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I’ve been making low carb broccoli salad for years, but usually not with cranberries, since the store bought ones are full of sugar. Since I started making sugar-free dried cranberries recently, it was time to change up my broccoli salad recipe and add those in. After a couple experiments, this easy broccoli cranberry salad with bacon and walnuts has become a regular at our house.
When I was looking for ways to use my new sugar-free dried cranberries, I was torn about what kind of cranberry salad recipes to make. Sweet or savory? I’m so glad I settled on this broccoli salad with bacon.
Give it a try. It just might become a new favorite at your house, too. And, if you celebrate Christmas, you’ll love adding its red and green palette to your holiday table!
How To Make Broccoli Salad with Bacon and Cranberries
How do you make broccoli salad? It’s super easy. My mother-in-law first introduced me to it years ago. She makes her healthy broccoli salad with cranberries that are store-bought, and her version also has shredded carrots. Mine, on the other hand, is low carb and sugar-free.
Aside from the dressing, you only need five ingredients to make broccoli cranberry salad! How awesome is that? I’m a huge fan of five-ingredient recipes. That’s nearly impossible with a salad including the dressing, but for the rest of the salad, this one has just five.
The basic ingredients are broccoli, red onions, dried cranberries, walnuts, and what I consider to be the most important ingredient – bacon! Of course, you can customize it any way you like. Feel free to add in whatever else you like in your broccoli salad.
Making broccoli bacon salad is a breeze. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, whisk the dressing in a small bowl, and mix ’em together. That’s it! If you prefer, you can use blanched broccoli here, but I keep it simple and just use it raw.
This makes a great make-ahead or overnight salad, and the flavors get even better if you refrigerate it for a while. There are no greens to wilt or get slimy, so it stores well and is absolutely fantastic the next day.
So, what about that easy broccoli salad dressing? You guys, it’s awesome…
Easy Cranberry Broccoli Salad Dressing
The dressing is my favorite part of this broccoli cranberry salad. It’s mayo-based, like most broccoli salad dressing recipes. But, the flavors in this one are a little different.
The entire recipe for broccoli salad dressing requires only four ingredients for the base. These are mayonnaise, olive oil, lemon juice, and orange zest. Oh, and there’s also salt and pepper, but those aren’t included in the count by convention.
The orange zest makes this dressing really special. I was thinking to myself about what flavors go well with cranberries, and right away I thought of oranges. Cranberry orange is such a delicious combination, don’t you think?
The slight hint of orange flavor in the dressing is just amazing! You could probably use an extract or even orange juice, but I opted for orange zest to keep it both accessible and sugar-free. It goes perfectly with the cranberries in this paleo broccoli salad. So good!
Personally, I prefer my orange flavored dressing to be a little sweet. I like to add garlic powder and poppy seeds, too.
These three ingredients are optional, though. That way, you can decide whether you want sweetness or not, and whether you want a sugar-free sweetener, a paleo one, or none at all. Besides, some people like garlic in a sweet dressing and some don’t.
Healthy Options for the Best Broccoli Salad Recipe Ever
Cranberry broccoli salad with bacon and walnuts is already healthy since the main ingredient is broccoli. But, the dried cranberries and dressing are often loaded with sugar. Using the dressing above and homemade sugar-free dried cranberries, this doesn’t have to be an issue.
I really like making my own sugar-free dried cranberries, but don’t feel like you have to. It just depends on your priorities.
If you are okay with some sugar in the store-bought cranberries, you can definitely use them in your broccoli cranberry salad. Otherwise, if some sugar is alright but you’d rather it be natural, try naturally sweetened dried cranberries like these.
For the broccoli salad dressing, you can use any sweetener you like. Just make sure that it’s powdered or liquid. Granulated will be gritty, so don’t use that. A couple popular options are powdered erythritol for sugar-free, and maple syrup for paleo or anyone not low carb.
There are a few more options for customizing your healthy broccoli salad.
Most broccoli salad recipes contain shredded cheese, but I skipped it this time to make a paleo broccoli salad. I thought a dairy-free version would be a nice change of pace. So many people have issues with dairy on some level, or just don’t want to eat it all the time. But, if that’s not important to you, feel free to throw in some shredded cheddar!
For anyone allergic to nuts, you can swap the walnuts with pumpkin seeds. Sunflower seeds work too, but the flavor of pumpkin seeds tends to mesh better with this recipe. Since the broccoli salad dressing has orange zest and we have cranberries in there, the pumpkin seeds make a good match for those flavors.
If you really want to make the broccoli salad vegetarian, you could even skip the bacon. Personally, I think the bacon is the best part. Don’t let that stop you if you need to skip it!
That’s the great thing about salads. Unlike baking recipes, it’s so easy to customize them to whatever your needs are.
And, that’s why I consider this the best broccoli salad recipe ever. Five ingredients in the base, four ingredients in the dressing, and tons of ways to customize. Whatever variation you make, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be delicious!
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Easy Broccoli Cranberry Salad Recipe with Bacon and Walnuts:
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Broccoli Cranberry Salad
Creamy Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing
Tap on the times in the instructions below to start a kitchen timer while you cook.
- Combine the chopped broccoli, red onion, cranberries, walnuts, and bacon bits in a large bowl.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, orange zest, sweetener, and poppy seeds (if using). Adjust sweetener to taste. Season with sea salt and black peper to taste.
- Stir the dressing into the vegetable mixture. Refrigerate for an hour for better flavor (optional).
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- Nutrition info is based on using sugar-free dried cranberries like these. You can use store bought ones if you don't mind the sugar.)
- Sweetener is optional, but recommended. It's your choice whether you want to use a powdered sugar-free sweetener, maple syrup (for paleo or anyone not low carb), OR omit it altogether. I use powdered erythritol. Powdered and liquid sweeteners work best for a smoother consistency.
- Exact # of servings will depend on the size of your broccoli bunch.
Serving size: 1/2 cup
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