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The BEST Loaded Broccoli Salad with Bacon and Cranberries

This is the BEST broccoli salad you will ever make!! It is loaded with bacon, cheese, sweet dried cranberries, crunchy almonds, and a super easy dressing. Perfect for summer meals, BBQs, and picnics. Everyone loves it and forgets that they're actually eating a salad!

Bowl of broccoli salad with bacon, cheese, cranberries, and almonds.

Guys.... I really wanted to call this recipe "Broccoli Salad with Bacon, Cheese, Cranberries, and Almonds" but that would have been suuuuper long. So instead I gave it an even more accurate name: The BEST loaded Broccoli Salad.

Because it truly is the best.

It's got loads of flavor, thanks to the salty bacon, smoky paprika in the dressing, sweet dried cranberries, and fresh herbs. The dressing is nice and creamy without feeling heavy. And on top of that, it has a really nice crunch from the toasted almonds (please promise you'll take the extra two minutes to toast them?!). 

Close up of creamy broccoli salad with cranberries and bacon.

Related recipe: Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad

You might see this list of ingredients and skip reading the instructions because, well, you know how to make a broccoli salad. But if you don't keep reading, you will miss out on my #1 trick for making flavorful salad dressings without an overpowering onion flavor. It's in step 1, and it's worth it.

You might also read step 1 of the instructions and think you can skip the rest because, well, you know how to make a broccoli salad. But if you don't keep reading, you'll miss out on my list of other amazing broccoli salad add-ins and ingredient substitutions. So just read the whole post, will ya?!

Serving spoon full of loaded broccoli salad with cheese, bacon, almonds, cranberries.

Related recipe: Broccoli Ranch Pasta Salad

Ingredients

  • 5 cups broccoli florets (from about 3 broccoli heads, doesn't have to be exact)
  • ½ small red onion, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2/3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • ⅓ cup slivered almonds
  • ⅓ cup dried cranberries (craisins)
  • ⅓ cup cooked bacon, crumbled (from about 6 bacon slices, or use bacon bits)
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley leaves, finely diced
  • 2 scallions, diced
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt and pepper, each (or to taste)

Ingredients to make broccoli salad.

Related recipe: Coleslaw Orzo Salad

Instructions

Step 1: Combine the finely minced red onion and 1 tablespoon lemon juice in the bottom of a large bowl and stir. Allow to marinate for a few minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. This is key to getting the most flavorful broccoli salad dressing! I use this technique for my lentil tabbouleh salad, tuna pasta salad, and pretty much any recipe where I add raw onions to salad. It really helps soften the sharp flavor of raw onion. 

Red onion and lime juice in a bowl.

Step 2: Chop the broccoli florets into smaller bite-sized pieces. Don't worry if the broccoli crumbles a little - you will want want to add all those tiny bits to your salad.

Broccoli florets cut into small pieces on a cutting board.

Related recipe: Summer Chickpea Salad

Step 3: Cook and crumble the bacon. Toast the slivered almonds in a dry pan for 2-3 minutes over medium heat, or until golden brown and fragrant.

Toasted slivered almonds in a pan.

Step 4: Add the chopped broccoli, crumbled bacon, toasted slivered almonds, and all the rest of the ingredients to the large bowl with the marinating onions. Mix well, taste and adjust the flavor with salt, pepper, or lemon juice. Enjoy immediately, or for an even more delicious salad, chill in the fridge for up to 24 hours to allow the flavors to meld and mellow. 

Ingredients for broccoli salad in a large mixing bowl.

Serve this salad with grilled chicken or grilled shrimp and veggie skewers for a light summer meal, or a s a side dish for Instant Pot BBQ Pork Ribs.

Ingredient substitutions and variations

→ Swap almonds for chopped walnuts or pecans, or use sunflower seeds for a nut-free broccoli salad.

→ Try a different cheese, such as shredded pepper Jack for a little spice, or crumbled feta for more creaminess. Freshly grated Parmesan (the real stuff, not the stuff in the green can) adds a great flavor too!

→ Swap dried cranberries for raisins.

→ Make it lighter: swap half the mayo for plain fat-free Greek yogurt.

→ No time to cook bacon? Use bacon bits!

→ To get the smoke flavor you can use smoked paprika (make sure to get the sweet kind, otherwise you're going to have a spicy broccoli salad!), or use regular paprika and a few drops of liquid smoke.

→ Try adding finely diced bell pepper, sliced olives, cooked potato, or chopped cauliflower florets to the salad. Not all at once, probably. Although maybe?? 😉

I would LOVE to hear what you end up adding to your broccoli salad! I you end up making this recipe, please take a picture and tag me on INSTAGRAM or FACEBOOK. You can find me at @babaganoshblog on both. I love seeing your creations!

Other must-try summer BBQ salads and sides:

If you enjoyed this recipe, let me know with a comment and a star rating below. And don't forget to share it on Facebook and save it on Pinterest for later!

Bowl of broccoli bacon salad with cheddar, almonds, cranberries.
Print Recipe
5 from 3 votes

Broccoli Salad with Cranberries, Bacon, Almonds

The BEST broccoli salad you will ever have! The flavors and textures of this salad are amazing, and people forget that they're actually eating a salad.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6
Author: Kate

Ingredients

  • 5 cups broccoli florets - (from about 3 broccoli heads, doesn't have to be exact)
  • ½ small red onion - , finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • cup slivered almonds
  • cup dried cranberries - (craisins)
  • cup cooked bacon - , crumbled (from about 6 bacon slices, or use bacon bits)
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley leaves - , finely diced
  • 2 scallions - , diced
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise - or more, if needed
  • 1 teaspoon sugar - (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt and pepper - , each (or to taste)

Special equipment

Instructions

  • Combine the finely minced red onion and 1 tablespoon lemon juice in the bottom of a large bowl and stir. Allow to marinate for a few minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  • Chop the broccoli florets into smaller bite-sized pieces. Don't worry if the broccoli crumbles a little - you will want want to add all those tiny bits to your salad.
  • Cook and crumble the bacon.
  • Toast the slivered almonds in a dry pan for 2-3 minutes over medium heat, or until golden brown and fragrant.
  • Add the chopped broccoli, crumbled bacon, toasted slivered almonds, and all the rest of the ingredients to the large bowl with the marinating onions. Mix well, taste and adjust the flavor with salt, pepper, or more lemon juice. Enjoy immediately, or for an even more delicious salad, chill in the fridge for up to 24 hours to allow the flavors to meld and mellow.

Notes

Serve this salad with grilled chicken or grilled shrimp and veggie skewers for a light summer meal.

Nutrition

Calories: 359kcal (18%) | Carbohydrates: 14g (5%) | Protein: 9g (18%) | Fat: 31g (48%) | Saturated Fat: 7g (35%) | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 31mg (10%) | Sodium: 585mg (24%) | Potassium: 374mg (11%) | Fiber: 3g (12%) | Sugar: 7g (8%) | Vitamin A: 1034IU (21%) | Vitamin C: 73mg (88%) | Calcium: 154mg (15%) | Iron: 1mg (6%)

The nutritional information displayed is an estimate and not to be used as dietary or nutritional advice. Consult a nutritionist or dietician for nutritional info based on the exact ingredients you use.

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