A delicious and healthy broccoli salad, with no mayo to be found… can it be so?
Most broccoli salads start out wholesome enough: chopped or shaved broccoli, tossed together with raisins or dried cranberries, minced red onion, and nuts or sunflower seeds… but too often end up drowning under a thick, mayonnaise-heavy, milk-based dressing.
Arguably, there’s a time and a place for such classics, likely next to the equally mayo-slathered potato salad at a Summer potluck (and I’ve been known to hover over big bowls of both), but for everyday eats, I was looking for a healthier spin on the original, that still held up in the flavor department.
Originally, Greek yogurt seemed the logical, lighter choice as the dressing base, but I opted to go a step further, looking instead to tahini (ground sesame seed paste) to add flavor and creaminess, without the weight. Olive oil, fresh Meyer lemon juice and a swirl of honey round out the rest of the dressing, which is naturally dairy-free, and as simple as it is light and creamy and sweet and tangy.
The rest of the salad I kept mostly traditional: crunchy, fresh broccoli florets, sliced almonds, sweet, plump raisins (or dried cranberries), and shaved shallots, for a subtle bite. All tossed together in the lemony, sesame dressing, for a super fresh and flavorful, stand-at-the-counter-and-eat-straight-out-of-the-mixing-bowl type of salad.
A Few Healthy Broccoli Salad Hints
I prefer the freshness of raw broccoli, particularly during warmer seasons, but if you’re adverse, you could certainly blanch the broccoli first. Simply bring a pot of water to a gentle boil, cook the broccoli florets for a minute or two, until just tender (but still vibrantly green), before transferring to a large bowl of ice water to cool.
Try adding some feta or ricotta salata! I purposely wrote the recipe to be dairy-free, but a small handful of salty, Mediterranean cheese is a wonderful addition to the dish.
The recipe is written to allow time for the broccoli to “marinate” a bit in the dressing – an hour or so in the fridge – to soak up more of the lemony-sesame flavors in the tahini dressing, but this isn’t completely necessary. This broccoli salad is delicious eaten immediately after even a quick toss together. Either way, the hands on time is still just about 15-20 minutes.Print
For the broccoli salad
- 2 medium heads (3/4–1 lb) broccoli
- 1/3 cup sliced almonds
- 1/3 cup raisins or dried cranberries
- 1–2 shallots, thinly-sliced
- 1–2 tsp white sesame seeds
- optional: 1/4 cup feta or ricotta salata cheese
Lemon Tahini Dressing
- 3 Tbsp tahini
- 3–4 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 2 Tbsp honey or maple syrup
- 1 tsp fresh garlic, finely-minced
- kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
Make the lemon-tahini dressing:
- In a small bowl, whisk together the tahini, 3 Tbsp olive oil, lemon juice, and honey until combined. Add up to another tablespoon of oil to thin as desired. Stir in the garlic, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- Or, if saving for later, transfer to an air-tight jar. I like to reuse old jam jars for this, usually Bonne Maman jars. May be made in advance and kept refrigerated for up to two weeks.
Assemble the broccoli salad:
- Chop the broccoli into small bite-sized florets. Save the stems for broccoli stem pesto!
- Toss together the broccoli, shallots, and raisins or cranberries with the dressing. Refrigerate for about an hour. Just before serving, add the almonds, sesame seeds, and feta, if using. Serve chilled.
Tahini (ground sesame seed paste) can be found in well-stocked grocery stores (typically in the Middle Eastern/Mediterranean section) and online.
Make it Vegan: Be sure to use pure maple syrup instead of honey in the dressing, and omit the feta.