Italian broccoli salad with lemon and garlic is a simple but tasty make-ahead dish that’s perfect for weeknights and warm-weather gatherings. With just a handful of ingredients, this cold salad comes together in about 15 minutes.

Italian broccoli salad in platter with cut lemon wedge in the background.

Cold Italian broccoli salad is a dish that we’ve been enjoying in our family for years!

Jim’s grandma would make this for him all the time when he was a kid, and he now makes it all the time for us. 

The lemon zest marries perfectly with the broccoli, and the lemon-Dijon-garlic vinaigrette is simple, but so tasty.

Since lemon broccoli salad is best served cold, we’ll often make a large batch of it and eat it all week long.  

It’s also great at barbecues alongside pasta salads, like our artichoke heart and sundried tomato pasta salad.

Ingredients shown: lemons, broccoli, Dijon mustard, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and hot red pepper flakes.

How to make it

Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. While you wait for the water, remove and discard the bottom two inches from a head of broccoli. 

Italian broccoli salad recipe process shot collage group number one.

  1. Chop the broccoli into small florets.  Zest and juice 1 lemon and mince 5 cloves of garlic. Once the water is boiling, add the broccoli and cook until almost tender, about 5-6 minutes, then drain, but do not rinse the broccoli.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the garlic, 1/4 cup of lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, and a 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil until emulsified.

Recipe process shot collage group number two.

  1. Add the warm broccoli and the lemon zest to the dressing and toss to combine.  Taste test and season with salt to taste.  If needed, add more lemon juice or hot pepper flakes.  Allow the Italian broccoli salad to sit in the fridge for at least 1 hour, but if possible overnight.  Enjoy!

Top tips

  • Cooking the broccoli. We recommend cooking the broccoli for about 5-6 minutes or until almost tender.  Be sure to not overcook as you still want the broccoli to retain its integrity. Also, the broccoli should not be rinsed to cool as adding the warm broccoli to the dressing and lemon zest helps to intensify the flavors.
  • Ingredients. Since there are really so few ingredients in this cold broccoli salad we recommend using fresh broccoli, fresh lemon juice, fresh garlic, and your best extra virgin olive oil.  
  • Let it chill. This salad really is so much better when it’s left to chill in the fridge for an hour, and even better if overnight! This makes it a really great and healthy salad to make ahead of time and eat throughout the week or bring to gatherings.

Closeup shot of Italian broccoli salad in platter.

More salad recipes

Here are just a few of our favorite salads.  For more, check out all of our salads!

If you’ve enjoyed this Italian broccoli salad or any recipe on this site, give it a 5-star rating and leave a review.

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Italian Broccoli Salad

5 from 3 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
Servings: 4
Italian broccoli salad combines just cooked broccoli with fresh lemon zest that's tossed in a garlicky lemon-Dijon vinaigrette. This salad is best served chilled and makes a great make ahead side for weeknights and gatherings!

Ingredients 

  • 1 head broccoli bottom 2 inches discarded and rest broken into small florets
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest

For the dressing

  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Instructions 

  • Bring a large pot of water to boil. Once boiling, add the broccoli and cook until almost tender (about 5-6 minutes) then drain but do not rinse to cool.
  • Meanwhile, whisk the dressing ingredients until emulsified.
  • Toss the warm broccoli with the dressing and lemon zest until well combined. Taste test and season well with salt. If needed, add more lemon juice or hot pepper flakes. Let the broccoli salad sit in the fridge for 1 hour to adequately absorb the dressing. If possible, refrigerate overnight since the flavors will be stronger. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Wait a minimum of 1 hour before eating to let the flavors absorb into the broccoli but the salad is best refrigerated and served the next day.
  • Leftovers can be saved in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Nutrition

Calories: 262kcal | Carbohydrates: 8.6g | Protein: 3.6g | Fat: 25.7g | Saturated Fat: 3.7g | Sodium: 335mg | Potassium: 415mg | Fiber: 3.3g | Sugar: 2.5g | Calcium: 60mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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6 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    My mother made this all the time on Thursdays for Fridays in the ‘50’s when you couldn’t eat meat, and she would make broccoli salad sandwiches for my father and me to take to work/school for lunch! (No mustard and with garlic powder, not fresh.). Our favorite!!

    1. Hi Sue, thanks for the comment and so happy you liked the recipe. Broccoli salad sandwiches sound pretty great, thank you for sharing!

  2. I have been telling my family that you have to be related to us somewhere, somehow because you cook exactly like my grandmother and mother did. When I saw this recipe for broccoli with lemon, I knew it for sure because I have never seen this recipe anywhere in the world nor have I ever had it at anybody else’s house, and it is a family favorite. We make it every Christmas Eve.

    1. Hi Judy, thanks for the comment. This is the recipe my grandma would make all the time so perhaps they were from the same area. It’s a family favorite here as well!

  3. 5 stars
    Great recipe! I had some green onions that were almost ready to toss…..so I added them….and extra lemon juice. Also I added salt to the broccoli water and to the dressing. I did the dressing in my bullet and turned out soooooo good! Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Hi Maritza, I’m so happy you enjoyed this recipe and the green onions sound like a great addition! Thanks for the comment!