Broccoli Salad

From the famed, Aunt Marilyn, this broccoli salad is delicious, even evoking two thumbs up from my broccoli-salad-snob-of-a-husband (who I hope doesn’t get ridiculed for that since broccoli salad isn’t the most masculine food on the planet).

I was ecstatic when my Aunt Marilyn emailed me this recipe and was even more pleased with the result, which was a slight tweak from the original recipe. Personally, I get frightened by raisins in nearly anything (including cinnamon rolls, don’t hate me!) so I left those out, but I left it in the recipe with a clear “optional” since I know many people aren’t weird like me and would like the raisiny contrast. Additionally, I cut down the mayo in the recipe a bit and swapped out the red wine vinegar for balsamic to give the dressing a bit more depth of flavor. The salad ends up being lightly dressed in a subtly but not overpoweringly sweet and tangy dressing. My favorite part? The crunchy sunflower seeds and crisp bacon. Oh yes. Major yum.

This is definitely going straight to the Best Recipes archive. Broccoli salad needs to be part of everyone’s life, don’t you think?

Broccoli Salad

One Year Ago: BLT Pita Pockets
Two Years Ago: Creamy Banana Pudding Trifle
Three Years Ago: Parker House Rolls

The Best Broccoli Salad

Yield: Serves 6-8

The Best Broccoli Salad

Note: This salad is extremely versatile. I, personally, omit the raisins, and all of the other ingredients can be upped or diminished according to your preference.


  • 3/4 cup light or regular mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salad:
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh broccoli, chopped into small bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup golden raisins (optional)
  • 3/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 small shallot or red onion, finely diced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled


  1. In a small bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the salad ingredients together. Pour the dressing over the broccoli mixture and toss to coat all the ingredients with the sauce. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving. Right before serving, give the salad another good toss to recombine any dressing that may have settled at the bottom.

Recipe Source: adapted from my Aunt Marilyn

80 Responses to Broccoli Salad

  1. Cora says:

    I made this for a memorial service at church and it was gone in a flash! Thanks for the great (and easy) recipe!

  2. Marie says:

    Fabulous! Better than my recipe, which I think diluted the dressing too much and left it with less flavor than this recipe. My children wanted it in their school lunches the next day!

  3. Charlotte says:

    Where’s the recipe? Could not find it. Help !!!!!

  4. Anne says:

    This was so good. I made it tonight as a side to lamb, and it worked really well. Honestly, it’s so good, I felt the lamb was the side to this salad! Husband loved it too. Another winner.

  5. patti hasychak says:

    can I use miracle whip instead of hellmans mayo?

  6. Patty says:

    I was looking up this salad because I just had a similar one at a fancy brunch. The one ingredient I couldn’t get enough of. Candied walnuts! I will use this recipe, but add the candied walnuts. I don’t eat vegetables, but loved yhis.

  7. Peggy O'Neil says:

    We all love this salad at our house. Ran out of raisens and cranberries so I used an unpeeled Apple instead. Very good!

  8. Darla Berry says:

    Sorry! Last name is Berry

  9. Darla Zberry says:

    Try raisins or dried cranberries really they are delicious

  10. Yvonne says:

    I make a similar salad only I omit the raisins, add cranberries, red grapes (cut in half) and about 3/4 cup of cashews. It’s great!

  11. Nancy Howard says:

    I love broccoli salad. This sounds like the one they have at Ryan’s. I know it will be delicious. Have you ever tried it with lemon juice a stead of balsamic vinegar?

  12. ashbash says:

    I hope my brothers don’t get mad at me if I make such a feminine salad, they’re very masculine. Hopefully they don’t get teased for eating it.

  13. notacaveman says:

    “even evoking two thumbs up from my broccoli-salad-snob-of-a-husband (who I hope doesn’t get ridiculed for that since broccoli salad isn’t the most masculine food on the planet).”

    Now eating vegetables is effeminate too? Can we please stop perpetuating this bullshit stereotype of what a man is. Should we only be eating animals we killed with our bare hands, cooked over a fire using a tree we chopped down with an ax we forged ourselves? Anything less and you’re a little bit “gay”? I thought the majority of us decided that using that as in “insult” wasn’t acceptable anymore.

  14. Alison28 says:

    I’m not a lover of raisins, I substitute with either cherry tomatoes or chopped up sundries tomatoes. Doing this salad for my daughters birthday tonight, it’s making my mouth water already!

  15. Angie Malone says:

    For those who do not care for diced raw onion, try adding onion powder (to taste) to the dressing. Works for me. Another hint = when I use bacon bits, they tend to ‘wilt’ broccoli down unless I add them just before serving but not so with crumbled bacon strips.

  16. TanteCindy says:

    We love a variant of this salad. The raisins are omitted, and we use 1 pound each of broccoli and cauliflower. Instead of red onion, we use 1/2 to 2/3 cup sliced scallions. I start with 2 tablespoons of sugar, and tweak from there. Sometimes that seems enough, other times a bit more is needed. Yum, yum, this never lasts a full 24 hours after preparation in out family.

  17. Tammy says:

    I have made this for 20 years I use Marzetti cole slaw dressing on mine. Sometimes I make my own cole slaw dressing. This is so good, try it.

  18. Love this recipe! Served it at a baby shower thinking that since it was a vegetable dish it would go untouched. How wrong I was. It was the hit of the party! I too am finicky about raisins. I don’t like them in cinnamon rolls and most breads, but I like them in this salad. I omit the onions, because a lot of people I know don’t do raw onions. Thanks for the awesome recipe. Gonna make it for another party tomorrow.

  19. Jensven says:

    Can I substitute red wine vinegar for the balsamic vinigar?

  20. Lisa says:

    Wonderful Salad! Thank you Mel, yet again! I trust your recipes so much I don’t even try them before I take them to pass at a party 🙂 You are a blessing to me and my family! Every time I sit down to a “new” meal, my husband’s first question is “Is it Mel?” 🙂

  21. Nancy says:

    I am not using clear balsamic or white vinegar, therefore my mayo mixture is a light tan. Will this effect the overall look of the salad? Thanks!

  22. Jen says:

    This was sooo good! Definitely will be a go to recipe for me!

  23. Kelly says:

    This was very delicious and pretty easy. I don’t keep mayo around anymore so I used Greek yogurt instead–very delicious and an extra protein hit! I’ll try dried cranberries next time as well. Thanks for sharing this.

  24. […] this broccoli salad is perfect for spring time. […]

  25. Kay says:

    I was going to make this for thanksgiving….can I make this salad Wednesday night and refrigerate until Thursday at noon? THANKS!

    • Mel says:

      Kay – yes, that should be great! You might reserve a bit of the dressing to stir in right before serving in case refrigerating makes the salad a bit dry.

  26. Lisa says:

    I have a similar recipe to this one that we just love. I sometimes substitute cashews instead of the sunflower seeds. People who say they don’t even like broccoli have loved it! For you bacon lovers out there: about 6-8 slices of crispy, crumbled bacon is also a fantastic addition!

  27. this is hands-down the best broccoli salad I’ve ever made. I kept getting bugged by my boyfriend to make one, and tried a couple but the dressing just wasn’t right… Until I found this one!

    So good.

  28. Gail SR says:

    This wonderful broccoli salad is full of surprises. I lightened mine by using light mayo and cutting down on anything with weight watcher points such as the mayo, sugar, cheese, raisins, sunflower seeds and bacon bits. I used 2% cheese. There were no golden raisins in the house, so I dumped in the last of my dried cranberries. So, so yummy even the next day!

  29. Logan says:

    I have been using this recipe all summer! I can’t get enough! Everywhere I take it people demand the recipe!!!

  30. erika campbell says:

    this may sound strange, but instead of raisins I used some fresh pineapple (not a lot) and is was really tasty! Love the blog!

  31. Pauline says:

    I have made this salad several times and YES! It is “The Best Broccoli Salad!” I don’t like raisins, AT ALL, but did substitute craisins for the added sweetness. I also crumbled up some (uncooked) ramen noodles for added crunch. Since there are only two of us, I still make the entire recipe because it makes a great leftover snack….healthy, too.

  32. Sarah says:

    for those who don’t do mayo…sesame ginger dressing (in the produce isle) does the trick.

  33. Dianne Palmer says:

    Has anyone tried chilling the salad overnight?

  34. Susan Papierski says:

    Broccoli salad

  35. Anna says:

    I made this last night, leaving out the onion but definitely leaving in the golden raisins because I love them. Our gracious neighbor gave us a huge bag of broccoli from his garden, so I knew immediately that I had to try this recipe. It was superb! Thanks!

  36. Michelle says:

    This really is the BEST broccoli salad! I made this last night and couldn’t stop myself from eating it right out of the bowl immediately after I mixed it up. I did add the raisins (just because I had some left over from another recipe), but left out the onions (my fiance hates them). I love that I didn’t really need to measure anything for this salad, other than the sauce, to which I ended up adding a bit extra balsalmic vinegar. Since I’m really, really lazy, I picked up a 2 lb bag of broccoli that was already cut up from Sam’s Club, which made the recipe so much easier to make. I’ll be making this salad over and over again – thank you for sharing!

  37. Valerie says:

    I just made this – now it’s chilling in the fridge – looks great!

  38. Maria says:

    Yum. Mel, I love broccoli salad and when this caught my eye on pintrest, I had to come see if it was like my trustee recipe. I use redwine vinegar, but will have to give it a try with basalmic. My husband won’t eat raisins (what a snob) 🙂 but I can occasionally sneak in some craisin without too much complaint. I love your site. Your pictures are all great.

  39. Melanie says:

    I made this a few days ago and it was fantastic! Thank you!!!!

  40. Rebecca says:

    Fantastic recipe…not too tangy or sweet. I didn’t use all the dressing on it, as I don’t like over mayo-ish salads. I made it just according to the recipe, just reserved some dressing for a salad another day. Everyone at dinner said, “I don’t like broccoli, but I love this salad!”

  41. Cammee says:

    I never thought to try balsalmic vinegar in broccoli salad. See, that’s why you’re the expert! I like raisins, but usually just alone or in oatmeal raisin cookies. We use craisins in broccoli salad. I can’t wait to give this version a try.

  42. Ciara says:

    Yum! I had some broccoli in the fridge that needed to be used up. I whipped this up last night and had it with lunch today. It was delish! The recipe I had been using was a bit too tangy for my taste. This was perfect. As always, Mel to the rescue!

  43. Mmm I looove me some broccoli salad! YUM!

  44. karen says:

    It is fun to see something I already make on your site. Your recipes are fabulous and this one is too! I usually use bacon bits in a jar for this salad. Makes it nice and quick. The Hormel bacon bits are good. I am also getting a kick out of reading how many people are funny about their raisins! I never knew.

  45. Kathy F. says:

    MMM – swiss cheese works great too!

  46. Harriet says:

    I made this last night….excellent. I’ve used many of your recipes and thank you because they are all great.

  47. Megan says:

    My Uncle Mark has a very similar recipe that I grew up on. I think he’s vegetarian so used fake bacon bits, and his secret ingredient which is totally necessary to making it his signature salad is sesame sticks. Here’s a picture of the kind he uses:

    I’m not sure who sells them, probably Whole Foods and health food stores. They add great crunch and flavour. If anyone wants to try it, go for it!

  48. Anna says:

    This salad was delicious! I left out the cheese (to make it dairy free), red onions (don’t like to eat raw onions) and bacon (didn’t have any) and used almonds instead of sunflower seeds and added in some dried cranberries. Yum! Thanks for the great recipe!

  49. Mel says:

    Ashley – you might try plain Greek yogurt. I haven’t tried that substitution myself in this salad but I know it’s a common substitute for mayo.

  50. I should not be reading all of these blogs before bedtime. It’s making me hungry! This salad looks absolutely delicious 😀

  51. This sounds wonderful! Iv’e had something similar and could eat my weight in it! I think you’ve stepped it up a notch with your adaptations!

  52. Sheila says:

    At our house, raisins are called dead bugs, so I leave them out. I like to put carrots in, though. It’s one of our favorite salads, and my kids expect me to make it for holidays (even though they don’t usually eat broccoli. I have also started to buy the bags of pre-cut broccoli and then I can make a half-batch if we aren’t having lots of people to eat it all!

  53. Carly says:

    My husband also loves broccoli salad and hates raisins. He will love this recipe.

  54. Carmen says:

    I don’t like raisins in cinnamon rolls either, or most things. I do like golden raisins in this salad, however, lately, I have been using craisins. Yum!

  55. Angie says:

    YUP! This is definitely going to be in my meal plan this week. I knew I was saving my broccoli for something special……

  56. Wow, this looks yummy!! Is there anything I can use in place of the mayonnaise? I have a picky husband who hates it 🙂

    • Diana says:

      You could use non-fat plain yogurt, low fat sour cream or crème fraiche in place of the mayonnaise. Pine nuts could be used instead of sunflower seeds and dried cranberries for the raisins.

  57. Jennifer G. says:

    I’ve always made it with halved purple grapes as well. I love the salty sweet combo of this type of salad. I will try this version next time I make it.

  58. StephenC says:

    Interesting that your comments include all the modifications I would incorporate into this salad. I’ll make it later this week and put it up on my blog – just so there’s something to argue about LOL.

  59. Lacey says:

    This looks so very yummy! I make one that is similar but I add pomegranate seeds when they are in season. Thanks!

  60. Renee says:

    I LOVE broccoli salad!! It is one of my favorites. I personally love the raisins. 🙂 I have to admit in a pinch I have used ranch dressing as the dressing before. I have never had it with the cheese. That sounds pretty yummy. Thanks so much!!

  61. Angela @ AnotherBitePlease says:

    I haven’t made broccoli salad all summer – thanks for the reminder and I still have time to make before summer is officially over in my book next week 🙁

    You are not alone I don’t like raisins in anything either….a raisin should be ate alone.

  62. Dorothy says:

    I also make this salad, but use the dried cranberries instead of raisins. I do add chopped walnuts or pecans, and I blanch the broccoli–I like it cooked just a little. Its a very good salad.

  63. I have a similar broccoli salad recipe that I got from my Aunt! It is one of our family favorites and graces out table at many holidays, Sunday dinners, and bbq’s. Our version doesn’t have cheese though (a great addition I might add!!) and I love the plump sweet golden raisins in this salad. I have made it with and without the raisins and the raisins defiantly add a special touch to this salad (in my humble opinion!)! : )

  64. Rebecca says:

    I’m also an anti-raisin person. 🙂 I usually cut purple grapes in half for my broccoli salad. That little sweetness from the grapes really gives it another layer of flavor!

  65. Laura says:

    This is very similar to a salad my mom makes in the summer – love it so much!

  66. Krysta says:

    I personally like the raisins, but if you don’t like raisins, I was going to suggest craisins, also. I have had the salad both ways (with raisins, and with craisins) and they are both delicious!

  67. Michele says:

    I’m not a fan of raisins, either, but I love to add dried cranberries to this salad. Super yum!

  68. Jen Bontrager says:

    Raisins in cinnamon rolls? Yuck. The only way I like raisins is straight from the box to my mouth. You are not weird. 🙂 Or maybe I’m weird too.

  69. lisa says:

    I love this recipe!!! I also omit the raisins-BUT I do a mix of broccoli and cauliflower-the colors are beautiful!

  70. Kim in MD says:

    Oh my gosh…when my family was on vacation this summer we were served a broccoli salad for lunch. It was so good and I have been on the hunt for the recipe ever since. I think this may be it! How do you always know the recipe I am looking for, Mel? 😉

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