This cold Asian broccoli salad combines freshly blanched broccoli with just a few other ingredients and Asian-inspired sesame ginger dressing for a simple yet flavor-packed fresh and crunchy appetizer, side salad, or light lunch! Best of all, this recipe is naturally gluten-free, vegan, Paleo, and can be prepared nut-free too.
Give the broccoli a quick rinse. Then, bring a large saucepan filled with water to a boil. Once it's boiling, carefully add the broccoli and allow it to cook for one minute (for firmer results) or 2 minutes (for slightly more tender results).If you prefer it even more tender, feel free to cook for longer.
Immediately remove the broccoli from the heat and transfer it to an ice bath (bowl filled with ice-cold water and a few ice cubes). This will stop the cooking process, so the broccoli remains firm and fresh.Alternatively, you can sauté the broccoli lightly for a few minutes.
Prepare the dressing - grate or mince the ginger and garlic and finely chop the red chili (remove the seeds!). Then combine those ingredients with the remainder of the dressing ingredients and whisk to mix.
Chop the onion and cucumber. Then remove the broccoli from the ice bath and transfer it to a layer of paper towels to remove excess liquid. Then separate the broccoli into florets or cut into smaller bite-sized pieces.
Assemble the Asian broccoli salad - transfer the chopped ingredients, the spinach, and cilantro into a large bowl and pour the dressing over them. Gently toss to combine. Top with the peanuts and sesame seeds (raw or toasted) and enjoy!
How to Make Ahead and Store?
Make ahead: you can prepare this Asian broccoli salad and sesame ginger dressing separately 1-2 days in advance. Store covered in the fridge (the dressing will taste even better on day two after time to meld and develop). Assemble the two 20-30 minutes before serving the salad.Store: it's best to consume this fresh salad within 3-4 days, storing it in an airtight container in the fridge to store.
If preferred, use raw broccoli: I like to blanch the broccoli for preserved color, flavor, and texture. However, you can also prepare this as a crunchy raw broccoli salad. Just make sure to wash the broccoli well.
Adjust the broccoli size: based on whether you want an "all-in-one-bite" or chunkier broccoli salad. You could even grate or process the broccoli for "broccoli rice."
For even better flavor, allow the salad to marinate: even just for 30 minutes. This will enable the broccoli to absorb the dressing slightly and for the flavors to meld. The results are wonderful!
For best time management: you can prepare the dressing and all remaining ingredients in the time it takes for the water to come to a boil to blanch the broccoli.
Steam the broccoli instead: steam the broccoli for 4-5 minutes until tender yet still crunchy. Once ready, add to an ice bath to cool down and stop the cooking process quickly.
Cheat veggie mix: for even more flavor and texture but no additional prep time, you could add a pre-shredded bag of "broccoli slaw" mix.
Optional Add-ins and Recipe Variations:
Other vegetables: you could also add shredded carrot, bell pepper, cabbage, edamame, radish, etc.
Protein: make a heartier Asian broccoli salad with the addition of marinated tofu, tempeh, or another vegan "chicken." For a vegetarian crunchy broccoli salad, you could add a boiled egg (jammy or hard-boiled).
Chickpeas: make for another simple source of plant-based protein.
Sugar: for a sweeter dressing, you could add a little sugar or liquid sweetener like this vegan dandelion honey/maple. Add enough to taste (before mixing the dressing with the salad).
Peanut sauce: in place of the Asian ginger salad dressing, you could use this creamy, tangy, sweet, and spicy peanut sauce for a quick Asian/Thai dressing. Alternatively, you can add a tablespoon or two of peanut butter, almond butter, or cashew butter to the soy ginger dressing for a quick and creamy alternative.
Thai broccoli salad: I recommend following the above tip by adding a creamy nut or seed butter to the ginger chili dressing and make sure to include the cilantro.