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Broccoli Salad Without Bacon (or Mayo)

Broccoli salad without bacon is a crisp, fresh, and subtly sweet vegetable salad with a tangy dressing. Not only is this an easy side dish, but it utilizes the whole vegetable, including the stems.

This lighter spin on the classic broccoli salad has crisp broccoli, crunchy sunflower seeds, and chewy dried cranberries with a honey mustard vinaigrette.

It’s the perfect side dish when you’re short on time because it comes together in about 15 minutes, but the real magic happens after it’s had at least an hour to sit and marinate in the fridge (which is great for make-ahead meal prep if that’s your thing).

It’s one of my favorite side dishes to bring to family gatherings, summer BBQs, or serve during the holidays, so really, it’s great any time of the year.

Homemade Broccoli Salad vs. Store-Bought

Nearly all broccoli salad from the grocery store has added sugar and is heavily drenched in mayo, bacon, and cheese.

Here are a few things I love about homemade broccoli salad that you won’t find at the store:

  • Blanching the broccoli instead of eating raw broccoli florets gives it an ‘al dente’ texture while remaining crunchy. (It really is the best.)
  • The lightness and bright taste of using a vinaigrette instead of a mayonnaise-based dressing.
  • The punch of flavor this salad brings without the need for bacon or cheese.
  • This fresh salad is made with simple ingredients and has a vibrant color.

Salad Ingredients

  • Fresh broccoli florets and stems – yes, we’re using the whole thing and lightly blanching them so they retain their beautiful bright green hue yet still stay crisp.
  • Shallot – I like the delicate onion flavor that shallots provide compared to the harshness of raw onion.
  • Dried cranberries – because the dried cranberries are sweet, they work really well and help balance out the other flavors.
  • Roasted sunflower seeds – the seeds have a nice texture and nutty flavor.
  • Homemade broccoli salad dressing – a combination of extra virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar, dijon mustard, raw honey, salt, and black pepper.

All measurements can be found in the recipe card.

How to Make Broccoli Salad

Step 1. Chop the broccoli into bite-sized pieces. Remove the tough ends at the bottom of the stems and the leaves, then use a vegetable peeler to peel off the outer woody layer of the stems before cutting them into small pieces.

Step 2. Make an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and cold water. Set aside. 

Step 3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add in the broccoli florets and stems. Boil for 2 minutes and then remove from the heat. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the broccoli to your ice-cold water bath carefully. This helps stop the broccoli from continuing to cook and helps retain its color and texture.

Step 4. After 2-3 minutes, drain the broccoli as thoroughly as possible, then add it to a large bowl with the dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, and diced shallot.

Step 5. Add all the dressing ingredients to a small bowl and whisk together until combined. Taste and add more salt as needed. Pour the dressing over your salad and mix thoroughly.

Step 6. Store covered in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.

Make It Your Way: Ingredient Substitutions

Please remember that recipes are just a starting point. 

How can you make this broccoli salad without bacon using what you already have? Here are some ideas

  • No shallots? – you can also use thinly sliced red onion, sweet onion, red onion, or even green onions.
  • No sunflower seeds? – just about any other roasted nut or seed will work, alone or in combination with another. If using whole nuts, roughly chop them first.
  • No dried cranberries? – use raisins, dried cherries, currants, or dried blueberries.
  • No white wine vinegar? – you can also use champagne vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or even lemon juice.
  • No raw honey? – use maple syrup instead.
  • Add-ins – crispy bacon bits or crispy prosciutto.
  • Variations – use a different dressing such as spicy honey mustard or poppy seed dressing.

How To Store

Store broccoli salad in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. After this time, the broccoli starts to lose its vibrant color.

Helpful Tips

I’m all about making a dish your own and customizing it to fit your needs, so for the best results, here are some helpful tips:

  • Saute the shallots (or substitute). If you don’t like eating alliums raw, you can lightly saute them to lessen their intensity.
  • Have all the ingredients prepped and ready. This salad comes together quickly, so prepping everything ahead of time is essential.
  • Don’t leave out the stems, they add a lovely crunch when blanched. Plus, they help you use the whole vegetable, which helps you minimize your food waste.
  • Stay close to the stove when blanching the broccoli. The 2 minutes go by fast.

More Salad Recipes

Broccoli Salad Without Bacon (or Mayo)

5 from 3 votes
Large plate of broccoli salad without bacon topped with dried cranberries and sunflower seeds.
Broccoli salad without bacon is a crisp, fresh, and subtly sweet vegetable salad with a tangy dressing. Not only is this an easy side dish, but it utilizes the whole vegetable, including the stems.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Chill Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Serving Size 6

Ingredients
 

Salad

  • 1 ¼ pounds broccoli florets and stems, chopped about 6 cups
  • cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds
  • 2-3 tablespoons finely diced shallot depending on preference

Honey Mustard Vinagrette

Instructions

  • Chop the broccoli into bite-sized pieces. Remove the tough ends at the bottom of the stems and the leaves, then use a vegetable peeler to peel off the outer woody layer of the stems before cutting them into small pieces.
  • Make an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and cold water. Set aside. 
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add in the broccoli florets and stems. Boil for 2 minutes and then remove from the heat. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the broccoli to your ice-cold water bath carefully. This helps stop the broccoli from continuing to cook and helps retain its color and texture.
  • After 2-3 minutes, drain the broccoli as thoroughly as possible, then add it to a large bowl with the dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, and diced shallot.
  • Add all the dressing ingredients to a small bowl and whisk together until combined. Taste and add more salt as needed. Pour the dressing over your salad and mix thoroughly.
  • Store covered in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.

Notes

See the blog post for helpful tips.

Make It Your Way: Substitutions & Variations

No shallots? – you can also use thinly sliced red onion, sweet onion, red onion, or even green onions.
No sunflower seeds? – you can use just about any other nut or seed, alone or in combination with another. If using whole nuts, roughly chop them first.
No dried cranberries? – use raisins, dried cherries, currants, or dried blueberries.
No white wine vinegar? – you can also use champagne vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or even lemon juice.
No raw honey? – use maple syrup instead.
Add-ins – crispy bacon bits or crispy prosciutto.
Variations – use a different dressing such as spicy honey mustard or poppy seed dressing.

2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This”Healthy Broccoli Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing” is so good. My husband tells me to make it again, and again. Thank you Lindsey.

    1. Aw, I love that Carol! Thanks for letting me know!

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