This crunchy, creamy broccoli salad with bacon and cranberries has the most delicious sweet and tangy dressing. It’s simple to toss together, ready in no time, and the BEST side for all your picnics, BBQs and potlucks!
Broccoli salad has got to be one of my all-time favorite side salads. Everyone loves the traditional potato and macaroni salads, but if you’re looking for something fresh, colorful, crunchy, and yes, a bit healthier, for your next cookout, you will love this one.
Should I cook the broccoli first?
This seems to be a popular question regarding broccoli salad. The answer is, it’s up to you! I personally love the mild flavor and crunch of raw broccoli, but if you don’t, you can go ahead and blanch it first.
Here’s how to blanch the broccoli while preserving the vibrant green color, and crispness.
- First, prepare an ice bath (large bowl of cold water with some ice). The ice bath is crucial for not overcooking the broccoli.
- Next, bring a large pot of water to a boil, and submerge your whole broccoli stalks until crisp-tender (no more than a minute or two).
- After cooking, transfer the broccoli to the ice bath right away to stop the cooking. Proceed with the rest of the recipe.
- Slice off the thick stalks from your broccoli and cut the heads into small bite-size florets. You should end up with about 5 cups of broccoli florets.
- Cut 3-4 slices of bacon into 1/4 inch pieces and cook over medium heat until golden and crispy. (You can also use store bought bacon bits.)
3. In a large bowl, combine the chopped broccoli, sunflower seeds, finely chopped red onion, bacon bits, and dried cranberries.
4. For the dressing, combine mayonnaise, whole grain mustard, maple syrup, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
5. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well.
6. I love to garnish this salad with shaved Parmesan cheese and thinly sliced radish for a peppery bite.
This being a salad, you can substitute any and all ingredients as much as you like, so feel free to make it your own!
Seeds and nuts: Instead of sunflower seeds, try sliced almonds or pepitas. For festive holiday potlucks, try pecans or walnuts.
Fruits: Instead of dried cranberries, try another dried fruit like cherries or raisins. Or try fresh chopped apple, pear, or grapes.
Cheese: I love to shave some salty Parmesan cheese on this, but lots of people like grated cheddar in their broccoli salad.
You can skip the bacon for a vegetarian salad, or substitute some crispy pancetta instead.
What goes well with this creamy broccoli salad?
For picnics and BBQs, this fresh, crunchy salad is great alongside other salads like
Creamy Broccoli Salad
- 3 oz bacon 3-4 strips, chopped (or 1/2 cup store bought bacon bits)
- 5 cups fresh broccoli cut into 1/2 inch pieces (about 2-3 large heads)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1 radish thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup parmesan shaved
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cut the tough stems off the broccoli and chop the heads into small florets.
- Place the chopped bacon in a cold frying pan and place over medium heat. Cook until the bacon is brown and crispy, about 5 minutes, and remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate.
- In a large bowl, combine the broccoli, bacon, red onion, sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries.
- In a small bowl, combine the dressing ingredients and toss with the salad.
- Sprinkle salad with shaved Parmesan and thinly sliced radish.
Hi! I’m Ann and I blog at Our Happy Mess. I’m all about fast, fresh, and family-friendly recipes. I believe cooking from scratch can not only be doable but FUN, no matter how busy life gets!
You can find more of my recipes at Our Happy Mess.