Vegan Broccoli “Bacon” Salad
There is a broccoli bacon salad that is very popular among Minnesotans at church potlucks or summer picnics. It has a creamy dressing, raisins, sunflower seeds, onions and sometimes cheese depending on who makes it. I used to like it when I was little because it was sweet and had bacon, but when I got older it was too sweet for me, as it is usually loaded up with sugar and mayonnaise two things I am not a fan of not to mention the bacon which I haven't eaten since I went vegetarian in 2003 (I have been vegan 5 years). One of my friends jokingly used to call it "broccoli barf" because she was a vegetarian too and thought it was too sugary and mayo filled as well. We actually make a version of this in the deli I work at and it is pretty popular. Which got me to thinking, why couldn't I make a vegan version of it that I could actually eat, and tailor it to my tastes so I would enjoy it as well?
I admit I don't usually reach for the broccoli first, but I really wanted to make a good vegan version of this! I mean, yes, I could have made it really simple and bought vegan bacon and vegan mayonnaise, but were is the fun in that? And, I don't usually like store bought mayonnaise even if it is vegan. So, I made my own creamy sweet dressing that ended up tasting even better than the mayo one. It had a coconut milk cashew base made a little tangy with cider vinegar and sweet with maple syrup. It was delicious once poured over the salad.
For the bacon, I made coconut bacon. It is now my favorite vegan bacon for when I want to sprinkle it on top of something or just snack on it. It is honestly the closest thing texture and flavor wise I have found to real bacon. It was super delicious in the salad and added a nice crunch. I kept it classic with onions and sunflower seeds, but I swapped out the raisins for dried cherries because I am not a huge raisin fan and that was what I happened to have on hand. I shared some of this salad with my Mom, who has tried the original version probably way more times than me and is usually not a fan, but she loved the vegan version I made. If you are looking for a dish to bring to a Summer picnic or potluck, give this a try!
Vegan Broccoli "Bacon" Salad
- 1 1/2 cups large flake coconut
- 2 Tbsp tamari
- 2 Tbsp liquid smoke
- 1 Tbsp maple syrup
- 1/3 cup raw cashew butter
- 1/3 cup full fat coconut milk (mostly the thick part from the top of the can)
- 1 Tbsp cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup
- 1/3 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
- 2 medium heads organic broccoli
- 1/4 cup diced onion
- 1/2 cup dried cherries
- 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
- To make the coconut bacon, preheat the oven to 350F degrees, and line a sheet pan with parchment.
- Toss the large flake coconut with the tamari, liquid smoke and maple syrup and spread out on the pan. Place in the oven and bake for about 12-15 minutes (depending on your oven), keeping a close eye at the end and checking it in the final minutes because it burns fast. Remove from oven and let cool.
- To make the dressing, whisk all ingredients together until smooth.
- Combine broccoli, onions, cherries, sunflower seeds, and coconut bacon in a bowl, and toss together with the dressing.
*Note: If you are not serving this right away, do not add the coconut bacon until you are just about to serve it so that it stays crisp.