Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Recipe for Sweet and Sour Broccoli Salad (Version 2.0)

Sweet and Sour Broccoli Salad
This is a salad I've been making for years, but cutting the broccoli in smaller pieces is a big improvement!

(Updated June 2012 with better photos and a new way of chopping the broccoli that I think is a big improvement!)  This recipe for broccoli salad with red onion, bacon, cheese and a sweet and sour mayo-based dressing is something I've been making for years.  I've experimented with Splenda, Granulated Stevia, and Agave nectar in the dressing, used more or less bacon and cheese (depending on how diet-friendly I wanted to make it), and switched out the traditional raisins for chopped pecans, and no matter how I changed it up, the salad has always been a hit.  But recently I attended a baby christening party for my nephew Aaron and wife Amee's darling new baby girl and Amee's Aunt Lynette had a new twist on the salad that really wowed me.  Presenting Sweet and Sour Broccoli Salad Version 2.0, with the broccoli chopped into much smaller pieces!

Maybe I was the last to know about this idea, but making the pieces of broccoli smaller in the salad made all the flavors blend together in a way that I really thought took this old favorite salad to a new level.  I use a minimal amount of bacon, low-fat cheese, a combination of light and full-fat mayo, and sweetener instead of sugar for my more diet-friendly version of the salad, but it's still something I would consider to be a "once-in-a-while treat" for South Beach dieters.  But when you need a salad that's guaranteed to be a hit for a special occasion, this salad will definitely fit the bill.

I use pre-cooked bacon that already has a lot of the fat cooked out; then I crisp it in the microwave and blot with paper towels to remove as much fat as possible.  You could probably use even less bacon than this if you prefer; it doesn't take a lot of bacon to add that bacon flavor.  (I'm not a fan of turkey bacon, but if you don't eat bacon I think the salad would still be delish without it.)

Combine mayo, light mayo, vinegar, sweetener of your choice, Spike seasoning, and salt-pepper to taste to make the flavorful dressing.

You'll need 8 cups of broccoli chopped into very small pieces (use the stems too.)  I love this giant 8-cup measuring cup I inherited from my stepmother Norma.

Finely chop the crisp bacon and red onion.

Chop the pecans (or other nuts of your choice.)

Measure out 1 cup of low-fat cheese.  (I use this Four Cheese Mexican Blend from Costco.  You can omit the cheese or use a lot less if you prefer.)

Mix together the chopped broccoli, bacon, red onion, and pecans until everything is well combined.

Then mix in enough dressing to coat all the salad ingredients and gently mix in the cheese.

And here is the original photo of the salad from 2007 when I used to cut the broccoli in much bigger pieces.   I actually don't mind this photo at all, but I greatly prefer the salad cut in smaller pieces now that Lynette has introduced me to that idea.  Thanks Lynette!

Sweet and Sour Broccoli Salad
(Makes about 8 servings, recipe adapted from many sources, with changes by Kalyn to make it more diet friendly.  The 2.0 version has the idea from Lynette to cut the broccoli into smaller pieces, which I thought was a big improvement.)

8 cups fresh broccoli, cut into very small flowerets and stems chopped into small pieces
1/2 small red onion, cut into slices and then 1/4 inch dice
6 slices bacon (or less), cooked very crisp, fat blotted off, and then crumbled
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (I used Four Cheese Blend from Costco, which is a blend of lower fat cheeses. I think this would be quite good without the cheese too, if you wanted less fat.)

Dressing Ingredients:
1/2 cup mayo
1/2 cup light mayo (not fat-free, which usually had added sugar)
3 T rice wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, or red wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar, Splenda, Granulated Stevia, or Agave nectar
2 tsp.Spike Seasoning (optional, but it does add a nice flavor here)
salt/pepper to taste

Cook the bacon until it's very crisp, then blot on both sides with paper towels to remove as much fat as possible.  (I use pre-cooked bacon and then crisp it in the microwave, which removes a lot of the fat.)  Combine dressing ingredients in processor or in bowl with a wire whisk.

Wash and dry broccoli if needed and then chop broccoli flowerets and stems into very small pieces. Chop onion into small pieces and crumble the bacon. Coarsely chop pecans.

Combine broccoli, onion, bacon, and pecans in large salad bowl.  Mix desired amount of dressing into salad (you may not want all the dressing depending on how wet you prefer your salad.) Gently fold in cheese. Salad can be refrigerated for a few hours before serving.  This will keep in the refrigerator for a few days, but you may want to add a tablespoon or two of extra dressing after it's been refrigerated.

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South Beach Suggestions:
This salad has mostly broccoli, which is a very low-glycemic ingredient.  However, even with my changes to remove as much fat as possible from the bacon, light mayo, sweetener, and changing the raisins for pecans, this salad is definitely a "once-in-a-while-treat" for the South Beach Diet.  If you wanted to make a version that was even more diet-friendly I think this would still be very good with less bacon and cheese and all light mayo in the dressing.

Nutritional Information?
I chose the South Beach Diet to manage my weight partly so I wouldn't have to count calories, carbs, points, or fat grams, but if you want nutritional information for a recipe, I recommend entering the recipe into Calorie Count, which will calculate it for you.

More Tasty Salad Ideas with Broccoli:
(Recipes from other blogs not always South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)
Easy Thai-Flavored Raw Broccoli Salad with Red Onion, Mint, and Peanuts from Kalyn's Kitchen
Barely-Blanched Broccoli Salad with Feta and Fried Almonds from Kalyn's Kitchen
Asian Broccoli Salad with Sesame-Ginger Dressing from Vintage Mixer
Warm Spinach and Broccoli Salad from A Thought for Food
Sweet Potato and Broccoli Salad from Branny Boils Over
(Want even more recipes?  I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.)
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More to Chew On:


  1. Thanks for blogging about Agave Nectar. I am going to pick some up when I go to Henry's next time. I am constantly trying to find ways to cut back on sugar in the family and use honey as a substitute in some recipes. I am looking forward to try out Agave Nectar to see how it can be used.

  2. I've never heard of it! It does sound like it would be good!
    I use so little sugar that I really never think about!
    I only bake at Christmas and rarely have anythng but fruit for a sweet.

  3. This recipe sounds just excellent, no matter how you sweeten it. I have never heard of agave nectar and I'm intrigued. I assume from its name iti s a liquid?

  4. Kalyn why the sub of pecans for sunflower seeds? I tend to like sunflower seeds more than pecans. The salad seems wonderful. Haven't ever heard of thhe agave nectar.

  5. just wanted to mention that I love the new picture on your banner...so fun!!

  6. We have agave all over the place out here in Tucson and I'm always looking for ways to incorporate local ingredients. Thanks for the tip!

  7. Well, that's a fabulous recipe. It looks so pretty and has so many of the things I love to eat in it. And I will look for the Agave Nectar.

  8. Raji, I really liked it. I think it's pretty versatile.

    Katie, me too on the lack of baking. This could be used anywhere you might use sugar, so it's great for people like me who don't want any sugar at all.

    Deb, I'll check it out since I'm definitely going to be experimenting with substituting it for sugar in lots of things.

    Christine, it's a liquid slightly thinner than honey and with some of the same coating properties. Really delicious tasting.

    Tanna, the sunflower seeds get soggy when this is kept in the fridge, so I was just experimenting. (Also I was out of sunflower seeds!) Sunflower seeds are the usual thing used in the salad, so use them if you like them better.

    Dani, thanks. My brother Rand does the headers, and he's incredibly multi-talented!

    Kelly, I bet it's in every store there! I can tell this will be a routine pantry item for me from now on.

    Sher, I bet you'd like it. As I said, the flavor is great!

  9. Always looking for new ways to use broccoli! Great recipe. Also a quick note about Splenda - it isn't exactly calorie free (close enough tough...) as there are 96 calories per cup.

  10. I will have to try out this recipe, it looks good!

  11. Kalyn
    I have never tried out agave nectar but will now be looking for it.
    Great suggestion...

  12. Joe, thanks for letting me know about the calories in Splenda. I think I'm always looking at the amount in a tablespoon, which is pretty small! Will edit that in the post.

    Butcher Block, thanks for visiting. Hope you like the recipe.

    Great big vegetable challenge, I think it's getting to be pretty widely available.

  13. Sounds interesting. I use agave nectar in baking. Haven't yet tried it in an uncooked or savoury recipe though. I'll have to give this one a try.

  14. This is a new product for me but it sounds really great! I'll have to pick some up next time. Thanks for the heads up Kalyn!

  15. Hey Kalyn - I bought some agave nectar for the first time recently and am really enjoying it! I thought it would be hard to find or expensive or hard to use, but it's not. (Whole Foods, less than $8) It's similar to a thin honey but has a slightly different taste. I've noticed a lot of vegan blogs and cookbooks call for agave nectar instead of sugar (which is sometimes filtered through an animal-based charcoal) and honey (bees=animals.) Vegan concerns aside, it's nice to have a natural sweetner (I REALLY dislike the taste of artificial sweetners) that tastes yummy and has a low glycemic index. I've been making sweet iced tea with it all summer!

  16. I LOVE THIS SALAD!!! Seriously, I make a big batch and take it for lunch at work for the week or as a side with my dinner. I use fat free smoked turkey breast & fat free smoked ham instead of bacon and toasted pine nuts. DELICIOUS! I love this blog too. I just started south beach and I can feel the changes already.

  17. It seems like all I want to eat lately is broccoli salad--I make one version or another once a day. This one is my new favorite. I only made one change and that was using half reduced fat mayonnaise/half reduced fat sour cream. I didn't get a chance to dig into it until just now........and BOY, is it GOOD! Slightly sweet because of the agave nectar with the perfect amount of dressing, bacon and cheese combined with the broccoli. AMAZING!

  18. Sarah, so glad you liked it. It's funny you just commented, because over the weekend I had a version of this salad where the broccoli was finely chopped (stems and all) and I loved it! I'm going to update this post with that option soon.

  19. I'm not crazy about raw broccoli, so I think I'd love this version 2.0 salad with the broccoli cut much smaller. Isn't it fun to take an old favorite recipe and make it even better?

  20. Lydia, fun indeed. And I'm guessing you would like this version, even without the bacon!

  21. This is a wonderful salad. I have been making it for years. I agree that cutting up the broccoli into small pieces seems to make it taste better because the dressing can coat it much better...but your earlier picture with the larger pieces of broccoli looks so much prettier. I like to add craisins to mine.

  22. This is lovely. i am calling someone to see this... plus i am hungry...

  23. I've been making this salad for years, but started cutting the broc in smaller pieces after having it in a restaurant in San Diego called Lots of Pasta.....it's their house signature salad. I also copied their idea of using toasted pine nuts in it. I had a Japanese student live w/me for a year and she LOVED this salad....we now call it Rina's Salad after her. :)

  24. Barb, I love the idea of using pine nuts! Isn't it interesting how different the salad is with the broccoli cut smaller?

  25. It really is Kalyn.....and the pine nuts really make it stand out IMHO. :)

  26. I stumbled across your blog yesterday from a pin on pinterest and I'm loving it! I've been searching for hot weather friendly side dishes and salads and yo have so many! Made this today and love it! My husband loves this type of broccoli salad. This has the perfect amount of dressing. I usually don't like broccoli salad because it's drowning in a heavy dressing. Not this one! It's perfect!

  27. Sarah, thanks and so glad you are enjoying the blog!

  28. Hi Kalyn. I've always loved this salad! What do you think it would taste like if you subbed out the mayo and used fat free Greek yogurt in it's place? I might give that a try just to see. It would lighten the recipe even more.

  29. I'm skeptical about using all Greek yogurt, but I think a mix of Greek yogurt and mayo might be good.

  30. Could you share instructions or video on how you chopped your broccoli? I can never get past the florets. Recipe sounds yummy...will try soon! Thx.

  31. The only trick I know for chopping broccoli is to cut flowerets from the stems (I save the stems), and then cut partway through the stem part and pull it apart through the head so you're not actually chopping through the broccoli flower part. That keeps it so it doesn't make a big mess. I just chop with a big knife, doing that over and over until it's all chopped.


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