), but this way is the most classic and my very favorite broccoli salad recipe. It gets a little bit of creaminess from a simple mayonnaise-based dressing, but as you can see from the photos, it’s not overdressed.
Add a few flavorful and nicely textured ingredients like crispy bacon, toasted walnuts, and chewy raisins to the mix, and you’ve got a delicious and healthy side dish that’s Whole 30 friendly and low carb.
Tips for Best Results
Pick good broccoli at the store – Look for tightly packed, closed florets, with firm stalks. Thinner stalks are better than thicker ones, as they tend to be more tender. Avoid any heads that have signs of yellowing or flowering.
Blanch the florets – While technically you could make Broccoli Salad with raw florets, it will taste SO much better if you take a minute to blanch the florets instead. This takes the raw edge away while still preserving a crisp texture, it kills any bacteria on the outside, and it also gives the florets a gorgeously bright green color.
Dry the broccoli very well before tossing – After you blanch the florets, make sure to dry them very well, otherwise you’ll risk watering down the broccoli salad. If you don’t dry well, you’ll make the lightly creamy dressing too thin.
Step by Step Overview:
Start by cutting up some fresh broccoli heads into pieces. I cut small florets, as well as the upper part of the broccoli stem, which is generally pretty tender.
Next we need to cook the broccoli perfectly so that the raw edge has been taken away, but it’s still crunchy.
The best way to achieve this is to blanch the florets. All this means is that we’ll drop them into a big pot of boiling water for no more than 60 seconds:
Tip: When blanching the broccoli florets, season the water heavily with salt, just like you would season a pasta water. This will help the salt penetrate the florets, resulting in tastier end results. Since the broccoli is in the water for such a short time, it’s important the water is generously salted. I recommend at least a few tablespoons dissolved into the water, but tasting it is the best way to go. It should taste about as salty as ocean water.
After blanching briefly, quickly drain and rinse with cold water for 2 minutes, to stop the cooking process:
The blanched broccoli will be gorgeously bright green, with a crisp and crunchy texture, but none of the harshness of raw broccoli. It also makes the dish easier to digest. I love this cooking technique so much for vegetables!
Next, dry the florets well, otherwise the salad will be watery. First I spin the broccoli in a salad spinner, then blot dry further with a kitchen towel or paper towels.
To bring everything together, place the broccoli into a mixing bowl with toasted walnuts, raisins, crispy cooked bacon bits, thinly sliced red onion, mayonnaise, a touch of vinegar, salt, and pepper:
For the broccoli salad dressing, it is so important to use a great-tasting mayonnaise. And honestly, that is why I always make my own mayonnaise from scratch.
Even though I’d love the convenience of buying it, I’m too stubborn about the taste. Many of the storebought ones taste strongly of old eggs or bad oil to me. Whatever route you choose, make sure you’re using a mayonnaise that you enjoy since it will be coating all of the ingredients.
For the bacon, check out my post on How to Cook Bacon in the Oven. It’s great for recipes like this because you can make a big batch at once and have it roasting in the oven while you’re working on the other ingredients.
For the vinegar, feel free to use any good quality apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, or white wine vinegar. This gives you a tangy dressing that balances out the creaminess.
More Mix-in Ideas
Feel free to riff on the salad ingredients you choose to mix in here. The recipe I’ve shared here is how I most enjoy the pairings, but here are some great additions for more complementary flavors.
The walnuts – Try replacing with sunflower kernels (the inner part of the sunflower seeds) or toasted pecans. Pumpkin seeds are nice too.
The raisins – Dried cranberries are also great here, though I find that some of the other choices for dried fruits are too odd of a pairing to go well with the broccoli. Another thing you can do is experiment with the types of raisins you use. Golden or fancy mixed raisins can be fun. You may also try fresh grapes, cut in half.
The onion – You may try shallots or sliced scallions instead.
Add cheese – Many people enjoy adding shredded cheddar cheese to the mix, as it pairs very well with broccoli. Use an extra sharp cheddar for the best flavor.
Mix everything together in a large bowl to combine:
How to Serve
The fresh broccoli salad is now ready to be enjoyed. However, you may find that you prefer chilling the broccoli salad in the fridge for 30-60 minutes before serving, to make it cooler and also allow the flavors to meld together better. Cold broccoli salad is definitely more refreshing!
This easy recipe pairs so well with summer grilling recipes like Grilled Flank Steak, Grilled Ribeye, this Double Decker Burger, and Grilled Chicken Breast. It’s the perfect side dish for summer gatherings!
Egg Salad, Salmon Salad, and Chicken Salad are some of my other favorite salad staples that you can keep on hand in the fridge for several days. For more healthy eating, this Wild Rice Salad tastes incredible, as well as this Zucchini Ribbon Salad. Enjoy!
Recipe Tips and FAQ
Keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
It’s not recommended, as the texture will suffer too much.
If you don’t enjoy it cold, I recommend serving it at room temperature by taking it out of the fridge 30-60 minutes before serving.
Absolutely! Though it will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, I recommend not making it more than 2 days ahead of time, for optimal flavors and textures.
Absolutely you can. If you do this, I recommend looking for thinner stems, as they are more tender and less woody than the thicker ones.
- Bring a big pot of water to a boil and season it heavily with salt, like you would a pasta water. If you taste a spoonful, it should taste as salty as the ocean.
- Add the broccoli florets to the water and cook for 60 seconds, until bright green in color.
- Immediately drain the broccoli florets, then rinse with cold water for 2 minutes, until the broccoli has cooled down.
- Transfer the broccoli to a salad spinner, and spin the broccoli dry. Then blot dry further with a kitchen towel, to prevent any excess water from diluting the dressing.
- Combine the broccoli with the toasted walnuts, raisins, bacon, onion, mayonnaise, vinegar, and 1/4 tsp each of salt and black pepper (or to taste). Stir well.
- If desired, let the broccoli salad chill in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes before serving, to make it colder and allow the flavors to meld. Enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.
Post updated in January 2019. Originally published January 2014.