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Crunchy Broccoli Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette

My Crunchy Broccoli Salad is fresh and bright with a balance of earthy, savory, sweet and tangy flavors. It’s loaded with palate-pleasing textures. Plus, my spin on broccoli crunch salad is craveably delicious and easy to make.

Crunchy Broccoli Salad with Mandarin Oranges on a white plate.
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Most of you have probably tasted or at least seen the broccoli crunch salad with dried cranberries, bacon and cashews. That version has a creamy dressing that uses mayonnaise. And it’s definitely delicious.

But, I wanted to make something a little more Spring and Summer feeling to boost me out of these winter doldrums. I was hoping for something perfect for Easter brunch or dinner.

My crunchy broccoli salad with mandarin oranges is bright and vibrant with a zingy grapefruit vinaigrette. You’ll be hooked from the very first crunchy, delicious bite.

Crunchy Broccoli Salad with Mandarin Oranges on a white plate.

Broccoli Salad Origins

Broccoli salads pop up at most potlucks, family reunions and picnics throughout the Spring and Summer. But they ‘re often seen as a balance to heavier Fall and Winter meals, too.

There’s a reason for that. They’re delicious and usually well-liked by all ages. Broccoli salad is also super easy to make and transport.

In the United States, we have taken every possible liberty when it comes to creating broccoli salad. There are as many varieties and versions as there are families who enjoy them. Everyone seems to have their own personal spin on this beloved side dish.

As a matter of fact, I have two other versions on this blog. Be sure to check out my Broccoli Salad with Grapes and my year-round popular Broccoli Cauliflower Salad, too.

easy broccoli cauliflower salad recipe - salad in a round, white ceramic bowl ona concrete counter with a turquoise and white checked napkin

The first broccoli salads are believed to have been served in the U.S. since the late 17th and 18th centuries. European immigrants brought their personal recipes (which were likely a spinoff of broccoli slaw, which utilized the stalks and stems from the broccoli plant instead of cabbage.)

American potlucks propelled broccoli salad into popularity from as early as the 1930s when neighbors often gathered to share meals and food during the Depression. Different varieties evolved to accommodate the available ingredients and cater to regional traditions and personal tastes.

I promise you won’t go wrong with this scrumptious version. My Crunchy Broccoli Salad with Mandarin Oranges will be a hit on any potluck salad table or for your Easter dinner!

The Ingredients

Crunchy Broccoli Salad with Mandarin Oranges ingredients: broccoli florets, sliced almonds, mandarin orange segments, slivered red onions and grapefruit vinaigrette.

This salad requires only four ingredients plus the dressing. Technically, you could use whatever dressing you love. But I hope you’ll give my grapefruit vinaigrette a try. It is a revelation! So bright and vibrant. It makes broccoli salad (or any salad) come alive. Happily, it requires only four ingredients, too.

For the Salad

  • Broccoli Florets, cut into small bite-sized pieces
  • Mandarin Orange Segments, canned ones that have been drained
  • Sliced Almonds
  • Slivered Red Onions

For the Dressing

  • Grapefruit juice, freshly squeezed
  • Avocado Oil
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Honey
  • salt & black pepper, to taste
Crunchy Broccoli Salad with Mandarin Oranges on a white plate.

FAQs

Can you eat raw broccoli?

Absolutely! Raw broccoli is fantastic for crunchy, satisfying texture in your salads and snacks. It’s easier to chew and digest raw broccoli if you’re eating just the florets like in this recipe. If you’re using the broccoli stems and stalks, they tend to do better in a cooked preparation.

Is this a make-ahead salad?

Yes. It can be. This salad actually tastes better and better as it sits and marinates in that bright zingy dressing. We have eaten it within minutes of making it, but we love it best when it’s had a couple hours in the refrigerator, melding all those simple but delicious flavors.

How long will crunchy broccoli salad keep in the fridge?

If you actually get to have leftovers, this tasty broccoli salad will last 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator. Seal it up in an airtight container and enjoy it with lunch, for an afternoon snack or for breakfast (Don’t judge! lol).

How to Make Crunchy Broccoli Salad

with Mandarin Oranges

Crunchy Broccoli Salad ingredients tossed together in a clear mixing bowl.
  1. Cut the raw broccoli florets from the crown of the broccoli. Be careful to get just the florets, leaving the stalks, leaves and stems. (Those stems should be added to a ziptop bag in the freezer to make a scrumptious broccoli cheddar soup later.) Cut up two to three broccoli crowns until you get four cups of broccoli florets that are small bite-sized pieces.
  2. Toss the broccoli florets, onions, almonds and mandarin oranges into a large mixing bowl.
  3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the grapefruit juice, avocado oil, red wine vinegar and honey. Once the dressing is emulsified, taste it and add salt and black pepper, if needed.
  4. Pour about 2/3 of the dressing over your crunchy broccoli salad and set aside the remainder to serve at the table if anyone wants extra.
  5. Gently toss the broccoli mixture in the dressing so you don’t break up the mandarin segments. Be sure everything is coated in the grapefruit vinaigrette.
  6. You can serve this lightened-up version of broccoli crunch salad immediately or allow it to marinate in the fridge for a time. We think it’s best after about two hours of marinating.

Possible Recipe Variations and Tips

There are certainly other tasty variations, options or substitutions you might enjoy in a crunchy broccoli salad recipe. The recipe has been kept light and simple, intentionally, but there are definitely ways to make it your own.

black walnut meats in a heap on a concrete counter top

Nuts and Seeds

Try different nuts or seeds.  Check the pantry to see what you already have, but here are some delicious possibilities to help make this simply scrumptious and healthy broccoli salad recipe your very own.  Nuts and seeds add fiber, a little protein and some healthy fats to help keep you feeling full longer.

  • walnuts
  • pistachio nuts
  • pecans
  • sunflower seeds
  • pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

Vinegars and Citrus Juice

  • Choose flavored vinegars with herbs or spices in them. 
  • You could use any wine vinegar.  Although, I personally think that plain white vinegar, and possibly apple cider vinegar, might be too astringent and overpower the grapefruit juice in this dressing.
  • You could substitute fresh orange juice for the grapefruit juice.  I would cut back on the honey if you do.  In most cases, the orange will already be sweeter than the grapefruit. 
  • Also, keep in mind that you will lose some of the complexity of flavors by using the same flavor of fruit and juice in your broccoli crunch salad.  Grapefruit is light, refreshing and bright with a subtle bitterness that balances the sweet and the tartness. If you choose different fruit juice for your dressing, think about how it will balance and complement other flavors in the salad.  Personally, I might go with lemon and a little extra honey or even lime juice with extra honey as an alternative.

Sweeteners

granulated sugar measured out nto a teaspoon and a quarter teaspoon on a concrete counter

You can substitute other sweeteners in your salad dressing. I was opting for natural and least processed when I chose raw, unfiltered honey.

However, you can definitely use white or brown sugar in its place. Keep in mind that honey is much sweeter than granulated sugars. Start with the amount suggested in the recipe, but you may need to add up to double to achieve the same sweetness.

Coconut sugar is another option, as well as sugar substitutes. You will need to judge on your own how much of those to add, as that’s not something I have personally tried, and I’m not familiar enough with them to venture a guess.

Maple syrup is always an option as a substitute for honey; however, in this recipe that is supposed to be light and refreshing, the maple flavor doesn’t quite fit the flavor profile.

Use your best judgment and personal preferences when selecting sweeteners to substitute in this broccoli salad.

hand cut purple cabbage on a cutting board

Think about combinations of savory, sweet, sour and bitter to balance one another as you add and subtract ingredients from any recipe. What is the flavor profile you are hoping to create?

Add Extra Vegetables or Different Fruit

  • Grated cabbage will be an excellent addition to this salad, and red cabbage will bring in even more color. The cabbage will bring additional texture and still have a similar flavor profile to the broccoli so it won’t fight with the other ingredients.
  • Thinly sliced celery continues the broccoli salad’s crunchy, light and refreshing theme and brings an herbaceous quality that complements rather than fights with other ingredients.
  • Grated or julienned carrots are another deliciously crunchy and colorful option. Again, keep sweetness in mind and think about how much honey you will use in the dressing if your carrots are in season and extra sweet.
  • Grated apple is a good choice to add more color, crunch and sweetness to crunchy broccoli salad. Consider whether you can cut back on the sweetner if your apples are very sweet.

What to Serve with Crunchy Broccoli Salad

This craveable, crunchy broccoli salad has shown up on our dinner table several times over the past few weeks. It’s just that good. And it pairs with baked spaghetti as easily as a tuna melt open-face sandwich. That’s right. It goes with EVERYTHING. But, here are a few of our favorite main dishes to serve broccoli salad with.

I hope you love Crunchy Broccoli Salad with Mandarin Oranges as much as we do. It’s a delicious bite of sunshine and embraces the promise of warmer weather.

It will be a favorite dish at Easter dinner and all your summertime gatherings. And Crunchy Broccoli Salad with Mandarin Oranges will be just as welcome next to soups and hearty, wintertime comfort foods.

Lightened-up Broccoli Crunch Salad is so easy to make and complements just about any main dish you can imagine. Enjoy!

Crunchy Broccoli Salad with Mandarin Oranges on a white plate.

The Recipe

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Crunchy Broccoli Salad with Mandarin Oranges on a white plate.

Crunchy Broccoli Salad with Mandarin Oranges


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5 from 5 reviews

  • Author: Glenda Embree
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

My Crunchy Broccoli Salad is fresh and bright with a balance of earthy, savory, sweet and tangy flavors. It’s loaded with palate-pleasing textures. Plus, my spin on broccoli crunch salad is craveably delicious and easy to make. Loved by kids AND adults, this scrumptious salad is a welcomed dish at any potluck, picnic, barbecue or family gathering.


Ingredients

Units Scale

Salad:

  • 4 cups small broccoli florets, raw
  • 1 (15 oz.) can mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1/2 cup slivered red onion
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds

Grapefruit Vinaigrette:

  • juice from 1 large grapefruit (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup avocado oil
  • 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons honey
  • salt and black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Cut the raw broccoli florets from the crown of the broccoli. Be careful to get just the florets, leaving the stalks, leaves and stems. (Those stems should be added to a ziptop bag in the freezer to make a scrumptious broccoli cheddar soup later.) Cut up two to three broccoli crowns until you get four cups of broccoli florets that are small bite-sized pieces.
  2. Toss the broccoli florets, onions, almonds and mandarin oranges into a large mixing bowl.
  3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the grapefruit juice, avocado oil, red wine vinegar and honey. Once the dressing is emulsified, taste it and add salt and black pepper, if needed.
  4. Pour about 2/3 of the dressing over your crunchy broccoli salad and set aside the remainder to serve at the table if anyone wants extra.
  5. Gently toss the broccoli mixture in the dressing so you don’t break up the mandarin segments. Be sure everything is coated in the grapefruit vinaigrette.
  6. You can serve this lightened-up version of broccoli crunch salad immediately or allow it to marinate in the fridge for a time. We think it’s best after about two hours of marinating.
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Category: Salad, Side Dish
  • Method: Cold Prep
  • Cuisine: American

More Scrumptious Salad Recipes

glenda embree

About Glenda

I believe cooking from scratch doesn’t have to be complicated and that YOU can do it. My simple recipes, tutorials, and cooking tips will help you get weeknight dinners on the table with less stress. Forget takeout or the drive-thru. Let me show you how to make homemade easy. Read more...

10 thoughts on “Crunchy Broccoli Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette”

  1. I’m usually not a big fan of broccoli, but this salad totally won me over. The grapefruit juice gave it this tangy kick that I never knew broccoli could have. I am planning to try using lemon juice next time for a different flavor.






    Reply
  2. My new absolute fave! The grapefruit vinaigrette was just the best! The salad is light and simple but the flavors are amazing! Can’t wait to make this salad for a fam gathering next week, for sure everyone will love it as well! Thanks a bunch!






    Reply
  3. I’m not usually a fan of broccoli, but this recipe actually made me enjoy it! It’s great to find a recipe that changes my mind about a vegetable I typically avoid. What’s even better is how quick and simple it was to make. Thanks for sharing such a tasty dish!






    Reply
  4. The combination of sweet, tangy and savory flavors was so delicious. Added some grated apple and it added a little sweetness. I also made your Air Fryer Chicken Cordon Bleu recipe and this broccoli salad was the perfect side.






    Reply
  5. The broccoli is so crunchy and the grapefruit vinaigrette added a nice tangy flavor. I just added a handful of walnuts and I loved that extra crunch. Then I served it with your chicken street tacos recipe and it was a perfect lunch date with my hubby.






    Reply

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