This broccoli salad recipe is perfectly crunchy, sweet and tangy, and loaded with bacon! It's the ultimate summer salad for BBQs, cookouts, and picnics. You'll adore the homemade creamy dressing.
Why you'll enjoy it
There's no denying that this broccoli salad with bacon is a total treat, and we wouldn't have it any other way. It's been a mainstay in American homes for generations, and that's probably because it's incredibly tasty. Cheddar, bacon, all the toppings... yes please! The combination of ingredients just plain works. It's the broccoli salad you remember from your childhood.
I didn't stray too far from the classic salad dressing, but my not-so-secret ingredient is a bit of bacon fat left over from frying the bacon, and let me tell you that it takes it totally over the top. Like, definitely worth a couple of extra calories. It's next-level tasty. This creamy broccoli salad also is a fantastic make ahead salad, so you can bring it to any summer gathering on your calendar.
If you're on the hunt for something a little lighter, try my Healthy Broccoli Salad instead.
Everything you'll need
For the salad
- Bacon - we've got a generous amount cut into small pieces so that each bite has bacon-y goodness! It's easiest to cut it up using a pair of kitchen shears.
- Broccoli - fresh broccoli is best for this recipe for that crisp, fresh crunch
- Onion - red onion is my go-to variety for salads because it's less sharp than others
- Raisins - I chose golden raisins for their sweetness
- Almonds - who doesn't appreciate a little nutty contrast and crunch?
- Cheddar - if possible, grate your own cheddar for freshness, texture, and flavor. I like using this cheese grater for cheddar.
For the dressing
- Bacon fat - it's important to set this dressing apart from all the rest. Don't skip it!
- Mayonnaise and sour cream - for the traditional creamy base. I prefer Hellmann's for the mayo, but use your favorite brand.
- Vinegar - a bit of tang for contrast and balance. Use either white or cider vinegar.
- Sugar - it gives that signature sweet quality to the dressing
- Salt & pepper - I like to be fairly generous with both
Broccoli success tips
- Should I blanch the broccoli? You can if you want a softer texture, but I don't find it necessary. It's a personal preference. If going that route, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the broccoli for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then drain it and put it in an ice bath right away to stop further cooking.
- Can I use frozen broccoli? If you want a softer broccoli salad, then you can, but if you want it to be nice and crisp, I don't recommend it. Frozen broccoli is parboiled (blanched) before it's frozen.
How to make broccoli salad
This is an overview with step-by-step photos. Full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.
Fry the bacon, and transfer to a paper towel lined plate when done. Meanwhile, prep the other ingredients and add them to a large salad bowl. Spoon in some of the bacon grease to a small bowl that you'll make the dressing in. Add the rest of the dressing ingredients, and stir until it's smooth.
Pour the dressing onto the salad, add the bacon, and then toss until coated. It's delicious right away or chilled for a few hours to let the flavors meld some more.
How to make broccoli salad ahead
- Prep and chop all your ingredients. Add the salad ingredients to a large bowl, cover, and refrigerate. Combine the dressing in a small bowl, and store it in a covered jar in the fridge. When you're ready to eat, toss and enjoy!
- You can also dress the salad up to a day ahead of consuming it and chill in the fridge. It'll hold up well, and the flavors will intensify.
- To get one pound of florets, buy more than 1 pound of broccoli since you'll be trimming off the stems. Don't worry, it doesn't have to be exact. I like to chop the broccoli into fairly small pieces. This is definitely up to you, but I find it easier to eat when the florets are smaller.
- Ensure the florets are as dry as possible if you rinse them first. No one wants a watery salad!
- I tried to make a fairly generous amount of dressing so that if you have a bit over a pound of broccoli, there will still be enough. If there's too much, you don't need to use it all and can save the rest.
Substitutions and variations
- I used golden raisins since they tend to be a bit softer and plumper than the regular kind, but you can definitely use regular raisins or swap with dried cranberries if you're not a raisin fan.
- The almonds can be swapped for sunflower kernels.
- You can swap the sour cream for Greek yogurt if that's all you've got on hand.
- Try subbing the mayo for Miracle Whip if you prefer the taste or like a little extra zip!
What to serve with it
- It's fantastic as part of a potluck or BBQ spread. Try it with these Pineapple Shrimp Skewers Recipe or Cilantro Lime Grilled Chicken Thighs as tasty grilled main courses.
- Some other favorite side dishes I like to serve all summer long include this Black Bean Corn Avocado Salad with Rice and Cajun Grilled Corn on the Cob! Whatever you pair it with, this salad is sure to go fast.
Leftovers and storage
- Broccoli salad is best eaten within a few days of making it. It'll keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 3-4 days. If making it more than a day or so ahead of time, I recommend adding the dressing closer when you're actually serving it.
- If it has been left out longer than a couple of hours especially in the sunshine, I recommend eating it right away or tossing it for food safety reasons.
Do you agree this is the best broccoli salad? Tried this recipe or have any questions? Talk to me in the comments below, or tag me #saltandlavender on Instagram!
Easy Broccoli Salad
- 6 strips bacon (I prefer thick cut) cut into small pieces
- 5-6 cups broccoli florets see note
- 1/3 cup red onion chopped
- 1/2 cup raisins (I used golden ones) or dried cranberries
- 1/3 cup sliced almonds
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 tablespoon bacon fat from frying the bacon
- 3/4 cup mayo
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- 1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Cut the bacon into small pieces (I use kitchen shears to make this easy) and fry in a skillet over medium-high heat until crispy (about 10 minutes).
- Meanwhile, prep the remaining salad ingredients and add them to a large bowl.
- Once the bacon is done, take it out of the skillet and transfer it to a paper towel lined plate. Add one tablespoon of the remaining bacon fat to a small bowl that you'll make the salad dressing in.
- To the salad dressing bowl, add the mayo, sour cream, vinegar, and sugar and salt & pepper. Stir until smooth. Taste and adjust if needed (e.g. add more sugar or vinegar).
- Pour the dressing over the salad and toss (add the bacon in as well). You can serve it right away or cover the bowl tightly and let the flavors meld for an hour or two prior to serving. The salad will last for a few days in the fridge.
- I recommend buying a bit over a pound of broccoli (up to 1.5 pounds) because by the time you trim the stems and cut it into florets, you'll end up with about a pound of broccoli florets, which equals roughly 5-6 cups.
- Be sure to dry off the broccoli well if you've rinsed it.
- This salad is very forgiving! Feel free to leave an ingredient out if you don't like it... e.g. omit the cheddar. Or add more/less of an ingredient.
- Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Salt & Lavender makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.