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Broccoli Bacon Salad (Paleo + Gluten-Free)

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The BEST Broccoli Salad recipe around! This classic broccoli salad with bacon is one of my favorite summer sides for barbecues, picnics, and potlucks. (Gluten-Free, Paleo-Friendly)

Broccoli Bacon Salad from One Lovely Life

Summer salad season has arrived, and I am HERE FOR IT! 

I think it’s a combination of all the fresh fruits & veggies in season and the soaring summer temps that make me crave something cool. It’s also perfect for grilling season–summer salads and sides are exactly what we need to fill out a meal. Pasta salad, potato salad, fruit salad…you name it! 

My favorite broccoli salad recipe is definitely one of those salads I love to include at a cookout. Fresh broccoli, crispy bacon, lots of goodies, and a tangy dressing to tie it all together? Yep, definitely a favorite.

A classic broccoli salad recipe like this is the perfect side dish for barbecues, picnics, or potlucks. It pairs beautifully with summer classics, like grilled chicken, burgers, steak, hot dogs, and more!

Cool, crisp, and refreshing, my broccoli bacon salad is the perfect way to eat broccoli in the summer. And here’s all you need to get started…

Broccoli Bacon Salad with Sunflower Seeds, Bacon, Cranberries, and Red Onion

Start With Simple Ingredients

One thing you’ll LOVE about this easy broccoli salad recipe is the simple ingredients list. Nothing too crazy or fussy here! Let’s take a look…

  • BROCCOLI FLORETS. The base of this salad is plenty of fresh broccoli. I suggest making sure you cut your broccoli florets into small, bite-size pieces so they’re easier to eat and get better coated in all that yummy, creamy dressing.
  • CRISPED, COOKED BACON. We add some smoky, salty yumminess to our fresh broccoli salad with crisp, cooked bacon. The smoky flavor really adds a lot to the dressing!
  • DRIED CRANBERRIES. For some subtle sweetness, I add some dried cranberries (or cherries or raisins!) to my broccoli bacon salad. Not only do they look like little jewels in the salad, but they also taste amazing!
  • SUNFLOWER SEEDS OR TOASTED ALMONDS. Then, for a little crunch, I love adding crunchy sunflower seeds or toasted almonds. I use whichever I have on hand–both options are delicious! (You can also use smoked almonds if you want even more smoky flavor!)
  • RED ONION. I don’t like it when raw onion overpowers a salad, so I only use a little in my broccoli bacon salad. It’s enough to add color and flavor without taking over.
  • A CREAMY, TANGY DRESSING. Lastly, we tie all those yummy flavors and textures together with a homemade broccoli salad dressing that’s tangy and slightly sweet. Made with a simple blend of paleo mayo, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, salt, and pepper, it’s reminiscent of all those retro summer salads but made a little lighter thanks to naturally sweetened options.

A Tip For Cooking Bacon

You can absolutely cook your bacon on the stovetop, but my favorite way to cook bacon is to bake the bacon in the oven. I line a baking sheet with parchment or foil, then lay strips of bacon out on the baking sheet and bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes, or till I get to my desired crispiness. I love that it’s more hands-off, and it’s easy to cook without a big, splattery mess.

Broccoli Bacon Salad from One Lovely Life

How to Make Classic Broccoli Salad, Step By Step

As always, you can find the full recipe, with ingredient amounts, detailed instructions, and tips in the recipe card below!

  1. First, Make The Dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, cider vinegar, maple syrup, and salt and pepper. Whisk until smooth. Taste and add more salt or pepper, as desired. (Note: the dressing will take on some of the other flavors in the salad once combined, so don’t be tempted to go crazy on seasonings in the dressing)
  2. Combine Broccoli Salad Ingredients. In a large bowl, combine broccoli florets, crumbled bacon, cranberries, sunflower seeds, and onion.
  3. Drizzle With Dressing and stir to combine.
  4. Chill, If You Can. Ideally, I recommend chilling this salad in the fridge for 1-2 hours to let the flavors meld and the broccoli soften a bit. You can make the salad up to 8 hours ahead of time. (Note: if making ahead of time, I recommend adding the sunflower seeds right before serving, so they preserve their crunch.)
  5. Serve & Store. Enjoy this salad cold. Leftover broccoli salad will keep in an airtight container 2-3 days in the refrigerator. (It will soften with time, so each day it’ll be softer.)
Broccoli Bacon Salad from One Lovely Life

Variations & More Mix-Ins To Try

Now that you know how to make this paleo broccoli salad, you can play with the recipe! Try one of these variations next time you’re craving a little something different:

  • Adding 1 Tbsp. bacon drippings to the dressing for a more pronounced bacon flavor
  • Swapping in green onions for the red onions
  • Using broccoli slaw instead of broccoli florets
  • Trading toasted or smoked almonds instead for the sunflower seeds
  • Adding cubed or shredded cheese, if you tolerate dairy. (my mom always adds sharp cheddar cheese, and it’s yummy!)
  • Try dried cherries or raisins instead of dried cranberries. (Golden raisins work, too!)
  • Lighten the dressing up a little bit by using half plain greek yogurt and half mayo. It’ll change the flavor slightly, but still works!

PS. Not a fan of a mayo-based dressing? You can try the vinaigrette from my vegan broccoli salad–it tastes great with the flavors in this delicious broccoli salad, too! 

Broccoli Bacon Salad from One Lovely Life

FAQ + Tips For The Best Bacon Broccoli Salad

TRUST THE DRESSING. When you first stir in the dressing, it may not look like enough, but after sitting for just a few minutes, the salad will loosen up a bit and soften. You can always add more, but you can’t take it out!

HOW LONG DOES THIS SALAD LAST? Once the broccoli bacon salad is dressed, it’s at it’s best for the first 2-3 days. After that, it’ll continue to soften, so if you don’t plan to eat it all within 2-3 days, I recommend storing the dressing separately and dressing it before eating for the best texture. The dressing will keep about 1 week in the refrigerator (as will most of the components!).

A LITTLE FOOD SAFETY REMINDER. I love serving this paleo broccoli salad at barbecues, potlucks, and picnics, but it’s important to remember that salads like this need to be kept chilled and can only stay out 1-2 hours at most before bacteria will start to grow.

DO I NEED TO COOK THE BROCCOLI FIRST? Nope! It’s not strictly necessary, since the dressing will help soften the fresh broccoli florets(kind of like a marinade!). If you aren’t a fan of raw broccoli or just don’t think you can do it without cooking the broccoli first, I recommend lightly blanching the broccoli. Don’t cook it all the way, or it will get mushy in the salad!

Broccoli Bacon Salad from One Lovely Life
Broccoli Bacon Salad from One Lovely Life

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Broccoli Bacon Salad from One Lovely Life

Broccoli Bacon Salad


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  • Author: Emily Dixon, One Lovely Life
  • Total Time: About 20 minutes
  • Yield: 8 cups salad 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

Our classic bacon broccoli salad recipe is one of my favorite salads for summer! This easy recipe is always a hit at barbecues, picnics, and potlucks. (Gluten-Free, Paleo-Friendly)


Ingredients

Scale

FOR THE BROCCOLI BACON SALAD:

  • 1 lb. broccoli florets, cut into small pieces (about 8 cups)
  • 68 oz bacon, cooked & crumbled
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, raisins, or cherries
  • 1/2 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds or toasted almonds
  • 34 Tablespoons finely minced red onion

FOR THE BROCCOLI SALAD DRESSING:

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise 
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or more, to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (or more, to taste)

Instructions

  1. First, Make The Dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, cider vinegar, maple syrup, and salt and pepper. Whisk until smooth. Taste and add more salt or pepper, as desired. (Note: the dressing will take on some of the other flavors in the salad once combined, so don’t be tempted to go crazy on seasonings in the dressing)
  2. Combine. In a large bowl, combine broccoli florets, crumbled bacon, cranberries, sunflower seeds, and onion.
  3. Drizzle With Dressing and stir to combine.
  4. Chill, If You Can. Ideally, I recommend chilling this salad in the fridge for 1-2 hours to let the flavors meld and the broccoli soften a bit. You can make the salad up to 8 hours ahead of time. (Note: if making ahead of time, I recommend adding the sunflower seeds right before serving, so they preserve their crunch.)
  5. Serve & Store. Enjoy this salad cold. Leftover broccoli salad will keep in an airtight container 2-3 days in the refrigerator. (It will soften with time, so each day it’ll be softer.)

Notes

  • A LITTLE FOOD SAFETY REMINDER. I love serving my broccoli bacon salad at barbecues, potlucks, and picnics, but it’s important to remember that salads like this need to be kept chilled and can only stay out 1-2 hours at most before bacteria will start to grow.
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: No-Cook
  • Cuisine: American

8 Comments

  1. I love the sound of this salad, especially as I’ve only recently discovered I like cashews and am now mildly obsessed. I am wondering though, what is in a package of broccoli slaw? I don’t think its something I’ve ever seen in the UK. Thanks 🙂 xxx

    1. Naomi – broccoli slaw is made from shredded broccoli stalks, a few shredded carrots, and sometimes a little purple cabbage. I think you could shred your own broccoli stems if you have a food processor–it might be too tricky by hand. Best of luck!

    1. Lydia – I’ve seen it next to other coleslaw/salad mixes or next to pre-chopped bagged vegetables in my local Kroger store, Sunflower market, and even Wal-Mart. Otherwise, Costco sells a giant bag of the this whole salad pretty much already assembled.

  2. This salad sounds fabulous but I don’t like Cranberry. Any alternative suggestions. I was thinking mandarins. ….

    Tx folks!

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