Best Broccoli Salad (Classic Recipe)

This post may include affiliate links from brands we've partnered with. Please read our affiliate poilcy.

Did you grow up eating Broccoli Salad? This classic recipe was at pretty much every BBQ and potluck I ever went to growing up. There’s lot’s to love with this best Broccoli Salad from the sweet-tart cranberries to the salty savory bacon, and crunch of sunflower seeds all combined together with a creamy dressing. This salad keeps well for days in the fridge, so we like to make it for meal prep to have during the work week. It pairs well with simple main dishes from the grill, or even a roast chicken for Sunday dinner.

A speckled pottery bowl filled with Broccoli Salad with sunflower seeds and dressing alongside and gold serving spoons.

Broccoli Salad was one of those classic recipes I grew up eating all the time. It was everywhere, kind of like 7 layer salad. My mom made it often, and so did all of my friend’s moms. It was also at pretty much any kind of get-together I can remember from birthday parties to backyard bbq’s.

But somehow over the years, I haven’t been seeing it around as much. So today I thought I’d share my best recipe for this classic that really does need to make a comeback! This recipe is how my mom used to make it to the best of my recollection. I don’t think she even had a recipe for this salad, it was just one of those classics you made from memory.

A speckled pottery bowl filled with Broccoli Salad with gold servings spoons, and a white and blue striped linen.

Ingredients for this best Broccoli Salad recipe

  • Broccoli – I like to use both the tops (florets) and the stems in this recipe so there’s no waste. If you peel the stems with a vegetable peeler, the inside is tender, sweet, and perfect chopped up in this fresh salad. Broccoli salad is made with fresh broccoli, so frozen doesn’t work in this case.
  • Bacon – Use whatever bacon you like the best. I’ve used everything from classic bacon to uncured peppered bacon, and you cannot go wrong! Be sure to check the labels to see if it works for you if you have dietary issues. Our local health food store has several brands of bacon now without any sugar or preservatives which has been so nice.
  • Red Onion – is classic in broccoli salad. You could use other types of onion, but really red onion is best here and adds a lot of savory flavor.
  • Cranberries or Raisins – I know raisins used to be the most used in the classic version of this recipe. But dried cranberries are so much better. Try looking for fruit juice-sweetened dried cranberries. They’re not as overly sweet and are perfect here.
  • Sunflower Seeds – I like to buy the already roasted lightly salted sunflower seeds to keep things nice and easy. You can also use toasted slivered or sliced almonds.
  • Dressing – I like to use a mixture of homemade or avocado mayo from the store with fresh lemon juice. You don’t want to use bottled lemon juice here because this dressing is so simple, that freshness becomes extra important. If you don’t like mayo, see my options below. You can also use apple cider vinegar in the dressing, but I recommend the freshness of the lemon juice overall.

Let’s make this recipe step by step

Strips of bacon on a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Step 1: Start by cooking the bacon to make bacon bits. I like to bake mine in the oven on a parchment-lined baking sheet. There’s virtually no cleanup and it’s the easiest way to cook bacon I’ve ever tried.

It also cooks evenly which is super nice for a salad. You can crispy it up to your liking with no soft bits in your salad!

Finely chopped up bacon bits on a wooden cutting board.

Step 2: Once the bacon has been drained and cooled, chop it up into small bacon bits.

Chopped cranberries, minced onion, bacon bits, and sunflower seeds on a wooden cutting board.

Step 3: Prep the other ingredients by mincing up the onion and roughly chopping the cranberries.

Chopped broccoli on a wooden cutting board.

Step 4: Prep the broccoli by cutting up the tops into small bite-sized pieces.

To use the stem, peel away the tough outer layers, then chop into small bite-sized pieces.

Chopped broccoli, cranberries, onion, and bacon bits in a bowl with the dressing and sunflower seeds in bowls next to it.

Step 5: Stir together the dressing in a small bowl. Add all of the salad ingredients to a large bowl except the sunflower seeds. Mix the broccoli mixture together with the dressing.

Then add the sunflower seeds if you’re serving it right away. Or keep them separate until you’re ready to serve the salad.

Note: in some areas, it’s traditional to add grated sharp cheddar cheese, so feel free to mix some in if desired. We love adding some crumbled feta cheese sometimes!

Broccoli Salad in a speckled pottery bowl with a blue and white striped linen, gold serving spoons, and dressing and sunflower seeds by it.

Ways to serve this


What can I use in place of mayonnaise in broccoli salad?

Greek yogurt makes a great substitute for mayonnaise in broccoli salad. For dairy-free options, I have several dressing options listed below including my avocado dressing which is creamy and fresh.

How do you cut up broccoli for broccoli salad?

First I like to cut off the stem, from there, you cut up the broccoli top into small bite-sized broccoli florets. To use the stem, use a vegetable peeler to peel away all the tough outer layers, then dice it up into bite-sized pieces.

Storing leftovers

  • To store – This salad keeps well for up to 4 days in the fridge. It’s nice to keep the sunflower seeds separate so they stay nice and crunchy.
  • Make ahead – You can also store the salad ingredients separately from the dressing and mix together about 30 minutes before serving to let the flavors develop.
A speckled pottery bowl filled with broccoli salad with gold spoons in the background.

How to make Broccoli Salad without mayo

Dietary Options & Substitutions

  • Dairy-free & Paleo – use all mayo and no Greek yogurt, or my creamy avocado dressing mentioned above. Also any of the vinaigrettes listed above work as well.
  • Whole30 – make sure your bacon is Whole30 compliant and the cranberries are fruit juice sweetened. I buy mine at Natural Grocers, but if you can’t find them or want to avoid dried fruit, try chopped apples instead. Also use my creamy avocado dressing, lemon vinaigrette, or all Whole30-compliant mayo with no yogurt for the dressing.
A super close macro view of broccoli salad.

Try these 3 fun variations on broccoli salad

I really hope you enjoy this classic Broccoli Salad, it’s so perfect for everything from lunches to backyard BBQs. And if you do get a chance to make it, I hope you’ll leave me a comment/rating below. I always love hearing from you here! Also for lots more salad recipes, head over to the recipe index.

Broccoli Salad in a speckled pottery bowl with a blue and white striped linen, gold serving spoons, and dressing and sunflower seeds by it.

Best Broccoli Salad (Classic Recipe)

5 from 1 vote
Author: Kari Peters
Total Time 30 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
Course: Salad


  • 8 ounces bacon - 6-8 strips
  • 2 heads broccoli - 1 1/2 pounds, about 5-6 cups chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries - roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup roasted sunflower seeds


  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise of choice - I use this mayo recipe
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt - or dairy free yogurt of choice
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt - or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper - or to taste


  • Preheat the oven to 400ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay out the strips of bacon evenly on the baking sheet and bake until crispy, 10-15 minutes. Drain the bacon and let cool.
  • Meanwhile chop the broccoli heads into small bite sized florets. Using a vegetable peeler, peel away the tough outer layer of the stems. Chop the stems into small bite sized pieces.
  • Place the chopped broccoli into a large mixing bowl along with the onion, cranberries, and sunflower seeds. Keep the sunflower seeds separate only if you’re not serving this right away.
  • Mix together the ingredients for the dressing and finely chop the bacon. Add the dressing and bacon to the salad and toss to combine.
  • Season to taste and serve immediately. I find this salad tastes even better if it has 15 minutes to 1 hour in the fridge first for the flavors to develop after it’s been mixed.
  • Refrigerate and serve within 4 days, but it tastes best within the first 2 days.
Bonus StepIf you made this recipe, please leave a rating/comment. Ratings really help us continue to bring you high-quality free recipes. Rate This Recipe!


If you enjoy shredded cheddar cheese in your broccoli salad, feel free to add some.
Category: Salad
Cuisine: American
Keywords: Broccoli Salad Recipe, Broccoli Salad Recipe with Bacon, Broccoli Salad with Bacon, Classic Broccoli Salad

nutrition facts

Calories: 437kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 34g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 14g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 33mg | Sodium: 591mg | Potassium: 785mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 1290IU | Vitamin C: 182mg | Calcium: 117mg | Iron: 2mg
DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?Tag @get.inspired.everyday on Instagram or hashtag #getinspiredeveryday
5 from 1 vote (1 rating without comment)

Leave a Comment

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.