Broccoli Salad

4.95 from 37 votes
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This broccoli salad with cheese and bacon is a popular side dish for summer gatherings and special occasions. My recipe includes a creamy Greek yogurt dressing to bring all of the components together.

broccoli salad with cheese and bacon

This easy broccoli salad makes the green cruciferous vegetable the star of the dish. Broccoli has numerous health benefits like fiber, vitamin C, and calcium, so this recipe makes for a healthy option to offset other heavier menu items. It’s the perfect summer salad that you can even prepare ahead of time for a potluck, barbecue, or picnic.

Bite-sized pieces first blanch in hot water followed by a dunk in ice water, so they don’t overcook. To complement the broccoli, I use a lightened-up salad dressing. The mixture contains high-protein Greek yogurt and honey for a sweet and tangy combination. 

Broccoli selection and preparation

The broccoli stalk is composed of a head that contains clusters of buds. When trimmed down, they become florets. I use a small paring knife to cut off the pieces, halving them if needed to make them easier to eat. 

I usually save the stems as they are edible and can be sliced and used in stir-fries or shreds for broccoli slaw. Nothing goes to waste! For convenience, you can use packaged pre-cut florets. Just make sure to cut down any large pieces.

Recipe Resources

Blanch and shock

Raw broccoli is highly fibrous, hard to chew, and has a sulfurous taste. Similar to cooking green beans, I use the blanch and shock method to soften the pieces. The florets first take a quick 1 to 2-minute plunge in boiling water to tenderize the thick stalk and buds. 

To ensure the florets stay vibrant green and crisp-tender, immediately add them to an ice water bath until chilled. This technique halts the cooking process and limits any residual enzymes like peroxidase and polyphenol oxidase from deteriorating the texture or color. A bonus is you can store the blanched broccoli for several days before using it. 

pieces of broccoli in a bowl of ice water

Dressing ingredients

For the creamy dressing, I use non-fat Greek yogurt as the base. I mix in some red wine vinegar, honey, and Dijon mustard to balance the tart flavor. Since there is no fat in the dairy product, I add a small amount of homemade mayonnaise to provide a smooth mouthfeel. However, you can substitute that with olive oil. 

The dressing texture is smooth and creamy, with a tangy and sweet flavor. The consistency should cling to the ingredients for maximum flavor delivery but not be heavy or clumpy. After tossing, I like to serve the remaining dressing on the side so guests can add as much as they’d like.

ingredients to make a broccoli salad

Add mix-ins

To add dimension to the salad, I use a variety of sweet and savory mix-ins. Fry up a few slices of thick-cut bacon, then chop for bursts of smoky flavor. Cubes of aged sharp cheddar cheese add more protein, although you can switch that up with other semi-hard varieties like smoked gouda, mozzarella, or provolone.

Diced red onions and sunflower seeds add a pleasant crunch. Dried cranberries have a concentrated sweetness and tartness that complement the other ingredients. Dried apricots, cherries, or raisins are good swaps. You can even add in fresh fruit like apples, pears, or peaches for extra crispiness.

Make it ahead of time

To cut down on day-of preparation, you have a few options. You can make the broccoli ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days until ready to use. You can also make a large batch of oven-roasted bacon up to a week in advance. When ready, pull some out of the refrigerator, chop, and add it to the salad. You can make the dressing three days ahead, then toss right before serving.

Serve this with

greek yogurt dressing tossed into the salad

FAQ

Can you steam broccoli for broccoli salad?

Yes, steaming takes about 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the size of your pot. You may need to cook in batches. You’ll need to prepare an ice water bath to stop the cooking process, no matter which method you choose.

How do you cut broccoli florets for broccoli salad?

Use a small paring knife to remove about 1-inch sized florets from the head of the stalk. If the piece is large, cut it in half lengthwise.

How do you clean broccoli salad?

Rinse the florets under cool running water to remove any dirt that may be trapped in the buds. Blanching the broccoli in boiling water will destroy any harmful bacteria like salmonella and Escherichia coli.

Can you eat broccoli raw?

Yes, however, the stem and buds are tough and fibrous, making them hard to break down. You may also notice a slightly sulfurous taste. One bonus is that it retains more heat-sensitive nutrients like vitamin C. Cooking helps soften and tenderize the vegetable, making it easier to eat.

broccoli salad in a white bowl

Blanching makes broccoli more edible

Fresh broccoli is challenging to eat raw due to its fibrous stem and top. Briefly blanching the florets in hot boiling water brightens the green color and softens the pectin in the cell walls to make it easier to chew. Immediately plunging in ice water stops the cooking process, preventing the vegetable from becoming mushy.

Broccoli Salad

A popular summer side dish, this broccoli salad is tossed in a lightened greek yogurt dressing and mixed with cheese and bacon.
4.95 from 37 votes
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time40 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Course Salad
Cuisine American

Ingredients 
 

Broccoli Salad

  • 3 quarts water, divided
  • 4 cups ice cubes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound broccoli florets, cut into 1-inch pieces, about 6 cups
  • 2 slices bacon, uncooked, thick-cut
  • cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
  • cup sunflower seeds
  • cup red onion, ¼-inch dice
  • 2 ounces sharp cheddar, ¼-inch cubes, about ½ cup diced

Salad Dressing

  • ½ cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Instructions 

Broccoli Salad

  • In a large pot, bring 2 quarts (8 cups) of water to a boil over high heat. Add 1 teaspoon salt, stir to dissolve.
  • In a medium bowl, add 1 quart (4 cups) of cold water and 4 cups of ice. Set aside to use as an ice water bath.
  • Add broccoli florets to the boiling water and cook until bright green and crisp-tender but not too soft, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Immediately transfer the drained broccoli to the ice water bath until cool, about 5 minutes. Drain the broccoli florets in a colander, shake to remove the excess water. Set aside.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the bacon slices and cook until crispy, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined sheet pan to drain. Once cooled, chop into small pieces. It should yield about ¼ cup.
  • In a large bowl, add blanched broccoli, chopped bacon, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, red onion, and cheddar cheese.

Salad Dressing

  • In a small bowl, whisk together the Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, honey, water, dijon mustard, salt, and black pepper. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Drizzle half of the salad dressing over the broccoli mixture and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If desired, serve the remaining dressing on the side.

Recipe Video

YouTube video

Notes

  • Recipe Yield: About 6 cups
  • Serving Size: 1 cup
  • Yogurt selection: I recommend using Fage nonfat Greek yogurt because it has a neutral flavor and not too sour. You can use low-fat or whole milk, but it will provide a richer consistency.
  • Vinegar option: Apple cider vinegar can be substituted for red wine vinegar.
  • Mayonnaise substitution: Add olive oil instead, although the dressing will be slightly less thick.
  • Storing: Place the salad in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
  • Make ahead: Blanched broccoli can be made two days in advance. The dressing can be made three days ahead.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 6 servings
Calories 227kcal (11%)Carbohydrates 20g (7%)Protein 9g (18%)Fat 14g (22%)Saturated Fat 4g (20%)Polyunsaturated Fat 4gMonounsaturated Fat 4gTrans Fat 1gCholesterol 17mg (6%)Sodium 404mg (17%)Potassium 352mg (10%)Fiber 3g (12%)Sugar 13g (14%)Vitamin A 576IU (12%)Vitamin C 68mg (82%)Calcium 134mg (13%)Iron 1mg (6%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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19 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Judy Caywood says

    HiJessica,

    I can’t wait to try this. I’ve never cared for broccoli salads as the broccoli hasn’t been cooked and it does seem too chewie. I’m eager to give the blanching a try. (That’s how I often cook my asparagus).

    The dish is beautiful looking and seems I could make a meal out of it for my husband and I.

    Thank you for another healthy recipe to look forward to. Happy spring! Judy

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I think you will like the brief blanching Judy, it definitely solves the chewiness issue. Happy spring to you!

  2. Poppie says

    I made this salad today as meal prep for my busy week….I used Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheddar Cheese and Crispy Prosciutto in place of the bacon. At the last minute I discovered that I was out of red wine vinegar so I substituted balsamic vinegar. This salad is amazingly good and totally addictive! Thank you for the recipe….

  3. Dinna says

    How much of the dressing ingredients. I’m confused because I only see 1 T Dijon and 1/2t salt? Thanks, looks yummy!
    Donna

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Dinna- Check out the ingredients list: 1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt, 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar,
      2 tablespoons honey, 1 tablespoon water, 1 teaspoon dijon mustard, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

  4. Laura Sage says

    This is so close to my mom’s recipe, I made a couple of changes in her dressing to match yours and it’s delicious. We used sugar but I’m using honey now, and instead of yogurt we were using just mayo. We’ve always cut the florettes into very small pieces, as they soften sitting in the dressing overnight in the refrigerator, but I tried blanching, and it does make it better. This way it doesn’t have to sit overnight in dressing and you can eat it right after you make it. One thing I will continue to do the same old way, though, is to add my bacon immediately before serving. We like the bacon crispy instead of chewy. Thank you for this recipe.

  5. Cynthia says

    I have a question. Everytime I cook bacon for something like this the bacon goes back to almost raw again from the moisture of what ever I add it to. I’ve tried thin cut, thick cut and I cook it to death and still, it does it. Any tips on how to avoid this

  6. JJ says

    I brought this recipe out for a ‘test run’ for Christmas dinner. It’s amazing…the sweet of the cranberries against the salty sunflower seeds…it lends itself to a lot of options. The dressing is strong, so drizzling it conservatively at the last moment, or just pass-the-dressing is the way to go. Deee-licious!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you for your feedabck! Great tip for adding the dressing later. I hope your Christmas feast turns out amazing!

  7. auntie says

    First time making this, it was really good, and very easy. I used shallots instead of the red onion, but everything else by the book. Getting stubborn people to eat veggies, who woulda thunk it?

  8. Anthony Vasquez says

    My wife and I tried this recipe the other day. It came out great. It’s lite and yummy. We really were surprised with the Greek yogurt dressing. Thank you again for your recipes. We look forward to trying more like your sautéed mushrooms and roasted carrots. I wanted to mention I like the fact that your pots and pans look used. So many of these cooking shows have brand new pans every time. I like to see them used like the rest of us. Thank you for that.