Broccoli Salad with Homemade Dressing is a perfect side dish for the holidays, summer entertaining, a potluck party, gameday, or just because. The real star is the homemade dressing…and the bacon!
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I was a very picky vegetable eater as a child. Anything I loved, I would eat nonstop. But if I didn’t like something, I refused to eat it…even if I had never tried it before.
Broccoli was a vegetable I loved, but with a catch…I would only eat the stalks. I can’t remember why, but I just refused to eat the flowers. So whenever we had broccoli, I ate all the stalks and my parents ate the florets.
I don’t recall exactly when it changed, but now when I buy broccoli I just buy the floret bunches. I’m also either all or nothing with broccoli. When I’m in broccoli mode I’ll eat it a few times a week. When I’m not, I can go weeks without it. I need to change that, because broccoli is full of nutrients, including iron, potassium, calcium and fiber.
This year for Thanksgiving, Robbie asked me to bring a vegetable side. Normally my go-to potluck dish is my Homemade Baked Mac and Cheese, so I was at a loss. I also considered my Green Bean Mushroom Saute. But I needed a dish to feed a crowd, and I had never done that with this recipe. Robbie suggested a “broccoli salad type thing”…sold. I’d never made one before, but I decided to take on the challenge.
This Broccoli Salad is so delicious! I love the contrast in flavors and textures, and it gets better as it rests. I couldn’t help but smile when I heard people rave about the Broccoli Salad…and I didn’t even ask them! Robbie actually texted me the next day to say she had the leftovers for lunch.
INGREDIENTS FOR THE PERFECT BROCCOLI SALAD
- Broccoli – DUH. I use fresh broccoli. I’ve never tried it with frozen broccoli, because you can find fresh year-round in the produce section. If you use frozen broccoli, make sure to thaw the broccoli completely and let it dry.
- Bacon – don’t skimp and use bacon bits. Use real bacon, and own it! I use thick-cut bacon, but of course regular bacon works well
- Cranberries – I use Dried Cranberries. I have not tried it with fresh, but I think that would add a great new bite and texture
- Nuts/Seeds – I use Sunflower Seeds, but use what you like best
- Cheese – I use a nice sharp Cheddar cheese. Use your favorite, and make sure you shred the cheese thick so it stands up well to the other salad ingredients
- Red onion – I add onion to almost everything. But if you don’t care for onion, then omit it
Another tip for the broccoli…after you wash the broccoli, let it dry for about 15 minutes. Spread it out on a foil-lined baking sheet, and then char it under the broiler for about 10 minutes. This is completely optional, but I like the little bit of smoky flavor it adds to the broccoli
HOMEMADE DRESSING FOR BROCCOLI SALAD
In Oklahoma, ranch dressing is practically its own food group. That caught me so off-guard when I moved here, because I very rarely ever ate it in Maryland. I’ve seen a wide variety of dressings for Broccoli Salad…one of my favorites is, coincidentally, similar to ranch dressing. But to me it’s much better. I can’t tell you the last time I bought real, full-fat Mayonnaise, but I splurged for the holidays. Let me tell you, real mayonnaise is so worth it!
There are some options to keep the dressing lighter
- Avocado oil mayonnaise – I always have it in my fridge and it’s delicious
- Reduced fat or fat-free mayonnaise. Don’t use Miracle Whip, because it will completely change the flavor of the dressing
- Light sour cream – I can’t taste a difference between light and regular, so I use light to save the calories
- Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, or a mix of both
Of course, the dressing with the regular mayonnaise is the most luxurious, but it doesn’t taste heavy at all. My #2 preference is avocado oil mayonnaise. I like using a combination of light sour cream and fat free Greek yogurt, as the yogurt adds a nice bite. I’ve made the dressing with both red wine and white wine vinegar, and I prefer the subtle bite of Red Wine Vinegar. The great thing about this dressing is that you can play with it, and create your favorite mix.
- Make the dressing at least 30 minutes before adding it to the salad, and keep the dressing in the fridge. This allows the flavors to develop.
- Dress the salad about 30 minutes prior to serving
- Don’t overdo the dressing! It’s better to lightly dress the salad and allow guests to add more if they want
- If you’re serving this outdoors when it’s warm, place the serving bowl in an ice bath so it stays cold
- Keep any leftovers in the fridge, in a sealed container
When I first thought about the Broccoli Salad it seemed like more of a summer recipe. But I made it again for April’s bowl game watch party, and I’ll definitely add it to my potluck party rotation.
SHOP THIS RECIPE
- 5 cups broccoli florets
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 8 slices thick-cut bacon
- 1/2 cup roasted and salted sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup red onion, diced
- 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, thick shredded
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise (full fat or Avocado oil mayo)
- 3 Tablespoons light sour cream
- 1 Tablespoon fat free Greek yogurt
- 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
Combine all dressing ingredients in a bowl. Set aside in fridge, to allow flavors to develop
Rinse and drain broccoli florets. Lay out in single layer on paper towels to allow to fully dry. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Transfer broccoli florets to foil-lined baking sheet and broil for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven, add to large bowl, and put into fridge for about 10 minutes to cool
In large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until it reaches desired doneness. Remove and drain on paper towels. When bacon is cool enough to handle, cut into bite-sized pieces
Add cranberries, sunflower seeds, bacon and cheese to broccoli. Combine well.
Add dressing 2 Tablespoons at a time, and mix well each time. The recipe makes a generous amount of dressing. It's always better to UNDER dress the salad, and allow people to add more dressing if they want.