Broccoli pasta salad is a delicious way to add fresh veggies and fruit into your life! Make this colorful dish for family gatherings, barbecues, potlucks, picnics, and parties! Pack it for lunch or serve it as a side for a simple weeknight meal. It's easy to make ahead and is great for meal prep.
Broccoli pasta salad
Fresh broccoli, bow-tie pasta, apples, dried cranberries, red onions, and toasted cashews are tossed together to create a delicious combo of savory, sweet, tangy, and zesty flavors. The salad features crispy veggies and fruit and crunchy nuts. The homemade creamy salad dressing is made lighter by using Greek yogurt in addition to mayonnaise, honey, and lemon juice. This crowd-pleasing recipe is easy to make and quick to assemble - great for sharing at picnics, potlucks, cookouts, barbecue parties, and other festivities with friends and family. It works well as a stand-alone dish for lunch or light family weeknight dinner and keeps well refrigerated. If you love broccoli salads, you might also enjoy Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad and Broccoli Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad.
Why you'll love it
- Healthy salad. This broccoli pasta salad is packed with veggies (broccoli, onions), fruits (apples, cranberries), and nuts (cashews). These ingredients are rich in nutrients and packed in fiber.
- Lighter salad dressing. A lot of pasta salad recipes use a rich dressing packed with mayo or sour cream. Here, I lightened it up by using the same amount of Greek yogurt as the amount of mayo.
- Meatless meal. If you're looking for more delicious ways to incorporate veggies into your life, you'll love this quick and easy salad, and won't miss meat at all. While many pasta salads incorporate bacon, this recipe doesn't, there is already a ton of flavor from the fresh ingredients. For more Meatless Monday inspiration, try this delicious side dish roasted broccoli and sweet potatoes or these vegetarian enchiladas with butternut squash and black beans.
- Broccoli is an edible green plant and is part of the cabbage family. It's a great source of Vitamin C and Vitamin K. It's packed with fiber!
- Pasta. I like to use small-shaped pasta as it is perfect for salads. Use bow-tie pasta, fusilli, rotini, penne, or shell pasta.
- Dried cranberries add sweetness. You can also use dried figs, blueberries, or cherries. Or, skip them!
- Apples. I used 1 small red apple (Fuji, you can also use Gala or Honey Crisp) and 1 small green apple (Granny Smith). I did not peel the apples for presentation purposes.
- Red onion provides a zesty bite. You don't need much - only about ¼ cup of chopped onions.
- Cashews add crunch and texture. They are also highly nutritious and a great source of fiber! I like to use raw cashews and toast them in the preheated oven at 350 F for about 10 or 15 minutes until golden brown. If you buy roasted cashews or flavored cashews, you don't need to toast them.
- Simple dressing. To keep everything easy, the broccoli pasta salad is dressed with a basic homemade dressing made with just 4 ingredients: mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, lemon juice, and softened honey.
How to make broccoli pasta salad
- Cook pasta in a pot of boiling water according to the package instructions. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again. In the meantime proceed with the rest of the recipe.
- Make salad dressing. In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, lemon juice, and honey. Season with salt, if needed.
- Prepare the veggies. Cut broccoli into small, bite-sized pieces. Chop up 2 cored apples (red and green) and finely dice the red onion.
- Assembly. In a large bowl, combine drained cooked pasta, chopped-up broccoli, apples, red onions, dried cranberries, and cashews. Add in the dressing and stir everything together.
Homemade creamy salad dressing
- You only need 4 basic ingredients to create the best homemade creamy salad dressing for the broccoli pasta salad: mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, lemon juice, and softened honey.
- Whisk the salad dressing ingredients until well combined and smooth. Add salt if needed.
- Tip: Make sure the honey is soft and has a runny consistency. Warm it up briefly in a microwave oven, if needed. The honey should blend with the rest of the ingredients.
Substitutions, variations, and add-ins
The beauty of this recipe is that it's so easy to adjust to what you have available in your kitchen. Here are some ideas:
- Veggies. Broccoli can be replaced with cauliflower, or you can use half broccoli and half cauliflower. Or, use your favorite veggies, such as shredded carrots, asparagus, or zucchini.
- Fresh fruit. I used 1 red apple (Fuji) and 1 green apple (Granny Smith). You can also use pears (make sure to choose pears that have a firm texture) or mango.
- Dried fruit. You can use your favorite dried fruit: cranberries, raisins, dried figs, cherries, or blueberries.
- Nuts. Many types of nuts will work here. Use pecans, peanuts, walnuts, pine nuts, or pistachios instead of cashews.
- Don't like red onions? Try chopped green onions in this salad.
- Greek yogurt can be replaced with kefir or sour cream.
- Add cheese if you like such as Cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack Cheese, Pepper Jack, Gruyere, or Gouda. You can shred it or cut the cheese into small cubes.
- Add bacon or prosciutto.
Cooking tips and recipe notes
- Toast the nuts. I usually buy raw cashews and then quickly toast them in the preheated oven at 350 F for about 10 or 15 minutes. If you bought roasted cashews or flavored kinds, you don't need to toast them.
- Blanch broccoli. While I used raw broccoli, you can quickly blanch it by adding it to the pot of cooked pasta for about 2 minutes before draining pasta. This way you cook pasta and blanch the broccoli in the same pot which saves time and minimizes cleanup.
- Soak dried cranberries in a hot water in a medium bowl for about 3 minutes to plump them up.
- Use any type of short-cut pasta you like. This includes bow-tie (farfalle), fusilli, rotini, rigatoni, or penne. You can even use orzo or gnocchi.
- Add some heat by sprinkling broccoli pasta salad with crushed red pepper flakes or a pinch of cayenne pepper!
While any salad is best served fresh, you can store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. In this case, don't add cashews to the salad as they will get soggy. Sprinkle them over the salad only right before serving.
Can you make it ahead?
Broccoli pasta salad is one of those recipes that tastes even better the next day, once all the flavors blend. It's a perfect side dish to bring to potlucks or to make for the holidays. Here are some tips on how to make this ahead.
- Assemble all of the salad ingredients (except for cashews and salad dressing) together in a large airtight storage container. Keep it refrigerated for up to 3 or 4 days.
- Keep cashews out of the salad and add them only when serving to prevent them from getting soggy and losing their crunch. Toast them in the oven, let them cool completely, and store them in a small plastic bag until ready to use.
- Keep the salad dressing separately from the salad in a separate airtight container.
Other broccoli salads you might like
- Broccoli Salad with Bacon, Raisins, and Cheddar Cheese
- Broccoli Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad
- Broccoli Cashew Apple and Pear Salad
- Creamy Broccoli, Cauliflower, Bacon, Corn Salad
Broccoli pasta salad
- 8 oz pasta bow-tie, rotini, fusilli
- 5 cups broccoli florets chopped into small bites
- 1 red apple cored and diced
- 1 green apple cored and diced
- ¼ cup red onion diced
- 1 cup cashews toasted or roasted
- ⅔ cup dried cranberries
Creamy Salad Dressing:
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ½ cup Greek yogurt or kefir
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice freshly squeezed
- ¼ cup honey softened or warmed up
- ¼ teaspoon salt to taste
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again. While you wait for the water to boil and while the pasta is cooking, proceed with the rest of the recipe.
- In a large bowl, combine together chopped broccoli, diced apples, diced red onion, toasted cashews, and dried cranberries.
- In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, lemon juice, honey, and salt. Note that honey should be soft and runny. Warm it up if needed, so that it mixes easily. Whisk the ingredients until well combined and smooth. Add salt if needed.
- Add drained cooked pasta to the bowl with the salad. Add salad dressing (not all at once) gradually, until the salad is creamy enough to your liking. You don't need to use all of the dressing. Season with salt, if needed.
- If you use raw cashews - toast them in the preheated oven at 350 F for about 10 or 15 minutes until golden brown.
- If you buy roasted cashews or flavored cashews, you don't need to toast them.
The nutritional information on this website is only an estimate and is provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed. It should not be used as a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.