Seared (but still crisp) broccoli forms the flavorful base of this Charred Broccoli Salad with Hot Honey Dressing. With toasted pecans, sharp red onion, crisp bacon, tangy goat cheese, dried cranberries, and a sweet-and-slightly-spicy homemade hot honey dressing, this side dish has a little bit of everything for your cookout, dinner party, or lunch box.
CHARRED BROCCOLI SALAD WITH HOT HONEY DRESSING
If you told me a few years back that one day I’d be at a cookout, bee-lining past the burgers and dogs and potato salad over to a big bowl of broccoli, I probably wouldn’t have laughed directly in your face (because I try my best not to be that openly and aggressively rude) but I would have, at the very least, side-eyed and pursed my lips at the idea. There was– at that time– no world in which I would have prioritized a plate of green veggies over anything else a potluck had to offer, but at that time I also had never had a good broccoli salad. And I’d definitely never had a broccoli salad anywhere near as amazing as this one.
Here’s what makes this Charred Broccoli Salad with Hot Honey Dressing a standout recipe that did, in real life, make me eat two platefuls of broccoli before moving on to anything else:
- The broccoli is charred, as the recipe name implies. I’ll get into this a lot more in a minute, but charring the broccoli in a hot skillet gives it a deeply roasted, slightly smoky flavor while keeping the bulk of the broccoli green and crisp. (Nobody gets excited for limp or soggy broccoli, after all).
- Bacon. Need I say more? Well, I will anyway. Not only is there crumbles of crisp bacon in the salad, but that charred broccoli we talked about? Yeah, the broccoli gets its char from cooking in rendered bacon grease, meaning all of that bacony flavor infuses with the veggies.
- Hello, soft crumbles and streaks of creamy cheese. I know that goat cheese is polarizing. Those of you who don’t like it can scroll on down to the substitutions section for some recommendations. However, for those of us –myself included– who can’t get enough of the stuff, it’s a fantastic departure from the typical choice of cheddar chunks. The texture of the goat cheese adds balance to all of the crisp and crunchy ingredients and the tang compliments the sweet cranberries and honey dressing. Plus, its softness allows the cheese to adhere to the other ingredients, meaning you get some in every bite!
- The hot honey dressing is made from scratch. I know that “hot honey” exists in the world as an ingredient or condiment you can buy. But why waste money and space on another bottle when you can make your own at home for less using regular honey and dried chiles? Using your own chiles allows you to customize the heat level as well (so feel free to use as many or as few chiles as you’d like)!
- Toasted nuts take it to the next level. Since we’re already using the skillet to cook the bacon, char the broccoli, and make the hot honey dressing, why not also take this opportunity to toast the pecans so their flavor is deeper and richer and the nuts themselves are crunchier? It’s well worth the 2-4 minutes it takes to toast!
- Some ingredients don’t need to touch the heat. Like the goat cheese, the dried cranberries and red onion each add their own flavors and textures to the salad without requiring any intense preparation or cooking. Just toss ’em in and let ’em shine.
LET’S CHAT ABOUT CHARRED BROCCOLI
There was a time– a long time, actually– when all I really knew of broccoli was the microwave-from-frozen kind my mom served with dinner. The stuff I’d push around the plate and only take a few bites of when I was threatened with “You can’t leave the dinner table until…”
But as kids tend to do, I’ve grown up, and I’m now too mature to make faces at my plate full of veggies. Do I happily eat microwaved broccoli now? Nope, I just don’t make that stuff. Honestly, I didn’t make much broccoli at all until discovering the joys of roasted vegetables. Those charred, crisped, nearly-blackened bits of veggies are an absolute game changer! And now I think I’ve found something even better than roasted broccoli: skillet charred broccoli.
WHY CHARRING BROCCOLI MAKES A DIFFERENCE
If you like crisp broccoli but prefer the flavor of cooked (or better yet, well-browned) broccoli over the raw stuff, skillet charred broccoli gives you the best of both worlds. A quick visit to a hot skillet will deeply brown sections of the broccoli and ever-so-slightly cook the rest so it’s just minorly softer while still having some snap to it. This method also prevents the broccoli from going soggy when tossed with the honey dressing. I use rendered bacon grease instead of oil to give the broccoli some added flavor as well– there’s no beating it.
HOW TO CHAR BROCCOLI
You might be tempted to chop the broccoli into little pieces and toss it into a hot skillet, but that’s actually not the best way to go about it. Doing so will mean that you’ll have to toss more frequently in order to get the hidden bits to brown, or you’ll have to overly char your broccoli (and overly soften it in the process). Instead, cut off the woody ends of the broccoli, chop off the stems, and then cut both the stems and the heads in half. Place the cut sides down in a pan and they will crisp up nicely and easily without having to toss constantly and disturbing the browning. Once the broccoli has cooled, then you can chop it up and throw it in a bowl for your salad!
WHAT IS HOT HONEY DRESSING?
Hot honey, if you haven’t had it yet, is chili pepper infused honey that is basically the new sriracha– that is to say that it’s everywhere and people are obsessed with it (for good reason, it’s delicious). And while you can absolutely buy hot honey from the store and use it to make a dressing, for this recipe I save some cash by making my own at home with dried chile peppers, minced garlic, and yes, honey.
To transform the flavored honey into a dressing, all I do is whisk in some apple cider vinegar and olive oil as it cools!
SUGGESTIONS & SUBSTITUTIONS
SUBSTITUTES FOR GOAT CHEESE
Luckily, if you don’t like goat cheese, you have tons of options. My most highly suggested? Blue cheese. It’s also a little funky, creamy, crumbly, and flavorful. It pairs fantastically with broccoli, cranberries, pecans, red onion, and bacon, and it’s similarly priced.
If all funky cheeses aren’t your thing, consider using aged cheddar or feta.
SUBSTITUTES FOR PECANS
Almonds and walnuts can be swapped in for the pecans and toasted in the same manner. If you’re worried about nut allergies, go with sunflower seeds for nuttiness and crunch without the risk!
SUBSTITUTES FOR BACON
If you don’t eat meat, leave it out and just add a little smoked paprika to the hot honey to make up for the loss of bacon’s smokiness throughout the salad.
MORE SIDE DISH / SALAD RECIPES TO MAKE THIS YEAR
- Antipasto Tortellini Pasta Salad
- German Potato Salad
- Easy Greek Tzatziki Chicken Salad
- Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad
- Grilled Peach and Halloumi Panzanella
- Thai Cashew Coconut Rice with Ginger Peanut Sauce
Charred Broccoli Salad with Hot Honey Dressing
- Total Time: 40 mins
- Yield: 6 servings 1x
- 6 strips bacon
- 2 large heads broccoli
- Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup pecan halves
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 2 dried chile de arbol peppers (dried chipotles or Thai bird’s eye chili will also work, to taste)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 4 ounces goat cheese or blue cheese, crumbled
- 1/4 cup red onion
- Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When crisp, remove from the pan and set on a paper towel lined plate to absorb excess grease. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the rendered bacon grease from the skillet
- Trim the woody ends from the broccoli stalks and then cut the heads away from the stems. Cut the stems and heads into halves. Don’t separate into florets.
- Return the skillet to medium-high heat. Place the broccoli in the skillet, cut-sides down. Season generously with salt and pepper. Cook, undisturbed, until browned but still crunchy, about 5 minutes. Flip over and continue to cook for 1 minute. Transfer the broccoli to a cutting board.
- When cool enough to handle, roughly chop the broccoli and transfer to a large serving bowl.
- Return skillet to heat and reduce heat to medium. Add the pecans and toast until fragrant, stirring often, about 2-4 minutes. Transfer to the serving bowl with the broccoli.
- Reduce skillet heat to low. Add the honey, garlic, and chiles and cook over low heat until the honey begins to foam, about 5 minutes (see note). Remove from heat. Whisk in the olive oil and vinegar. Let cool.
- While the hot honey dressing is cooling, chop the bacon and add to the serving bowl. Mix in the cranberries, cheese, and red onion until evenly distributed. Pour over the cooled hot honey dressing and serve.
For more kick to your hot honey, you can either use hotter chiles or use more chiles, but don’t overdo it! If using milder, deeper-flavored chiles (such as chipotle chiles) increase the number of peppers used. Adding ground cayenne at the end can also help to pack more of a punch, so starting off conservatively and adding more spice later is an option!
- Prep Time: 20 mins
- Cook Time: 20 mins
Matt Ivan says
I love broccoli with a bit of charting on it. The never thought to include it in a salad! Yum!
What a beautiful salad. I love the colors and flavors are just amazing. Can’t wait to make this for me and my family. I saved the recipe. Thanks for sharing!
Is this served hot or cold? Would it be ok if it was made the day before serving?
Serve at room temperature. You can make everything ahead but keep the dressing separate until ready to serve!
This is pretty much what the perfect salad looks like. I’ve never charred broccoli before, so will be giving that a go.
I am definitely making this salad for Memorial Day! Thanks so much for sharing the recipe!