Make ahead broccoli salad is an easy low carb recipe that is best for a crowd.  This healthy side dish has a creamy homemade dressing that compliments the fresh cold ingredients perfectly.  Serve this simple classic summer salad at your next dinner party.

Prep Time: 35 minutes
person holding a spoonful of broccoli salad

Make Ahead Broccoli Salad

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This recipe was originally published on May 25, 2018.

Looking for a delicious summer salad that will be devoured at your next backyard BBQ?  Try this make ahead broccoli salad recipe.  It’s easy, savory and healthy.  Plus, your kids will be asking for seconds, so if you’re trying to get them to eat more broccoli, this recipe will be a lifesaver.

person holding a spoonful of broccoli salad

What is in broccoli salad?

Maybe you’ve never eaten a broccoli salad, and you’re curious about the typical ingredients.  Besides raw broccoli florets, most salads have onion, either red or sweet. 

If you want a savory salad, add bacon, cherry tomatoes, and cheese.  If you want a sweet salad, add fruit.  Raisins or dried cranberries are the most common, but dried tart cherries, green grapes, or diced apple would also be a good choice. 

Nuts are also usually thrown in at the end to provide extra crunch and protein.  Almonds, cashews, or pecans are popular, but if you have a nut allergy, use sunflower seeds.

Is broccoli healthy?

Did you know broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables?  It’s high in vitamin C, K, folate, and dietary fiber.  It helps fight cancer and reduce cholesterol, and is excellent for your eyes. 

Knowing this, you’ll want to collect as many broccoli recipes as you can.  We recommend this broccoli and Stilton soup and this chicken and broccoli stir fry.

person holding a bowl of broccoli salad

How can I make a lighter version of broccoli salad?

  • Omit the bacon and cheese.
  • Swap the regular mayo for mayo made with olive oil.
  • Use Greek yogurt instead of regular mayo.
  • Use a sugar substitute (honey, agave nectar, or maple syrup).
  • Add a few more veggies (shredded carrots or finely chopped kale).

top down view of a bowl of broccoli salad

Do you have to cook the broccoli for broccoli salad?

No need to cook the broccoli.  Most broccoli salads are made with raw broccoli, because the dressing softens the broccoli the longer it sits.  Make sure to cut the broccoli florets small for the best texture.

On the other hand, if you don’t like the taste of raw broccoli, or you need the broccoli to be softer because of recent dental work, blanching the broccoli is the way to go.  Just blanch the broccoli for 1 minute in boiling water, then transfer to an ice bath.  Drain and cool before using in the salad.

closeup of broccoli salad

How do you chop broccoli?

Have you ever wondered how to chop broccoli?  Yes, there is an easy chef method.  If you’re guilty of just hacking away at your head of broccoli, here are some chef tips to make it easier.

  • Remove any leaves.
  • Cut off the bottom of the stem.
  • Shave off the tough outer skin on the stalk with a sharp knife or veggie peeler.
  • Cut the stalk from the head.
  • Cut off the florets.
  • Slice large florets down the middle, then pull them apart.

bowl of broccoli salad with two spoons

What can I use broccoli stalks for?

Don’t throw the stalks away!  Use the stems in a broccoli slaw, soups, stir fries, or smoothies.

How can I cut broccoli stalks?

Below are some suggestions on how to cut them. 

  1. Coins
  2. Julienne
  3. Spiralize
  4. Shred with a processor

How to Make Broccoli Salad

Gather all the ingredients.  Cook and crumble the bacon.  Cut up the broccoli florets, half the tomatoes, cube the Gouda, and finely chop the sweet onion.

ingredients for broccoli salad

Melt the butter in a small skillet set over medium heat.  Add the slivered almonds and stir to coat in the butter.

stirring sliced almonds in a skillet

Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the almonds are light brown, then transfer them to a small bowl.

sliced almonds being toasted in a skillet

Mix the broccoli and sweet onion together.

adding chopped onions to a bowl of broccoli

Whisk the mayo, sugar, and vinegar together to make the dressing.  Taste the dressing, if necessary add salt and black pepper.

whisking the dressing in a bowl

Pour the dressing onto the broccoli and sweet onion mixture.

pouring the dressing onto the broccoli

Toss well to combine.  Make sure every piece of broccoli is coated in the dressing.

tossing the broccoli with the dressing

If you are making this salad more than one hour in advance, hold off on adding the tomatoes.  This will keep the tomatoes from going to mushy.  Cover the small bowls of crumbled bacon, toasted almonds, and cubed cheese and store in the fridge for up to 24 hours in advance.

Add most of the tomatoes, but leave some for garnish.  Cover and chill in the fridge for one hour. 

mixing the broccoli, dressing, and tomatoes

Just before serving, add most of the bacon, almond and cheese.  Mix well with salad tongs.  If you made this salad more than one hour in advance, add the tomatoes at this step.

stirring broccoli salad with two spoons

Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with remaining tomatoes, bacon, almond and cheese.

sprinkling bacon on broccoli salad

Serve immediately, and enjoy!

bowl of broccoli salad

Pro Tips

  • Want a sweet version?  Increase the sugar and switch out the tomatoes for dried cranberries, dried tart cherries, raisins, or green grapes.
  • Want maximum freshness?  Add tomatoes one hour before eating and consume the whole salad within 24 hours.
  • In a hurry?  Skip the chill time.
  • Don’t want to use raw broccoli?  Blanch it for a softer version.
  • Tempted to use frozen broccoli?  Don’t–it won’t taste the same and the texture would be too different.
  • Don’t throw out the broccoli stalk.  Freeze it for soup, slaw, stir fries, stem it, or eat it raw.  Coin, julienne, or chop the stem.
  • Don’t like almonds?  Try cashews, pecans, pepitas, or sunflowers.
  • Need to make this vegan?  Omit the bacon and cheese, and swap the sugar for maple syrup.
  • Want to make this a meal?  Add slices of grilled chicken.
  • Want to use other veggies?  Try shredded carrots, finely chopped kale, or fresh corn kernels.

skillet, wooden turner, serving spoons, and set of glass bowls

Our Go-To Kitchen Tools for Broccoli Salad

Looking for other mouthwatering summer salads to bring to a BBQ?  Your family and friends will love these ones!

layered salad in a glass bowl bowl of creamy coleslaw with buns and onions white bowl of cucumber salad and roses 

The pleasure of a 5-star review for this broccoli salad recipe would be greatly appreciated.


person holding a spoonful of broccoli salad

Make Ahead Broccoli Salad

  • Author: Brooke
  • Prep Time: 35 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1/2 cups 1x


Make ahead broccoli salad is an easy low carb recipe that is best for a crowd.  This healthy side dish has a creamy homemade dressing that compliments the fresh cold ingredients perfectly.  Serve this simple classic summer salad at your next dinner party.



For the Salad

  • 1/2 cup bacon, crumbled, roughly 6 slices (29 g)
  • 1 pat butter
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 6 cups broccoli florets (roughly 3 heads)
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered (270 g)
  • 1/3 cup smoked Gouda, cubed (50 g)
  • 1/3 cup sweet onion, finely chopped

For the Dressing

  • 1 cup mayonnaise (222 g)
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar


Making the Dressing

  1. Whisk together the mayo, sugar and vinegar in a small bowl.  Adjust the amounts of sugar or vinegar to taste.  If necessary, add a bit of salt and black pepper.  If you want it spicy, add crushed red pepper flakes.

Making the Salad

  1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until done, turning once with a fork.  Drain on paper towels.  Let cool, then chop or tear into smaller pieces.  Set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the sliced almonds, stirring frequently for a few minutes, until they are light brown.  Remove from heat and put into a bowl.
  3. Rinse the broccoli head and stems.  Remove any leaves, cut off the bottom of the stem, then peel it.  Cut the stalk from the head, and cut the head into florets.  To make florets smaller, cut a slice down the middle of the stem, then pull apart.
  4. Rinse and quarter the grape tomatoes.  Cube the cheese, and finely chop the onion.
  5. Mix the broccoli and onion together.
  6. Add the dressing to the veggies and toss to combine.  Add most of the tomatoes, leaving some for garnish, then toss again.  Cover and refrigerate for one hour or up to overnight.  Place the small bowls of bacon, almonds, and cheese in the fridge until the salad is ready to serve.
  7. Just before serving, add most of the bacon, almonds and cheese.  Stir to combine.
  8. Transfer the salad to a serving bowl, then sprinkle the remaining bacon, almonds, cheese and tomatoes as garnish.  Serve immediately.


  • The pleasure of a 5-star review for this broccoli salad would be greatly appreciated.
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  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: broccoli salad, salad, recipe

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