This simple lemon broccoli salad is a weekly staple in my house and is an easy and delicious way to dress up your broccoli for a weeknight side dish! With just five ingredients and a few minutes of hands-on prep, this light and refreshing salad can be on your table in no time!
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Let me be honest with you for a minute. This lemon broccoli salad is hardly a recipe. There’s nothing to it. I’ve looked for broccoli salad on Pinterest and seen all sorts of glorious creamy concoctions, with nuts and bacon and chickpeas and cabbage and grapes and cheese and what have you, and by comparison this looks like… a bowl of cold broccoli.
But I’ll tell you another thing. I’ve been eating this broccoli salad my whole life. My whole family has. In fact, my sister Jessica loves it so much she made a special request to her wedding caterer to make this as a side dish for her reception even though it was not an item on their regular menu.
It looks simple, and it is, but refreshingly so. It’s so easy to make that this has been the go-to side dish for my family for … YEARS. When I don’t feel like cooking or thinking, our family’s “easy dinner” menu consists of grilled blackened salmon (it really is just as easy too!) with a side of this broccoli salad and rice.
While it may look like it, I assure you, this is not just a bowl of cold broccoli.
It is, however, just a bowl of cold broccoli with olive oil, garlic, salt, and lemon juice. Sure, I could throw in some almonds or something to make it pretty for Pinterest, but it’s just so good the way we’ve been making it my whole life I don’t want to fancy it up just for the sake of a photo.
So I’ll stick a lemon in the picture and call it a day. There’s your fancy.
My stomach will happily accommodate however much lemon broccoli salad there is in front of me, so that’s why I’ve written this recipe for 24 oz. of broccoli. There won’t be leftovers.
This recipe only has five simple ingredients, including salt!
How to make lemon broccoli salad
This recipe couldn’t be more simple! If you can, steam the broccoli in advance so it has time to chill prior to making the salad.
Steam the broccoli. Basically, you want the broccoli to lose that raw crunch without getting mushy and overcooked. The 12-oz bags of fresh broccoli steam perfectly in my microwave in about 2 minutes and 45 seconds, but it’s taken me some trial and error to figure that out. Err on the low end of how long the bag says to cook it for, or even a touch lower.
Then cut open the bag immediately to release the steam so it doesn’t overcook. Larger bags take longer to steam in the microwave. You can also use a steamer basket on the stove. Test after 5 minutes and every minute afterward until it’s tender-crisp. After steaming the broccoli, cool or chill it in the fridge. It doesn’t need to be cold, per se, but below room temperature is great.
Add the olive oil, salt, and garlic powder. Place the broccoli in a large salad bowl and drizzle the olive oil over top. Sprinkle on the kosher salt and garlic powder, making sure you sprinkle it evenly around so you don’t end up with a clump of salt or garlic stuck to one broccoli floret. Toss to combine.
Zest the lemon and squeeze on the juice. Adding lemon zest gives the broccoli salad an extra citrusy punch without diluting the dressing with more liquid than it can handle. Give the broccoli a final toss and it’s ready to serve!
Tips and tricks for Lemon Broccoli Salad
- Keep frozen broccoli and bottled lemon juice on hand for emergency broccoli salad! I definitely prefer fresh, but frozen does the job and still tastes great! Just make sure your frozen broccoli is labeled as “broccoli florets” rather than “broccoli pieces” or “broccoli spears”.
- While I like the ease of making the dressing straight on the salad, you can make the dressing separately if you want to use fresh garlic. To do so, swap one clove of minced or pressed garlic for the garlic powder. Mix the garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt together, and then slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking. Toss the dressing onto the broccoli.
- You can also blanch the broccoli instead of steaming it. To do so, add raw broccoli to salted boiling water. Boil for 1-2 minutes, drain, and immediately submerge in ice water to stop the cooking. The broccoli will be a luscious bright green perfect for the broccoli salad. The only downside is you will need to allow time for the blanched broccoli to fully dry, since dressing does not stick well to wet broccoli.
Lemon broccoli salad is the perfect companion to almost any protein dish. We have it weekly with my favorite 10-minute crispy-skinned blackened salmon, and it would also be great with sweet and spicy crispy baked chicken thighs. It’s also great instead of chips to go with a sandwich.
Lemon Broccoli Salad
- 24 oz broccoli florets fresh or frozen
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- Juice and zest of one lemon about 1/4 cup
- Put broccoli in a large, microwave safe bowl with a splash of water and cover. Steam broccoli in the microwave for 5-8 minutes or until it's crisp but has lost the "raw" texture. NOTE: I usually use two fresh 12-oz. steam-in-bag bags of broccoli, and cook each one separately in the microwave for 2.5 minutes with great results. When I put all the broccoli together in a single bowl I find it takes longer.
- Chill until cold. A couple hours in the fridge should do it, but please see my notes in the post for quicker alternatives.
- When broccoli is cold, toss with olive oil, salt, and garlic powder. Add lemon juice and zest and toss again. Adjust seasonings to taste (see notes in post).