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Broccoli Salad is a potluck classic that is loaded with simple but delicious flavors of crunchy broccoli, crisp bacon, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, cheddar cheese, and red onion! It's quick and easy to throw together this summer salad and it makes a fantastic side dish for any cookout.
I don't know about you, but whenever I got to a potluck, I always load up on the side salads. They are my favorite part! Some of our other popular potluck salads are Frog Eye Salad, Classic Macaroni Salad, and Greek Pasta Salad.
The Best Broccoli Salad I've Ever Had
I think I have seen this classic broccoli salad at almost every 4th of July or Labor Day potluck or summer gathering I have ever been to. It's that good and that popular that even though I don't love raw broccoli any other time (even when dipped in copious amounts of ranch), I ALWAYS load up on this salad with its tangy, slightly sweet dressing, and fabulous crunchy/crispy/chewy action that is a texture-lover's dream come true.
Seriously, if you have children who won't eat their green vegetables, try serving them this crunchy raw salad. I'm not claiming this is healthy eating or anything once you add mayo and bacon and cheese, but whatever it takes to get kids to try something new and green and fresh, right?
It's this play of sweet from the cranberries, salty from the bacon and sunflower seeds, and savory from the cheese in this broccoli salad recipe that never fails to satisfy. Oh, and don't forget that tangy dressing made with a little vinegar, mayo, sour cream, and sugar to sweeten it up just enough.
People are always asking for the recipe, and I don't blame them. This easy broccoli salad is what I want with my burgers and grilled chicken, thank you very much.
We love this salad and think it is the best broccoli salad we've ever had, but would love to hear what you think in the comments below!
How to make broccoli salad
- Make the bacon. I like to cook bacon in the oven until crispy and then chop it up for broccoli salad, but you could use a frying pan or even buy precooked bacon crumbles.
- Prep the broccoli. You can buy pre-cut broccoli florets or just purchase 2-3 heads of broccoli and cut them up yourself into bite-size pieces that are no bigger than about 1 ½-inches. The pre-cut approach is definitely easier, but sometimes they seem awfully dry compared to fresh florets you cut yourself. Be sure to wash the broccoli well before chopping.
- Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Toss everything except the bacon together so all the cheese and sesame seeds and cranberries are evenly dispersed. I think it's best to hold the bacon in reserve until right before serving because otherwise it loses its crispiness.
- Make the dressing in a separate small bowl. Just whisk everything together then pour it over the other salad components and toss well so everything gets evenly coated.
- Let it sit for 2-3 hours for the best flavor. You could serve this right away, but we think it tastes best when the broccoli has had a chance to marinate in the sauce for just a bit. Add the bacon just before serving and toss again.
Do you steam or blanch broccoli for broccoli salad?
I've heard that some people like to parcook their broccoli slightly before making broccoli salad, but I think definitely prefer it with crunchy, raw fresh broccoli instead.
Make ahead and storage instructions
You can actually make the dressing and salad 2-3 days in advance, so it's a great choice if you are prepping for a party or you are making it to take with you somewhere, although I think it's best when the dressing is added the same day the salad is going to be served rather than dressing and tossing everything together that far in advance.
Remember to keep the broccoli salad cold until it is time to serve since it has a mayo-based dressing. It should not sit out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours.
Substitutions and variations
- Raisins instead of dried cranberries are a common and popular substitution. I like the extra tartness of the cranberries best, but both are good to add a chewy texture and a burst of sweetness. You could even use fresh grapes that have been sliced in half in place of the cranberries or raisins.
- For a slightly healthier approach, you can use greek yogurt as a healthy substitute in place of the sour cream.
- Mozzarella or monterey jack can be substituted for the sharp or medium cheddar, although they will change the flavor of the salad a bit. We always grate it fresh ourselves, but if you are buying pre-shredded cheese, I recommend looking for the thicker cut variety. You can also cube the cheese instead, although I personally prefer the texture of the shreds best in broccoli salad.
- Want even more crunch? Try adding slivered ½ cup of shaved or slivered almonds to your broccoli salad!
- I use apple cider vinegar in the dressing, but white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar will work just as well if that's what you have on hand.
- You could use honey instead of sugar in the dressing. But I wouldn't omit a sweetener because classic broccoli salad really does have a bit of a sweet flavor and it's just not the same without it.
Love broccoli? Me too!
- Roasted Broccoli
- Better-Than-Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup
- Cheesy Chicken Broccoli & Rice Casserole (my childhood favorite!)
More potluck sides everybody loves
- The BEST Baked Beans
- Boiled Corn on the Cob
- Watermelon Basil Feta Salad
- Deviled Egg Potato Salad
- Creamy Grape Salad
- Bacon Green Onion Deviled Eggs
- ½ pound of bacon cooked until crispy, then chopped
- 6 cups broccoli florets about 1 pound
- 1 ½ cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
- ¾ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup salted sunflower seeds
- ½ cup red onion chopped
- ¾ cup mayo
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- To cook the bacon, preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Arrange bacon slices in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes until crispy. Remove bacon from baking sheet to drain on paper towels, then chop.
- Combine broccoli florets, cheese, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, and onion in a large serving bowl. Toss to evenly distribute the ingredients.
- In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the mayo, sour cream, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well. The salad can be served immediately, although it's best if it can be placed in the fridge for at least 1 hour. Add bacon and toss again right be serving.
- White wine vinegar can be used instead of the apple cider vinegar.