Best Broccoli Salad

Meet my new favorite broccoli salad recipe...aka the best cookout dish around! With a lightly creamy, tangy dressing, it's fresh, healthy & delicious.

Broccoli salad

I hope you have some fun grilling & chilling plans coming up this weekend because I’ll be sharing 3 super fun cookout salads this week. They’re all easy to make and more importantly – easy to make ahead. First up – broccoli salad! This is a healthier spin on the traditional midwest broccoli salad but it’s every bit as flavorful. Small broccoli florets are marinated in a creamy/tangy dressing along with dried cranberries and smoky tamari-roasted almonds. It’s a one-bowl recipe that’s great as a pack-able picnic salad or an easy make-ahead lunch.

Broccoli salad recipe ingredients

A Broccoli Salad Recipe That’s Good for You

Broccoli salad is a classic summer cookout dish, but the traditional recipe is loaded up with sugar, ample mayo, bacon, and cheese. My recipe is a fresher, healthier version – I nix the sugar, meat, and cheese altogether – and the result is a crisp, refreshing, tangy dish that’ll be the star of your cookouts all summer long!

Chopped broccoli on a cutting board

Instead of using the typical 1 cup mayo: 2 tablespoons vinegar ratio for my broccoli salad dressing, I replace some of the mayo with olive oil and up the proportion of vinegar. I also add a few teaspoons of Dijon mustard and a little honey to the mix, making for a light, super tangy dressing with a delectable sweet/salty flavor.

Broccoli salad dressing

The dressing is delicious, but smoky, sweet/salty tamari almonds and pepitas really steal the show here. Not only do they add a wonderful crunch to this salad, but they also bring richness and smoky flavor, so they’re the perfect nutritious substitute for bacon and cheese.

A full pound of broccoli, chewy dried cranberries, and flecks of red onion round out this recipe – it’s SO fresh, healthy, and easy to make!

How to make broccoli salad

Broccoli Salad Tips

Want to make the best broccoli salad around? Here are a few simple tips:

  • Cut your broccoli small. Because the broccoli stays raw for this dish, you want to make sure the pieces are small enough to become fully coated and soften in the dressing. Also, when the broccoli pieces are a similar size to the other ingredients in the salad, you can get a little of everything in each bite.
  • Let it marinate. This salad is good right after it’s made, but it’s even better after a few hours (or even days) in the fridge. The broccoli softens and absorbs the flavors of the dressing – my family  loved it on day three!
  • Save some nuts for the last minute. Sure, I like to make this salad ahead so that the flavors can develop, but the key to making it great is the super crispy, smoky nuts & seeds on top. If you add them too early, they’ll lose their crunch, so save some to sprinkle on right before serving!

Broccoli Salad Recipe ingredients

Broccoli Salad Serving Suggestions

If you make this recipe for a cookout, it’d be great alongside veggie burgers, black bean burgers, portobello “dogs,” or BBQ jackfruit sandwiches. As I said above, it’s the perfect recipe to make ahead – I think it actually improves over time, as the broccoli softens in the dressing and the flavors develop as it sits.

Alternatively, pack this salad up for a healthy lunch! For some of my best lunch-packing tips, check out this post.

Healthy Broccoli Salad Recipe Best Broccoli Salad on a plate

If you love this broccoli salad recipe…

Try this slaw, this corn salad, this pasta salad, or this potato salad next!

Check out this post for 37 more salad recipes, and this post for 85 more vegan recipes!

Broccoli Salad

rate this recipe:
5 from 18 votes
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 25 mins
Serves 4 to 6
This broccoli salad recipe is the perfect easy cookout side dish! Tangy, refreshing, and full of yummy sweet/salty flavor, it's a lighter version of the classic recipe, made with less mayo and no sugar, meat, or dairy.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound broccoli crowns
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons mayo, I like Sir Kensington's or vegan mayo
  • tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup or honey
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt, more to taste
  • cup diced red onions
  • cup dried cranberries

Smoky tamari almonds

  • ½ cup almonds
  • ½ cup pepitas
  • 1 tablespoon tamari
  • ½ teaspoon maple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika, more to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Chop the broccoli florets into ½-inch pieces and any remaining stems into ¼-inch dice. Peel any woody or course parts from the stem first.
  • In the bottom of a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, mayo, apple cider vinegar, mustard, maple syrup, garlic, and salt. Add the broccoli, onions, and cranberries and toss to coat.
  • Place the almonds and pepitas on the baking sheet, toss with the tamari, maple syrup, and smoked paprika and spread into a thin layer. Bake 10 to 14 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes (they’ll get crispier as they sit).
  • Toss the almonds and pepitas into the salad, reserving a few to sprinkle on top. Season to taste and serve.

Notes

*Note: Chop the florets into roughly ½-inch pieces. Dice the stem into smaller ¼-inch pieces.

 

40 comments

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  1. Susan
    05.20.2019

    Jeanine, I think you’ve outdone yourself with this one. I appreciate very much having most of the sugar gone. I might steam the broccoli very lightly, as neither my husband nor I care much for raw broccoli. I also like the idea of the tamari roasted almond and pepitas. This salad would go very well with the brisket burger recipe I picked up from another favorite blog this morning…

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      05.25.2019

      Thanks Susan, I hope you enjoy it!

    • Karen
      05.27.2019

      5 stars
      The dressing is perfect as is. I think that yogurt would make it unpleasantly tangy. I’ll be making this many times. Thanks!

      • Jeanine Donofrio
        05.27.2019

        Hi Karen, I’m so glad you loved it!!

  2. Laura
    05.20.2019

    Is it possible to substitute Greek yogurt for the mayo? Otherwise the salad looks so healthy and delicious!!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      05.20.2019

      Hi Laura, I haven’t tried it but I think it would be good – I’d just add a little more salt to taste.

      If you make it as-is, I promise you will not even know that there’s mayo in here, there’s so little of it in relation to the amount of broccoli. It just adds a bit of creaminess to coat the raw broccoli. Or if you use vegan mayo (such as Sir Kensington’s Fabanaise), then there’s no actual mayo because it’s made of chickpeas.

      • Roxane Javid
        05.25.2019

        5 stars
        I made this salad using greek yogurt mainly because I always have it on hand and it would take me a long time to use up a jar of mayo, vegan or otherwise. The Sir Kensington’s you mentioned was only sold as a really big bottle and even the vegan mayo at my grocery store was a big size. Also had to omit the red onions because it aggravates reflux for me. It was fantastic even with the modifications. Didn’t need the extra salt because I am used to less salt so definitely taste before deciding. What was really interesting for me was using smoked paprika for the first time. It really added a kick to the salad and this is one spice I can see using elsewhere. Highly recommend this one!

        • Jeanine Donofrio
          05.25.2019

          Hi Roxane, I’m so glad you loved it with the greek yogurt!

  3. Elaine
    05.20.2019

    5 stars
    I made it tonight! #todiefor. This one’s a
    KEEPER!!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      05.25.2019

      yay!! I hope you liked the pasta salad as well 🙂

  4. Sabrina from newkitchenlife.com
    05.20.2019

    another great salad, thank you, love the almond texture contrast with the rest of the ingredients, cranberries are a nice flavor punch too, make ahead even better

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      05.25.2019

      Hi Sabrina, I’m so glad you loved it!

  5. Roxane
    05.21.2019

    Can’t wait to try this one. Like being able to make it ahead and let the flavors marinate. Works well when you need to “bring a dish” for a gathering. Want to clarify something. You say to work the pepitas and almonds into the salad but to save a few before serving. If you are going to make this the night before a luncheon would you save all of them to work in right before serving or just a few.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      05.21.2019

      Hi Roxane, I’d mix half into the salad when you make it, and put half into a baggie to sprinkle on top either before you leave the house or once you get there, whichever is more convenient! It’ll be delicious either which way, I just like to sprinkle a few near the end so that they’re crispy. I hope you love the salad!

      • Roxane
        05.22.2019

        Thank you, Jeanine. I am sure I will.

  6. Emily
    05.24.2019

    5 stars
    I just brought this to a work potluck and everyone loved it! It wasn’t until just now that I realized I left out the olive oil entirely, but I t turned out great anyway! I also used sliced almonds instead of whole ones, and I liked that it matched the texture of the pepitas.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      05.25.2019

      Hi Emily, I’m so so glad everyone loved it!

  7. Danielle
    05.26.2019

    This is amazing! Perfect salad for Memorial Day weekend!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      05.27.2019

      I’m so glad you loved it!

  8. Andrea
    05.28.2019

    5 stars
    What a beautiful delicious salad, thank you!!

  9. Dani
    07.05.2019

    I made this for a family BBQ yesterday and when I was leaving one of my aunts said, “Thank you for the delicious broccoli! That’s something I never thought I’d say…”

    🙂

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      07.10.2019

      Ha ha, I love hearing that!

  10. Erin
    07.10.2019

    5 stars
    I made this as directed for a party the night before. I left the nuts out and mixed right before. I think the marinade might have softened the broccoli a slight bit because I also normally don’t like it raw but IT WAS AMAZING! All the flavors and colors blend beautifully. A new fav!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      07.10.2019

      Yay! I’m so glad you loved it!

  11. Marti
    07.26.2019

    5 stars
    I prepared this for a birthday BBQ and it was a hit! I followed the recipe and doubled it! I accidentally added halved cherry tomatoes, I left half at home. Both batches were gone and I’ve gotten requests to share the recipe! Thank you for this lovely dude dish!

  12. Brenda E
    08.03.2019

    I just made this–it was so good! Thanks so much for all of the wonderful recipes.

  13. Leah from Love%20and%20Lemons
    08.10.2019

    5 stars
    Just made this tonight and everyone loved it! Thanks for this recipe. I plan to make again.

  14. niki
    08.24.2019

    5 stars
    Simply AMAZING!! Adding it to the rotation. I ended up using Dijon mustard mayonnaise. In the words of my almost 2 yo. Num num num!! I’ve been cruising your website for plenty more recipes to try! No shortage of options 🙂

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      08.25.2019

      awwww, I’m so glad to hear that you all loved it so much. Especially love to hear which recipes go over well with the kiddos! 🙂

  15. Alicia
    09.30.2019

    5 stars
    Thanks for this recipe!
    I made it today for the first time. It certainly will not be the last time!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      12.08.2019

      Hi Alicia, I’m so glad you loved the salad! Thanks for taking a minute to let me know!

  16. Nicole
    10.03.2019

    5 stars
    Absolutely delicious! This is now one of my go to side dishes!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      12.08.2019

      Hi Nicole, I’m so happy you loved the broccoli salad!

  17. Jamie
    11.29.2019

    5 stars
    I made a double batch of this salad for thanksgiving and it was a hit!! I used agave instead of maple syrup and a shallot for the onion (what I had on hand). Totally recommend making ahead of time as the marinade softens and flavors the broccoli to perfection. Wouldn’t change a thing about this—thank you for such a delicious healthy recipe that my carnivorous family couldn’t get enough of!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      12.08.2019

      Hi Jamie, I’m so glad everyone loved it!

  18. Elizabeth
    01.05.2020

    5 stars
    Another winner! Used shallot instead of onion because I tend to tolerate that Better in the raw. Like others have said – this is excellent and the marinade almost “cooks” the broccoli (almost like vegetarian ceviche). So easy and yummy and definitely will make an appearance at potlucks this summer. I am also wondering about subbing out some of the Mayo/oil for yogurt (I’d use Greek kite hill almond) just to lighten it a bit. It does not taste too heavy or have a fatty mouth feel whatsoever (quite the opposite in fact), but given I could easily eat half the recipe myself, I’d be interested to bring down the oil amount just a little and enjoy the fat via the delicious nuts and seeds. If I try this, will report back!

  19. Tamara
    01.12.2020

    Can I sub soy sauce instead of tamari? Same proportion? Thanks!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      01.13.2020

      yep, you can!

  20. Amy
    03.18.2020

    I just made this tonight and it is delicious! I subbed the mayo in the dressing for tahini. Not really in efforts to make it healthier, just because I’ve been really into tahini lately. The results were great! Keeping this recipe for sure.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      03.29.2020

      Hi Amy, I’m glad you loved it! I love tahini so much, I’ll have to try it that way 🙂

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.