This mayo-free broccoli crunch salad puts a modern twist on the classic. It’s packed with flavor and pulled together with a fresh and bright tasting vinaigrette dressing.
Summer is so close I can practically taste it. We’re starting to get some really nice weather and cooking on the grill multiple times every week, which is a nice way to make things feel like a party (of two) during this time at home.
Something that always feel synonymous with a cook-out for me is broccoli salad – anyone else? I remember this being a total staple growing up, although it might be another one of those midwest things.
Traditionally it’s packed with raw broccoli, red onion, sunflower seeds, raisins and bacon (lot’s and lot’s of bacon) then pulled together with a sweet mayo-based dressing. I certainly have no reservations with that version but as usual I wanted to modernize it a bit and make it a bit lighter/fresher in the process.
The result is a mix of some of my favorite flavors (inspired by my favorite kale salad) that feels bright and citrus-y while staying true to most of the flavors of the original.
Ingredients for Broccoli Crunch Salad
Here’s what you’ll need to make it (not including the dressing):
- Broccoli. Chop it really small (including the stems) since it’s raw. Once tossed with the dressing, I promise it will get all marinated and tender. See photos for reference.
- Bacon. Just a couple of strips, cooked until crispy and crumbled. This is a great example of a plant-forward meal that incorporates a small amount of meat/cheese for flavor without completely ditching it.
- Parmesan cheese. I used the microplane to get it nice and fine, but you could also grate it.
- Toasted almonds. The slivered shape works so well here but you can also use chopped or sliced. Either way, make sure to toast them!
- Dried cherries. I almost always prefer these over raisins in recipes but any dried fruit would be a fun twist. The cherries are larger and more plump, and add tartness.
Homemade Shallot Vinaigrette
The homemade shallot vinaigrette really makes this dish “pop”. I will always advocate for homemade dressings for salads because 1) it’s so much easier than you think and 2) you probably have most/all of the ingredients. I use these 8-oz jars to make a small batch, or the larger wide-mouth jars (both affiliate links) to shake up enough for an entire salad. Jars make great storage containers if you have extra and are super easy to clean!
The lemon juice adds brightness; the dijon gives it an almost creamy consistency (standing in for the mayo); the shallot replaces the raw red onion from the traditional recipe with a milder bite.
Acidic ingredients in the dressing help break down the broccoli so it’s not so “raw” tasting. I would argue that this salad is better on day 2 or 3.
Can this salad be made ahead?
Yes! Just before serving, bring it back to room temperature so you don’t lose any of the great flavors. I would also wait to add the almonds until just before serving so they stay crunchy.
What do the broccoli stems taste like?
They’re actually really nice in this because they add a wonderful texture. This is part of the reason why I called it a broccoli crunch salad. The taste is fairly mild, and they are chopped small enough to not be super detectable. I also love that they don’t get tossed. I would recommend chopping off the bottom 1″ of the stem before chopping as it can be on the tough/woody side.
I’m excited to add this one to my summer entertaining rotation. But also, make it for your own household on the weekend and have it available for lunches through the week. It’s a great way to add more vegetables since it’s already prepared and ready to go.
I refuse to let broccoli be boring!
Here are some other summery appetizers & side dishes you might like:
- Cucumber Tomato Salad
- Tortellini Pasta Salad with Grilled Vegetables and Goat Cheese
- Curried Chickpea Salad Cups
Broccoli Crunch Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette (Mayo-Free)
This crunchy, mayo-free broccoli salad puts a modern twist on the classic. It’s packed with flavor and pulled together with a fresh and bright tasting vinaigrette dressing.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 6–8 servings 1x
- Category: Side Dishes
- Method: No-Cook
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Gluten Free
- 1 head of broccoli (florets & stems), finely chopped
- 1/4 cup dried cherries
- 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds (see notes)
- 1/4 cup (2 strips) bacon, cooked until crispy & crumbled
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- salt & pepper to taste
- Add broccoli through bacon to a large bowl.
- Add dressing ingredients to a blender and run on high until smooth and creamy. Season to taste.
- Pour dressing over salad ingredients and toss until evenly coated.
- To toast almonds: Place on a parchment-lined sheet pan and cook in a 375 degree over for 5-7 minutes or until golden brown and fragrant. Watch carefully as they go from done to burnt quickly.
- Be sure to chop broccoli very small since it’s uncooked in this salad. I didn’t use all of the stems, just about 1 cup worth (the part that was easiest to chop). Slice off the bottom 1″ of stem and discard as this tends to be on the woody side.
- This salad gets better on day 2 and 3! If you want to make it ahead of time, I recommend waiting until just before serving to add the almonds so they are nice and crunchy.
- Serving Size: 1/3 cup
- Calories: 219 calories
- Fat: 14 grams
- Carbohydrates: 19 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Protein: 6 grams
Keywords: healthy broccoli salad, mayo-free broccoli salad, party food, potluck dish, entertaining, summer recipes
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