Classic and delicious Broccoli Salad Recipe perfect for any backyard party or potluck! Tossed in a creamy mayonnaise dressing, this easy Broccoli Salad comes filled with crisp broccoli florets, dried cranberries, red onion, bacon, pistachios, and chunks of mouthwatering smoked gouda cheese.
The Best Broccoli Salad with Bacon
Unexpectedly delicious, this broccoli salad recipe tastes nothing like raw broccoli. I promise. I would know since I avoided trying even the creamiest of broccoli salads for pretty much my whole life.
Until one day, feeling experimental, I decided to give it a try. Surely I wouldn’t like it, I thought.
And that’s when I realized I was wrong. Broccoli salad does not taste like raw broccoli. In fact, with the right combination of salty, sweet, smoky, and creamy, this misunderstood childhood summertime dish quickly transformed into one of the best salads I had ever eaten!
Perfect for potlucks, backyard cookouts, or days when it’s too hot to turn on the oven, this broccoli salad recipe comes filled with crispy bacon, sweet dried cranberries, crunchy red onion, and smoked gouda cheese tossed in a creamy four-ingredient broccoli salad dressing.
Broccoli Salad Ingredients
In this delicious bowl of broccoli salad, you’ll find,
- Broccoli – small, bite-size florets.
- Bacon – I highly recommend the addition of bacon. It’s the salty piece of this salad that keeps you coming back for more and more and more.
- Red onion – when diced into small pieces, red onion lends loads of flavor without overshadowing the flavor of the other ingredients. If red onions are too strong for you, add less or soak them in water after they’ve been diced to remove some of the harshness.
- Dried Cranberries – Like sweet little red jewels, dried cranberries are the perfect addition to the salty bacon and creamy mayo-covered broccoli. No dried cranberries? Raisins or dried blueberries are great alternatives.
- Pistachios – I love pistachios but feel free to add sunflower seeds or cashews.
- Cheese – Cheese adds huge flavor. Especially when that cheese is smoked gouda. If you can’t find smoked gouda, sharp cheddar is a popular alternative.
Creamy Broccoli Salad Dressing
All these mouthwatering components need a dressing to hold them all together. Unlike a leafy green salad like this strawberry spinach salad, broccoli salads do really well with a creamy, mayonnaise-based dressing.
You can keep it as simple as mixing it with just mayonnaise or add a few other simple ingredients to give it a bit more flavor.
The ingredients in this creamy broccoli salad dressing include,
- Mayonnaise – Must have.
- Sour cream – or Greek yogurt. Somewhat lighter than mayonnaise.
- Apple cider vinegar – Lends a nice tangy flavor.
- Granulated sugar – Sweetens it up a bit (but not too much).
- Salt and Pepper – Always to taste.
How to make Broccoli Salad
You can make your broccoli salad in just four easy steps,
Cook the bacon – Start by frying the bacon first. You can even do this step ahead of time. If I know that I’m making bacon bits, I find that it’s easiest to chop the bacon up first. Of course, feel free to cook according to your preferred method.
- Add the chopped bacon to a large skillet and set over medium-high heat. Once the bacon is hot and sizzling, reduce heat to medium-low, and cover with a lid.
- Cook, low and slow, stirring occasionally.
- Once the bacon pieces are golden and release their grease, remove the lid and allow them to cook until you reach the desired doneness.
- Remove the bacon using a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels. Set aside.
- Prepare the mayo dressing – Whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste, and transfer to the refrigerator to keep cool until ready to use.
- Assemble – In a large salad bowl, add the broccoli florets, diced red onion, dried cranberries, pistachios, smoked gouda, and bacon bits. Toss to combine. Pour the prepared mayo dressing over the broccoli salad and mix well to coat.
- Serve – Serve immediately, or for best flavor, let salad rest in the refrigerator for one hour, mixing once more before serving.
Should you blanch the broccoli first?
What is blanching? Blanching is it is a cooking technique where food (often vegetables or fruit) are added to a pot of boiling salted water for a brief period of time, typically no longer than 60 seconds, then immediately transferred to an ice water bath to stop cooking.
Blanching achieves many things, but in the case of this broccoli salad recipe, it may help remove some of the bitterness that comes naturally to raw broccoli.
I don’t feel that it is necessary to blanch the broccoli first (and I am super sensitive to that bitter, raw broccoli taste). I have made this recipe both ways and find that the flavor is comparable.
Regardless, here’s how to properly blanch broccoli–
- Chop broccoli into florets of approximately equal size.
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Once boiling, add a couple of teaspoons of salt to the boiling water.
- As you wait for the water to come to a boil, prepare your ice water bath by filling a large mixing bowl, salad bowl, or pot, with ice and cold water. Set aside.
- Add the broccoli florets to the pot filled with boiling water — Cook for 60 seconds max.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer the broccoli to the ice water bath to immediately stop cooking.
- Once cool, drain your broccoli and dry thoroughly.
Tips and Tricks
A few simple tips and tricks to help make the very best broccoli salad recipe,
- Use the freshest broccoli that you can find.
- For a little extra crunch add some diced celery.
- If possible, allow your broccoli salad to rest, covered, and in the refrigerator, for at least 30-60 minutes before serving.
- Chop your broccoli florets into small, bite-size pieces.
- Mix up the nuts or add some seeds.
- Want to make a lighter broccoli salad?
- Start with less dressing and add more as needed.
- Skip the bacon, add less, or purchase store-bought “real” bacon bits.
- Less cheese- especially if you’re adding a less flavorful cheese.
MORE EASY SALAD RECIPES,
- Taco Salad Recipe
- Egg Salad Recipe (How to Make Egg Salad)
- Easy Three Bean Salad Recipe
- Chinese Chicken Salad Recipe
- Cucumber Salad Recipe
- Balsamic Tomato Basil Salad
- Broccoli Edamame Salad with Peanut Sauce
If you try making this Broccoli Salad Recipe with Poppy Seed Dressing, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to hear your thoughts.
REMEMBER TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE FORKED SPOON NEWSLETTER FOR FREE AND RECEIVE WEEKLY RECIPE NOTIFICATIONS DELIVERED STRAIGHT TO YOUR INBOX!
Broccoli Salad Recipe
- 8 strips bacon - (note 1)
- 8 cups broccoli florets
- 1 small red onion - diced
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries - (note 2)
- 1/3 cup pistachios - (note 3)
- 1 cup smoked gouda cheese - chopped into small cubes (note 4)
For the Mayo Dressing
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar - (note 5)
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- salt and pepper - to season
- Cook the bacon - Add the chopped bacon to a large skillet and set over medium-high heat. Once the bacon is hot and sizzling, reduce heat to medium-low and cover with a lid. Cook low and slow, stirring occasionally. Once the bacon pieces are golden, remove the lid and allow them to cook until the desired doneness is reached. Remove the bacon using a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels. Set aside.
- Prepare the mayo dressing - Whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer to the refrigerator to keep cool until ready to use.
- Assemble - In a large salad bowl add the broccoli florets, diced red onion, dried cranberries, pistachios, smoked gouda, and bacon bits. Toss to combine. Pour the prepared mayo dressing over the broccoli salad and mix well to coat.
- Serve - Serve immediately, or for best flavor, let salad rest in the refrigerator for one hour, mixing once more before serving.
- Use approximately 1/2 cup if using pre-cooked store-bought bacon bits.
- Dried cranberries are my personal favorite, but feel free to add your favorite dried fruits such as raisins or blueberries.
- No pistachios? Sunflower seeds, cashews, and almonds are all great alternatives.
- If you can get your hands on smoked gouda (I purchase mine from Trader Joe's), I highly recommend it for this broccoli salad (as well as this pea salad). Other delicious cheeses however include sharp cheddar, mozzarella, Jack, or even shaved Parmesan.
- Substitutes to apple cider vinegar include white wine vinegar and red wine vinegar. Distilled white vinegar is not recommended as it is far too harsh.