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.

A large bowl of broccoli salad.


Table of Contents
  1. What is Cold Broccoli Salad?
  2. Broccoli Bacon Salad ingredients
  3. How to make Broccoli Salad with Bacon
  4. Tips & Storage for Classic Broccoli Salad
  5. Bacon Broccoli Salad Substitutions and Variations
  6. Classic Broccoli Salad FAQs
  7. Love broccoli? Me too!
  8. More potluck sides everybody loves
  9. Broccoli Salad Recipe with Bacon Recipe

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.

What is Cold Broccoli Salad?

Classic broccoli salad is that quintessential item to bring to potlucks or serve at any summer gathering. It’s a combination of broccoli, cheddar cheese, dried cranberries, bacon, sunflower seeds, and onion all mixed together tossed with the most delicious dressing made of mayo, sour cream, and apple cider vinegar. It’s so good!

Broccoli salad ingredients in a bowl before being tossed together.

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?

A large serving bowl full of broccoli salad with a smaller individual serving off to the side.

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!

Broccoli Bacon Salad ingredients

  • Cooked bacon - chop it small into bite size pieces. You will want the bacon to be cooked until crispy.
  • Raw broccoli - chopped into small bite size pieces
  • Sharp cheddar cheese
  • Dried cranberries
  • Salted sunflower seeds
  • Red onion
  • Mayo - We recommend using real mayonnaise, not Miracle Whip for this broccoli salad recipe.
  • Sour cream - For a slightly healthier approach, you can use greek yogurt as a healthy substitute in place of the sour cream.
  • Apple cider vinegar - White wine vinegar or red wine vinegar will work just as well if that's what you have on hand.
  • Granulated sugar
  • Salt and pepper
Broccoli salad ingredients in separate bowls on a white marble surface.

How to make Broccoli Salad with Bacon

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
A creamy dressing poured over the components of broccoli salad in a large mixing bowl.

Tips & Storage for Classic Broccoli Salad

Bacon Broccoli Salad: Steamed or Blanched Broccoli?

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.

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.

Can this Broccoli Salad Recipe with Bacon be made ahead?

Yes! You can make it 2-3 days in advance. My tip though would be to make the dressing and broccoli mix ahead but don’t mix it together until the day of. Toss it all together a couple of hours before your event.

How to store Classic Broccoli Salad

Because of the mayo and sour cream in the dressing it is best to keep this salad refrigerated in an airtight container. Do not let it sit out for more than 2 hours. Keep it chilled if transporting to a potluck or picnic.

How long can Broccoli Salad be stored?

Some say that broccoli salad can be stored for up to 5 days but for best flavor and texture, I would consume it within 3-4 days. The cheese can start to get too soft and everything starts to become a soggy mess.

Bacon Broccoli Salad 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.
A large glass serving bowl filled with broccoli salad.

Classic Broccoli Salad FAQs

What main dish goes with Broccoli Salad?

I like to think of classic broccoli salad as more of a summer food so I try to stick to grilled meats or easy meals. Baked potato goes great with the sweetness of the salad paired with a salty potato is delicious. Grilled chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, and cooked ham are some great options for a main dish.

Love broccoli? Me too!

More potluck sides everybody loves

Did you make this recipe?

Let me know what you thought with a comment and rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.

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Broccoli Salad Recipe with Bacon

5 from 5 votes
Amy Nash
Prep Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 8 servings
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 and makes a fantastic side dish for any cookout.

Ingredients
  

Salad

  • ½ pound 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

Dressing

  • ¾ cup mayo
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

Instructions
 

  • To cook the bacon, preheat oven to 425°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.

Video

Notes

  • White wine vinegar can be used instead of the apple cider vinegar.

Nutrition

Calories: 498kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 40g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 14g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 54mg | Sodium: 616mg | Potassium: 371mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 16g | Vitamin A: 708IU | Vitamin C: 62mg | Calcium: 207mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe? Show me on Instagram!Mention @HouseOfNashEats or tag #houseofnasheats!

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About the author

Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

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Reader questions and reviews

  1. Hello ! I have made this Broccoli Salad Recipe for years and years. I got the recipe from an in-store ACME Markets promotion while I was shopping. The name on the recipe card was "Festive Broccoli Salad." It is so very delicious and nutritious. I don't usually put cheese in because the salad itself is wonderful and can stand by itself. I also make extra dressing, if I decide to put more ingredients into the salad. Only other thing that I do differently is that I reconstitute the dried cranberries by letting them soak in a cup of very hot water for about 30 minutes, empty the water within the cup, and then lightly press out excess water with a paper towel.