Vegan broccoli salad with cranberries and bacon bits, red onions, and creamy sweet dressing is one of the best broccoli salads you’ll ever put a fork to.
We’ve streamlined this vegan version of a classic recipe to include our signature hemp seed vegan bacon bits so you can get his salad on the table and into your belly in record time.
Table of Contents
Why You'll Love This Recipe
This easy recipe is a healthier adaptation of the classic broccoli salad you find year-round, from summer BBQs to holiday spreads to your favorite grocery store.
A vegan recipe is even better than the original - raw broccoli, red onion, a creamy dressing, dried cranberries, and a healthy dose of our newest, most favorite hemp seed vegan bacon bits. I want a bowl right now!
From a healthy salad perspective, this yummy dish packs loads of antioxidants and vitamins and is a great source of fiber, thanks in part to the broccoli and hemp seeds.
Key Ingredients, Notes, and Substitutions
Fresh broccoli. Cut the broccoli heads into small florets, but don’t toss the broccoli stalks and stems. They are delicious! Trim off the ends of the stalks, lightly peel them, and cut them into cubes. You don't need to peel the tender, green stems. Dice them into small pieces if they are left from cutting the florets.
Red onion. Sweet red onions compliment the flavors in the salad. They are always a great addition, but you can use green onions (scallions) if you like.
Raw cashews. For the dressing, use raw cashews rather than roasted ones. Raw cashews are easier to blend and don’t contain added oil or salt. And the flavor and texture are unbeatable when it comes to vegan mayo and other creamy dressings.
Dried cranberries. The sweetness of dried fruit is a natural flavor balance for the savory flavor of the bacon bits. We prefer cranberries, but you can also use dried cherries, golden raisins, or a combination of dried fruit.
Vegan bacon bits. After the first bite of our hemp seed bacon bits recipe, raw broccoli salad was a no-brainer. We recommend the umami flavors of soy sauce, miso paste, and liquid smoke. If you are more partial to using vegan bacon made with tofu or coconut bacon, you are most certainly to do so. The hemp seeds are a great way to make a crunchy broccoli salad. And with bacon flavor - hello!
Please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the complete list of ingredients with measurements plus recipe instructions.
Step 1: Make vegan bacon bits while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
Step 2: Blend the dressing ingredients. Add a little water to thin it as needed.
Step 3: Add the broccoli, onions, cranberries, and bacon bits to a medium bowl.
Step 4: Add the dressing and mix everything well. Taste and add salt and/or black pepper if desired.
- Even if you have a high-speed blender or food processor, it’s recommended that you soak raw cashews. Add the cashews to a small bowl and cover them with boiling water. Soak them for about 15 minutes before making the dressing. This ensures the creamiest salad dressing.
- When you make the dressing, add water a little at a time until you have a pourable consistency. You don't want it too watered down; however, a thicker salad dressing is difficult to mix thoroughly with all the ingredients.
- The hemp seed bacon bits can be made days (or weeks) ahead. If making them in conjunction with the salad, preheat the oven, then soak the cashews. Get the bacon bits baking while you prep the rest of the salad.
Broccoli salad is the ultimate Pot Luck, picnic, or BBQ salad, but you can also enjoy them with main dishes that need a veggie boost.
Frequently Asked Questions
Store the leftover salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4 days. Let the salad warm to room temperature and stir it before reserving it. Add a little lemon juice or apple cider vinegar if the dressing needs to be spruced up.
The best substitute for apple cider vinegar for creamy broccoli salad is lemon juice or rice vinegar. You want to use vinegar with a mellow tang that isn't too strong.
There is no need to cook broccoli when making broccoli salad. If you don’t like raw broccoli, the best way to cook it is to steam it for no more than 2 minutes and immediately cool it in an ice bath. Allow it to dry completely before adding it to the rest of the salad ingredients. Excess moisture can impact the consistency of the dressing and texture.
You can make all or parts of this salad a day ahead. For example, make the vegan bacon bits and store them in an airtight container for over a week. If you make the dressing earlier, thin it out with water or lemon juice if it gets thick as it sits. Make the entire salad a day or hours before serving. Mix it and add a little lemon juice or apple cider vinegar if you want to freshen it up.
More Broccoli Recipes
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Vegan Broccoli Salad with Cranberries and Bacon Bits
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Vegan Bacon Bits
- ⅔ cup hemp seeds
- 2 teaspoons miso paste
- 3 teaspoons liquid smoke
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce - or Tamari
- ¾ cup raw cashews - soaked
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon garlic - minced or pressed
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ - ½ cup water - as needed
- 2 small broccoli crowns - cut into florets
- 1 small red onion - chopped
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- Prep the cashews. Add the cashews to a small bowl and cover them with boiling water. Soak the cashews for about 15 minutes. Drain them before making the dressing.
- Make the bacon bits. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 C). Mix the soy sauce, miso paste, and liquid smoke in a small baking dish, then mix in the hemp seeds. Bake for 10 minutes, then stir and bake for another 5-10 minutes until they are brown and crunchy.
- Prep the salad ingredients.Cut the broccoli into small florets and then dice the stems. Cut the ends from the stalks and peel them. Dice the stalks into cubes to be used in the salad. Dice the red onion. And place the ingredients into a large bowl.
- Blend the dressing. Place all the dressing ingredients (except the water) into a blender or food processor. Blend the ingredients for about 30 seconds on low, then add ¼ of a cup of water. Gradually increase the blender speed, and continue adding water, a little at a time, until you have a 'pourable' consistency.
- Finish the salad. Add the cranberries and vegan bacon bits to the salad bowl with broccoli and onions. Mix the ingredients and then add the salad dressing. Mix well, taste, and add salt and/or black pepper if desired.
- The vegan bacon bits recipe makes ⅔ of a cup so that you will have a few leftovers. Add them to the broccoli salad, or save a few for next time. They last in the fridge for several weeks.
- There is no need to cook broccoli before using it in the salad. Cut it into small florets, and it will be nice and crunchy. If you want to cook it, steam it for no more than 2 minutes. Immediately remove it from the heat and place it in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Drain it promptly. Be sure you get it as dry as possible before mixing it with the rest of the salad ingredients.
- You can make the entire salad or the bacon bits and dressing a day ahead. If the salad needs to be refreshed after sitting, add a few drops of lemon juice to loosen it up.
- This salad will last for 4 days in the refrigerator. Store it in an airtight container.
Nutritional information is an estimation only.