Best Broccoli Salad (No Mayo) recipe packed with crispy broccoli, bacon, onion, dried cranberries, and crunchy sunflower seeds and tossed with a light honey mustard dressing, it’s time to toss up something new for dinner.
I can’t tell you why (not because it’s a secret, I just don’t even know myself) but I’ve been really into salads lately. I’d been eating the heck out of this Easy Italian Green Salad and also this Chopped Asian Salad and other green, lettuce-based salads but then one day I hit a wall. It was like my mouth forgot how to chew lettuce or something.
That got me to thinking outside the leaf (of lettuce). Inspired by my friend who uses up her abundance of garden cucumbers and peppers in the summer by using those as a base for her salads instead of lettuce, I sought to continue my salad-eating streak sans the typical leaves.
I don’t have an abundance of cucumbers or even peppers for that matter, but what I did have in my fridge was a bunch of bunches of broccoli. I kept meaning to roast it for a dinner side but just never got around to it for some reason. (Probably because I kept reaching for the lettuce.) Right then and there I whipped up a batch of Broccoli Apple Salad and have yet to turn my back on broccoli.
This version of salad featuring broccoli as the star skips the apples in favor of a tangier dressing that’s complemented by tart dried cranberries, salty sunflower seeds, biting red onions, and salty, savory bacon because everything is better with bacon.
I think you’ll agree that broccoli salads (whether sweet or savory) are where it’s at these days. Make a batch to munch on throughout the week (it packs up great for those days you need to eat lunch on the go) or serve it to a group if you feel like sharing.
Oh, also, did I mention there’s zero mayo? That’s right, you can make a veggie-heavy salad without the creamy mayo. Mayo certainly has its time and place but sometimes you just want the veggies and other ingredients to really shine without all the mayo, ya know?
How to Make it
I like to first get all my ingredients together. You don’t want to start mixing and then realize you never cooked your bacon, etc. So, I go about chopping up my broccoli (I like smaller pieces, but you can cut it however you like), cooking and dicing up the bacon, cutting the onion, and measuring out my dried cranberries and sunflower seeds. Once that’s done, I add all of those ingredients together in a large bowl.
Next, I make the dressing in a blender by adding in all the ingredients and pulsing until it’s all blended together. If you don’t have a blender or food processor, you can put it all into a mason jar with a lid and shake until combined. If it’s too thick, I’ll add about a tablespoon of water at a time until it reaches the consistency I’m looking for.
I also taste as I go along to make sure it has enough salt and pepper. Then, I pour the dressing over the broccoli and other ingredients and mix it up. I eat what I want right then and save the leftovers for tomorrow.
How to Cut the Broccoli
If you’re wondering how to cut broccoli for broccoli salad, I’ve got you covered. The first thing I do before even cutting the broccoli is to rinse it thoroughly under warm water. Next, I cut the “trunk” off and set it aside. From there, I cut off each little floret individually and to about the same size, then the stems from there. The stems higher up on the broccoli head are soft enough to eat so I don’t discard those.
Alternately, if you don’t care if your broccoli is cut uniformly, you can just get to chopping it up like you would a carrot or any other vegetable. It all depends on how you like your presentation.
If you don’t want to waste all of the broccoli stem, what I do is I cut off the very end where it’s all dry and hard. Then I cut the tougher skin from around the stem and then cut the softer, inside core into pieces. Discard the rest.
Expert Tips and Customizations
When customizing broccoli salads, I like to first stick to the main recipe and add a bit of this or a bit of that before recreating the whole wheel, if you will. Some ideas to get you started:
- Add diced apples or halved grapes for a sweet surprise.
- Swap out dried cranberries for raisins for a sweet, but not tart taste.
- Add in other kinds of dried fruit if you don’t want to try dried cranberries or raisins. Dried and chopped mango, pineapple, or figs would be delicious.
- Substitute whole-grain mustard for Dijon if you want a heavier mustard flavor.
- Skip the bacon or use plant-based bacon if you want to make the salad vegetarian.
- Instead of bacon, you could cut and cook up some pancetta. Similar bacon-y taste, slightly different texture.
- Swap sunflower seeds for toasted almonds or pistachios.
- Make the salad half broccoli and half cauliflower for some added color and different flavors with each bite.
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Best Broccoli Salad Recipe (No Mayo!)
- 6 cups broccoli florets I like to chop mine very small
- 1/3 red onion diced
- 4-6 strips of bacon, cooked and chopped or 1/4 cup bacon bits
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup white cheddar cheese shredded
- 3 tablespoons roasted sunflower seeds
honey mustard dressing (no mayo)
- 3 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup honey
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- pinch of black pepper
- water to thin, as needed
- Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl.
- Combine dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. (Alternately you can combine in a jar and shake) Add water as need to reach desired consistency. Taste, add salt and pepper to taste if needed, and pour over broccoli salad.
- Toss salad to coat. Serve immediately or cover and chill up to 24 hours.