Healthy Broccoli Salad with Bacon (Paleo, Whole30)

This Healthy Broccoli Salad with Bacon is a classic summer salad.

Broccoli, bacon, raisins, sunflower seeds and red onion are coated in a creamy, sweet and tangy dressing.

The best broccoli salad recipe needs to be light and easy and delicious, and this one has it all.

Plus it’s naturally Paleo and Whole30 friendly!

dairy free broccoli salad surrounded by raisins, sunflower seeds, a spoon and bacon

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Paleo and Whole30 Broccoli Salad with Bacon

Can broccoli salad with bacon really be healthy?

Yep! This isn’t the typical kind of salad but even salads without lettuce can be good for you.

First of all, the main ingredient is broccoli. Broccoli is a vegetable and vegetables are healthy.

Case closed.

No, but really: broccoli is full of fiber, antioxidants and vitamins. It’s even packed with vitamin C. Who knew?

And then you toss it with sunflower seeds (full of protein, healthy fats and vitamins), raisins (fiber, iron, calcium) and red onion (vitamins C and a lot of the B’s, potassium).

So far, so good, right?

But then there’s bacon (cue ominous sound effect: duh duh duuuuuh). Most people think the problem with bacon is its cholesterol and saturated fat. But neither of those are the nutritional boogeymen they once were.

To keep this a Whole30 salad recipe, use sugar-free bacon.

And finally, the dressing. It’s usually mayonnaise with vinegar and sugar.

We’re still using mayo, but we’re using heart-healthy avocado oil mayonnaise. Luckily it tastes just like the real thing.

Still using apple cider vinegar because it tastes great and is possibly very good for us.

And then there’s the sugar. Instead of dumping in a ton of refined white sugar, we’re using either maple syrup or apple juice (for the Whole30 version). The apple juice version won’t be quite as sweet as the maple syrup version (or as in a classic white sugar dressing) but it’s still great.

We’re not using a lot of sweetener – just enough to get that perfect sweet and tangy balance.

healthy broccoli salad with bacon in a glass bowl surrounded by raisins and sunflower seeds

How to prepare Paleo broccoli salad

You can use whole broccoli or just broccoli florets. Either way, you want to make sure everything is cut down to bite-sized pieces.

If using whole broccoli, don’t throw away those stalks! I include instructions for how to use them. They’re crunchy and delicious and including them means less food waste.

And I include an optional step but one I recommend: blanching the broccoli.

Blanching just means quickly cooking it in hot water and then adding it to ice water to stop the cooking.

You can of course keep the broccoli raw. That’s perfectly fine. But I find quickly blanching it mellows out its rawness just enough to make this salad truly irresistible.

(Click this link to learn more about how to blanch broccoli.)

If you want to learn how to blanch broccoli, you’ll need:

For assembling the salad, you’ll need:

Whether or not you blanch the broccoli, the rest is so easy:

  • toss the broccoli with the sunflower seeds, raisins, diced red onion and crumbled cooked bacon
  • whisk together the dressing ingredients
  • mix it all together

Done!

Just be sure to give the salad a good stir once in a while as it sits as the dressing will start to sink to the bottom of the bowl.

Substitutions and variations

  • You can use other nuts or seeds for the sunflower seeds. Chopped almonds, pistachios, cashews, pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts would all be great. Pumpkin seeds would also work.
  • Don’t like raisins? Try dried cranberries (make sure they’re fruit-sweetened for Whole30) or chopped dates.
  • Don’t like red onion? Trust me, I get it. It can be too harsh. But it provides just enough zip here without being overwhelming. If you want to be sure, you can cover the diced red onion with cold water for 30 minutes, drain and pat dry. This will mellow their flavor.
  • Instead of maple syrup or apple juice you can use honey.
  • If you don’t want bacon,  you could try turkey bacon. It’s not my favorite, but it would work fine here. Or leave the bacon out altogether.

Make ahead

You can make this Paleo and Whole30 broccoli salad up to 3 days in advance. Give it a good toss before serving to make sure everything gets evenly coated.

broccoli salad with bacon and raisins in a glass bowl surrounded by bacon, raisins, sunflower seeds and a spoon

What to serve with Paleo broccoli salad

Since it’s a classic summer party salad, it’s obviously great with grilled foods: burgers, hot dogs, etc.

Serve it alongside other classic side dishes like coleslaw and baked beans.

Or with a perfectly grilled steak.

It would also be great next to some gluten-free fried chicken and gluten-free cornbread.

 

Other recipes you might like:

  1. Strawberry Cucumber Salad with Creamy Poppy Seed Dressing (Whole30, vegan)
  2. Burrata Salad with Peaches and Prosciutto
  3. Citrus Avocado Salad (Whole30 option)
  4. Creamed Kale (Whole30, Paleo, vegan)
broccoli salad with bacon in a glass bowl surrounded by sunflower seeds, raisins, bacon and a spoon, all on a wooden table
dairy free broccoli salad surrounded by raisins, sunflower seeds, a spoon and bacon
Print Recipe
5 from 6 votes

Healthy Broccoli Salad with Bacon

Broccoli, sunflower seeds, raisins, red onion and bacon are coated in a creamy, sweet, tangy dressing. It's light, easy and delicious and perfect for your summer parties!
Note: the cooking time includes if you blanch the broccoli.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time1 min
cooling time10 mins
Total Time21 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: easy broccoli salad, easy side dish, healthy broccoli salad
Servings: 6 people
Author: Don Baiocchi

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. whole broccoli or broccoli florets
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1/2 cup avocado oil mayonnaise
  • teaspoons maple syrup or apple juice (for Whole30)
  • teaspoons apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion

Instructions

  • Cut the broccoli into bite-sized pieces. If using whole broccoli heads, cut off the florets. Slice off the bottom of the stalk. Slice lengthwise down one side of the stalk to remove the outer layer. Rotate the stalk onto the flat cut side and repeat until you've sliced off all of the outer layer. Cut the stalk crosswise into 1/4" pieces.
  • To blanch the broccoli (optional but recommended): Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Carefully drop in the broccoli. After 30-60 seconds (depending on how small you cut the broccoli; do not go longer than 60 seconds), drain the broccoli and plunge into a bowl of ice water. Let cool completely. Drain and dry on a towel or paper towels.
  • Meanwhile, cook the bacon until just crisp. Drain and dice.
  • Whisk together the mayonnaise, maple syrup or apple juice, and vinegar.
  • Add the broccoli to a large mixing bowl. Add the sunflower seeds, raisins, diced red onion and bacon.
  • Pour over the dressing and toss until everything is evenly coated. Serve at room temperature or chill in the fridge for at least an hour to serve cold. Stir occasionally to redistribute the dressing.

Notes

To make sure this is Whole30, use the apple juice option for the dressing and make sure all your ingredients are compliant.
Substitutions and variations:
  • You can use other nuts or seeds for the sunflower seeds. Chopped almonds, pistachios, cashews, pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts would all be great. Pumpkin seeds would also work.
  • Don't like raisins? Try dried cranberries (make sure they're fruit-sweetened for Whole30) or chopped dates.
  • Don't like red onion? Trust me, I get it. It can be too harsh. But it provides just enough zip here without being overwhelming. If you want to be sure, you can cover the diced red onion with cold water for 30 minutes and then pat dry. This will mellow their flavor.
  • Instead of maple syrup or apple juice you can use honey.
  • If you don't like or want bacon,  you could try turkey bacon. Or leave the bacon out altogether.
Make ahead
You can make this salad up to 3 days in advance. Give it a good toss before serving to make sure everything gets evenly coated.

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