Forks up, this is the best vegan broccoli, bacon, and cranberry salad ever! The creamy sweet dressing, red onions, and savory, hemp seed vegan bacon bits will have everyone begging for this recipe on repeat.
This easy recipe is a healthier adaptation of the classic broccoli salad that you find year-round, from summer BBQs to holiday spreads to your favorite grocery store. And frankly, this vegan recipe is even better than the traditional version. It’s an irresistible combination of raw broccoli and red onion, a creamy dressing, dried cranberries, plus a healthy dose of our newest, most favorite hemp seed vegan bacon bits. You can probably understand why it’s the best in our book.
From a healthy salad perspective, this yummy dish packs loads of antioxidants, vitamins, and a great source of fiber, thanks in part to the broccoli and hemp seeds.
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. 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. Our preference is cranberries, but you can also use dried cherries, golden raisins, or a combination of dried fruit.
Vegan bacon bits – To be honest, 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!
- 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 salad ingredients.
- The hemp seed bacon bits can be made days (or weeks) ahead of time. 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.
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, then 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 completely dry 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.
Sides We Love
The Best Vegan Broccoli, Bacon, and Cranberry Salad
Forks up and prepare for rave reviews with the best vegan broccoli, bacon, and cranberry, salad with creamy sweet dressing, and red onions ever.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 6 1x
- Category: Side Salads
- Method: Blend
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegan
- ¾ cup of raw cashews, soaked
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon of minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ - ½ water
- 2 small broccoli crowns
- 1 small red onion, diced
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup hemp seed bacon bits (or other vegan bacon bits)
- 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. Follow the instructions for hemp seed bacon bits if you are using them.
- 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.
- 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, and 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 two days in the refrigerator. Sorry, we’ve never kept it longer than that to test.
Keywords: vegan broccoli bacon and cranberry salad, vegan bacon bits, hemp seeds, broccoli salad, plant-based broccoli salad