Salad isn’t usually the star of holiday menus but this broccoli crunch salad brings some pizazz to the table. Fresh broccoli florets are tossed with crunchy apples, pomegranate seeds, and sunflower seeds and tossed in a homemade dairy and egg free poppy seed dressing. It’s colorful, crunchy, easy to make and so delicious you’ll want seconds!
I usually make this mixed green salad with cranberry vinaigrette to go with our Thanksgiving menu.
This year, I decided to try something different that still incorporates dried cranberries along with other seasonal ingredients. It's bright, colorful, and crunchy, and complements a holiday meal perfectly!
Why you’ll love this crunchy broccoli salad
There are so many reasons to love this healthy broccoli crunch salad but here are just a few:
- Broccoli is accessible throughout the year so, whether you want a summer picnic side dish or a Christmas salad side dish, it’s a great choice!
- It goes great with a heavier meal (like Thanksgiving) because it’s light and has a touch of sweetness to balance the savory flavors of the rest of the meal.
- It tastes the best after sitting for a few hours - the perfect “fix and forget” side dish.
- You can prepare it in less than 20 minutes (plus chilling time).
- It’s gluten free, dairy free, nut free, and vegan but still delicious.
For the salad
- Broccoli florets
- Granny smith apples - you can use any type of apple you have but I like the tartness and crunchiness of a granny smith.
- Green onions
- Pomegranate seeds
- Sunflower seeds, roasted and unsalted - If you are allergic to peanuts or tree nuts, be sure to use an allergy friendly brand like Gerbs.
- Dried cranberries - Gerbs makes a lower added sugar option that is also free from cross-contact with peanuts, tree nuts, and other common allergens.
For the dressing
- Vegan mayonnaise - I like Hellmans because it's easy to find at most grocery stores.
- Apple cider vinegar
- Granulated sugar
- Dijon mustard
- Onion powder
- Poppy seeds
This dish is quick and easy to make. The longest step is waiting for it to chill so the flavors can marinate. Here’s how you make it:
Combine the broccoli, apples, green onions, pomegranate seeds, sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries in a large bowl.
Add the salad dressing ingredients to a glass bowl or measuring cup.
Use a spoon or mini whisk to mix the ingredients until the mixture is smooth.
Pour the salad dressing over the broccoli mixture and toss, making sure to coat all of the broccoli with dressing. Put it in the refrigerator to chill for at least an hour.
Tip: The smaller ingredients like the sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, and pomegranate seeds tend to fall to the bottom of the bowl. Use a spoon or rubber spatula to distribute the mixture evenly before serving.
Recipe tips and substitutions
This broccoli crunch salad can be adapted to fit your preferences. Like almost all of the recipes on this website, this recipe is free from the top 9 allergens. But if you don’t have to avoid all of those allergens, you might choose to use other ingredients. Here are a few suggestions:
Use regular mayonnaise or Greek yogurt for the dressing
Vegan mayo is egg free which works great for our family because my sons are allergic to eggs. If you don’t need to avoid eggs, go ahead and use regular mayonnaise. Or, if you can have dairy, you can use Greek yogurt as well.
Use nuts instead of sunflower seeds
My son is allergic to peanuts and we avoid most tree nuts so sunflower seeds add a nuttiness without the allergens.
One downside of using sunflower seeds is that they are small and can fall to the bottom of the salad. The solution for this is to stir the salad to bring the smaller pieces up to the top of the salad before serving.
Pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds) would be another great allergy friendly alternative. Just be sure to choose a brand that has safe manufacturing practices to avoid cross-contact with nuts like Gerbs.
If you can have nuts, go ahead and add your favorite. I have used slivered almonds which were delicious in this salad. I also think pecans would be a great choice.
Substitute other dried fruit for the cranberries
I love the tanginess of dried cranberries in this salad but you can certainly substitute another kind of dried fruit such as dried cherries, raisins, or golden raisins.
If you want to reduce the carbohydrate content of the salad, you can omit the dried fruit altogether. The salad will still be delicious!
Use red onion instead of green onions
I chose to use green onions in this salad because I like their subtle onion flavor. If you want more onion flavor and an extra pop of color, you can use red onions as many crunch broccoli salad recipes use.
I originally made this dish to go on our Thanksgiving dinner menu. While I have seen a lot of crunchy broccoli salad recipes that contain bacon, it didn’t sound good with an already heavy dinner. Plus, I didn’t want to fuss with making the bacon. 🙂 But if you like bacon and don’t mind fussing, go for it!
This salad does require a bit of chopping before you can mix it all together. To save some time and effort, you can buy broccoli that is already cut.
If a few bottoms of the stems have gotten brown, just cut them off. You might also have to cut the pieces a little bit smaller to make them bite-sized.
If you end up buying it whole and chopping it into florets yourself, don’t be afraid to chop up the broccoli stems into bite-sized pieces and add them to the salad, too.
I actually love the stems! If you don’t want to put them in the salad, set them aside to munch on later! 🙂
What goes with broccoli crunch salad?
I made this dish to go with our Thanksgiving dinner which includes all of the traditional dishes including mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and sweet potato casserole.
Many people believe there is hardly room for a salad with Thanksgiving dinner but I just have to have one! The texture and flavors of this dish balance out the meal perfectly.
Of course, this salad would go great with a number of entrees - not just turkey!
If you are a meal prepper for your weekday lunches and dinners, this is a good salad option because it tastes better as it marinates. Have it as a side to your sandwich for lunch or any entree that you have for dinner.
Check out my meal planning tips for more ideas on how to put together a balanced, nutritious meal.
Store the leftover salad in an airtight container for 3-4 days. The dressing does thin out a bit over time and can drain to the bottom of the bowl. Just give it a good stir before serving.
Broccoli Crunch Salad
For the salad
- 8 cups broccoli chopped into bite-size pieces
- 1 cup chopped granny smith apples about 1 large apple
- ⅓ cup chopped green onions
- Seeds from one pomegranate about 1 cup
- ⅓ cup sunflower seeds
- ⅓ cup dried cranberries
For the dressing
- ⅓ cup vegan mayonnaise such as Hellman’s
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
- Combine the broccoli, apples, green onions, pomegranate seeds, sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries in a large bowl.
- Add the salad dressing ingredients to a small bowl or glass measuring cup and whisk together with a spoon or mini whisk until the mixture is smooth.
- Pour the salad dressing over the broccoli mixture and toss, making sure all of the broccoli is coated with dressing. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
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