Skinny Broccoli Salad is an American potluck classic made healthier, but just as yummy, with a homemade Greek yogurt ranch dressing.
Skinny is an ambiguous concept if there ever was one, it all sort of depends on your point of view. Like when you’re shopping for jeans…there’s skinny, super skinny, extreme skinny, and shrink wrapped. Same thing here, you can adjust this salad to whatever level of skinny you deem appropriate, see the notes below for details. The salad itself is naturally low in calories, but the mayo heavy dressing isn’t. I lightened it up with Greek yogurt and buttermilk. But then I also added some little cubes of smoked Gruyere cheese — not a lot — but enough to really make this salad irresistible (you can use low fat cheese if you like.) I garnished it all with a handful of fried shallots — they stand in for the less healthy bacon in the traditional salad. So you see, this is skinny, but not I gotta get a thigh gap skinny. A nice compromise, if you ask me.
This is a classic old time picnic, barbecue, or church supper kind of side. It’s a famous people pleaser, and everybody does it their their own special way. Some add raisins, or tomatoes, and most like bacon, but I think this version is just about perfect. The toasted slivered almonds add a ton of crunch and nutty flavor, balanced out by the juicy tart cranberries. If your cranberries look dry and wizened, soak them in some warm water for about 10 minutes to re-hydrate them. The smoked cheese infuses every bite, the dressing gets all down in between the little broccoli buds, and the fried shallots are to die for. This is so good, you just have to make it for yourself. I could eat it all. day. LONG.
The dressing is a delicious homemade skinny ranch, you’ll want to use it for other salads, or as a dip for veggies. This was inspired by a recipe in this month’s Cooking Light.
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 1 head of broccoli
- 6 ounces smoked Gruyere (or other smoked cheese) cut in tiny cubes
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup Greek Yogurt
- 2 Tbsp buttermilk
- 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp onion salt
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp dried dill
- 1/4 tsp celery seed
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- lots of fresh cracked black pepper
- 2 or 3 shallots, peeled and sliced into 1/8 inch slices
- 2 Tbsp flour
- vegetable oil for frying
- Put the almonds in a small skillet and heat, stirring almost constantly, over medium high heat until they are golden brown. Watch them carefully, this will only take a few minutes, and once they start to toast, it goes fast. Set aside to cool.
- Trim the large stalks off the broccoli and then chop in small pieces. Definitely include the small tender stalks along with the florets. Put in a large salad bowl along with the cheese, cranberries, and onion. Add in the cooled almonds.
- Make the dressing by whisking together all the ingredients. Taste and make sure you like it, and thin with a little more buttermilk if it is too thick.
- Toss the salad with enough of the dressing to coat, you may not need all of it. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving. Garnish with the fried shallots just before serving.
- To make the fried shallots, heat about 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in a skillet. Gently separate the slices into rings. Toss them in the flour and fry until golden. You can test the heat of the oil by dropping one shallot in, it should sizzle on contact. The shallots should turn golden in about 2 minutes. Do this in batches so you don't crowd the shallots, and keep them moving in the oil while they're frying. Drain on paper towels.
- For a SKINNY SALAD: see recipe above
- For a SUPER SKINNY SALAD: Leave out the fried shallots, and use reduced fat mayo and cheese. Try to find a cheese with flavor, either smoked or extra sharp.
- For an EXTREME SKINNY SALAD: In addition to the above, replace the mayo with more Greek yogurt. Don’t omit the buttermilk, it’s low fat and adds a nice creamy tang to the dressing.
- If calories aren’t your primary concern, definitely replace the Greek yogurt with sour cream in the dressing.
- Because the broccoli is raw, you want to chop it into quite small pieces so it’s more pleasant to eat. I like to use a little bit of the stems, too, they’re delicious and just as healthy as the rest of the vegetable. I like to pry apart each floret with the tip of my knife rather than just slicing them up, because that preserves the little ‘tree’ shape better.
- Don’t skip toasting the almonds…there is a HUGE flavor boost to be had.
- This is one salad that benefits from a little time in the fridge to allow the dressing and veggies to mingle and the flavors to develop. Garnish with the shallots just before serving.