Cheddar Broccoli Pasta Salad is the perfect side dish for sandwiches, summer barbecues, picnics, and weeknight dinners!
This side dish salad has crispy broccoli florets, smoky bacon, tender pasta, and savory cheese all tossed in a sweet tangy, creamy dressing!
My whole family is always trying to eat more fresh vegetables. Adding broccoli to a cold pasta salad is a family favorite! This broccoli salad is yummy alongside grilled chicken or a perfect grilled strip steak!
In the summertime, I deliver way too many meals to the crews working in the fields. I love making a big batch of this broccoli cheddar pasta salad recipe and serving it with Hot Ham and Cheese Sliders, Dill Pickle Grilled Cheese, or any other sandwich.
Cheddar Broccoli Pasta Salad with Bacon is loaded with all the best textures and flavors. There is so much going on in this salad that every bite is exploding with flavors! I love the crispy bacon and broccoli with a creamy dressing. Since my family owns a dairy farm we’re all about adding cheese to everything! It’s a delicious addition to broccoli salad too! Add grilled chicken to this cold pasta salad to make it a light lunch or easy meal!
Table of contents
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
Delicious Salad! The sweet and sour mayo dressing pairs perfectly with the crunchy broccoli, salty bacon, and pasta! Adding cheddar cheese makes it even better! I’ve never bought broccoli salad from the deli because it’s so easy to make at home, but I’ve heard this recipe is a copycat recipe for a popular deli salad!
Easy Recipe and Make Ahead! Side dishes are hard for me! I prefer using make-ahead recipes over having to stress about them at the last minute. This broccoli salad can MOSTLY be made ahead of time. All that’s left is tossing the salad in the dressing before serving. It’s doable even on busy days!
Customize It! Add your favorite fresh veggies to make it exactly the way you like. A good pasta salad is forgiving and this one is! It’s a fun spin on the classic pasta salad.
You’ll need simple ingredients to make broccoli cheddar salad. Most of them are pantry ingredients, except fresh broccoli. Scroll to the bottom for a full list of ingredients and instructions.
- Fresh Broccoli Florets: I prefer small florets because they are more tender than bigger ones. I don’t love the tough stems either.
- Pasta: Regular rotini, bowtie, or macaroni noodles are good choices.
- Bacon: You’ll need cooked and crumbled bacon. I like using the crumbled bacon from my local grocery stores.
- Cheddar Cheese: Mild cheddar cheese is my favorite.
- Mayo: I recommend mayonnaise rather than Miracle Whip or salad dressing. Mayo has a milder flavor.
- Plain Greek Yogurt: This is a great way to add a little extra nutrition including protein and calcium. It makes the salad a little bit more healthy and lighter. Greek yogurt is thicker than traditional yogurt. You can also substitute sour cream for the Greek yogurt. Either one creates a tangy dressing.
- Red Wine Vinegar: You can also use white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
- Granulated Sugar, Salt, and Black Pepper
This salad is such an easy recipe!
Step 1: Prepare the pasta to al dente according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
Step 2: Chop the broccoli into bite small bite size pieces. Discard the stems of the broccoli. We only want the florets. Cook and crumble the bacon. Dice the onion (if you’re using it). Shred or cube the cheddar cheese.
Step 3: In a large bowl, mix mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Whisk until creamy and smooth.
Step 4: Add pasta, broccoli, bacon, and diced red onion to the creamy dressing. Toss to coat veggies. Taste test and adjust seasonings. Everyone’s taste buds are different!
Step 5: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 hours. Serve.
Make Ahead Instructions
- Chop broccoli, dice onions, cook pasta, fry and crumble the bacon, and shred cheese up to two days ahead. Store the broccoli, onions, and pasta together. The bacon will stay crispier if it’s stored on its own. Store the cheese on its own so it doesn’t get soggy.
- Mix the dressing up to two days ahead of time. Store in an airtight container. A mason jar works great.
- Up to three hours before serving assemble the salad. Cover. Refrigerate.
I prefer a simple broccoli crunch salad recipe opposed to more wilted broccoli. To make it a fresh salad, assemble the salad just before serving. This helps keep the bacon crisp, too!
Store the leftover broccoli cheddar salad in the refrigerator for up to three days. The broccoli becomes more wilted and the bacon won’t be as crispy. But, it will still be good.
This is such an easy pasta salad to experiment with until you come up with your idea of a perfect dish! Take a good idea and run with it! Here are a few ideas!
- Bell Peppers: Red bell pepper is pretty
- Onions: Red or purple onions are the most commonly used in this recipe. Green onions are great, too. Or, omit onions and use 1/2 teaspoon onion powder for a milder onion flavor.
- Pasta: Tricolor rotini for added dimension. Cheese-filled tortellini would be fun too!
- Cheese: Use pepper jack cheese to add a little heat!
- Dried Cranberries: Adding red grapes is delicious, too.
Other Easy Side Dish Recipes
Here are a few other great recipes that make easy side dishes!
- Easy Three-Bean Salad Recipe
- Healthy Potato Salad Recipe (with Greek Yogurt)
- Pesto Pasta Chicken Salad
- Chicken Pasta Salad with Grapes
Broccoli Cheddar Pasta Salad
For the Salad
- 8 ounces bowtie pasta
- 4 cups broccoli florets
- 6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- ½ cup Greek yogurt
- 3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ¼ cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon course ground black pepper
- Prepare the pasta to al dente according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
- Chop the broccoli into bite small bite size pieces. Discard the stems of the broccoli. We only want the florets. Cook and crumble the bacon. Dice the onion (if you're using it). Shred or cube the cheddar cheese.
- In a large bowl, mix mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Whisk until creamy and smooth.
- Add pasta, broccoli, bacon, and diced red onion to the creamy dressing. Toss to coat veggies. Taste test and adjust seasonings. Everyone's taste buds are different!
- Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 hours. Serve.
This post was originally published in 2017 and updated in 2013.