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Broccoli Cheddar Pasta Salad with Cranberries

This broccoli cheddar pasta salad with cranberries is fresh and creamy with an assortment of flavors that will surprise and then delight you. It’s perfect for any time of year, whether you want an interesting side to bring to a potluck, or are just looking for a refreshing meal to enjoy.

Broccoli Cranberry Pasta Salad

This recipe was originally published on November 4, 2014, and was republished in September 2020 to add better quality photos, re-test the recipe, and add more helpful tips.

Pasta salads are the perfect place to experiment with new flavors. They are like a blank canvas that you can dress up however you like. It’s also the kind of dish you can adjust for whatever is fresh and available that season

But I definitely have some tried and true recipes I go back to all the time, and this is one of them. I love the combination of sweet, savory, a tiny bit of saltiness, and something creamy. This pasta salad hits all those points.

It also is a beautiful combination of textures. It really has it all. Fresh, crisp broccoli, sweet and tangy cranberries, salty bacon, crunchy sunflower seeds, sharp cheddar, and creamy Greek yogurt and mayo dressing to bring it all together. The pasta is almost incidental (but really helps round it out).

Ingredients for broccoli, cheddar and cranberry pasta salad in a bowl

How to design your own pasta salad

If broccoli and cranberries aren’t your top choice (or you just don’t have the ingredients around), you can always create your own pasta salad with whatever is in your kitchen. It is one of those wonderful, flexible dishes with tons of options.

Choose a pasta:

I think short pastas like farfalle or rotini are perfect for pasta salads. And then cut everything to match their size (or a little smaller). That way you can spear a little bit of every flavor with your fork and enjoy it in one bite.

Pouring the creamy dressing into the cranberry pasta salad

Lots of vegetables:

Is it summer with lots of squash and tomatoes available? Or maybe spring when fresh peas and tender asparagus reign supreme. The choices are endless. I even like mixing in some preserved options like artichoke hearts or olives.

Pick a protein source:

Bacon is one of my all-time favorites to mix with fresh vegetables and cheese. But cubed or shredded chicken is great and super easy. Or if you are into fishy choices, try some tuna or smoked salmon. You could even add cooked beans if you are serving vegetarians.

Mixing together the broccoli cheddar pasta salad ingredients

Add something sweet:

While totally optional, I love adding a sweet element to my savory dishes. Dried fruits (like cranberries obviously) are awesome, or even sun-dried tomatoes. A little sweet, a little acidic, and a different texture to add some dimension to your salad.

Nuts or seeds:

Add some crunch! You’ll thank me later. Toasted walnuts or almonds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, or even some pine nuts. All of these are great. Just match it to your season and the rest of your ingredients.

And the dressing:

Go with a classic mayonnaise base for a macaroni salad with chicken, lighten it up with an herbal lemon and olive oil dressing on something with a lot of fresh veggies, or go with this Greek yogurt base for something creamy but with a bit of tanginess.

A bowl of broccoli pasta salad with cranberries

I know most people would serve this as a side, but I would happily eat this for lunch or a light dinner. I see this dish as a perfect harvest meal, when it’s still a bit warm during the day, but all those cool weather flavors are starting to dominate. But, of course, this is amazing any time of year. 

I can absolutely say you won’t be sorry you tried this flavorful broccoli cheddar pasta salad!

Check out more of my salads perfect for the cold time of the year:

Broccoli Cranberry Pasta Salad

Broccoli Cheddar Pasta Salad with Cranberries

This flavorful broccoli and cheddar cheese pasta salad includes cranberries for an unexpected yet delicious slightly sweet flavor. It's perfect for any time of year and works as a side or lunch – or why not take it to a potluck?
5 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 418kcal
Author: Jovita | Yummy Addiction

Recipe Video

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole grain rotini pasta , uncooked
  • 3 cups broccoli florets , cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 6 slices bacon
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds , toasted
  • 1 small red onion , diced
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Instructions

  • Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Rinse with cold water. Drain.
  • Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook 2 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Once drained, chop into bite sized pieces.
  • Add pasta, broccoli, bacon, cranberries, sunflower seeds, onion and Cheddar cheese in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, honey, vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve (at least 1 hour). Enjoy!

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 418kcal | Carbohydrates: 39.6g | Protein: 24.3g | Fat: 18.6g | Cholesterol: 52.1mg | Sodium: 1170mg | Sugar: 14g
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: broccoli pasta salad with cranberries, cranberry pasta salad
Nutrition Facts
Broccoli Cheddar Pasta Salad with Cranberries
Amount Per Serving (1 g)
Calories 418 Calories from Fat 167
% Daily Value*
Fat 18.6g29%
Cholesterol 52.1mg17%
Sodium 1170mg51%
Carbohydrates 39.6g13%
Sugar 14g16%
Protein 24.3g49%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

6 Comments

  • Bre
    January 17, 2015 at 2:02 am

    We just tried this with smoked chicken legs. It was AMAZING! I loved everything about this, the salty prosciutto, the crunchy sunflower seeds, and most of all the cranberries. I never knew Greek yogurt could be so perfect as a sub for mayo. The only thing I did different was blanched the broccoli as my husband doesn’t care for raw and used white onion and Romano instead of cheddar. Thank you for this new family favorite!5 stars

    Reply
    • Jovita
      January 18, 2015 at 3:48 pm

      Oh Bre, your comment made my day! I’m so happy you and your family loved this recipe so much. Thanks for letting me know. 😉

      Reply
  • Vanessa
    January 25, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    Just made this for lunch. Gluten free pasta and omitted the meat. It was a delicious vegetarian lunch.
    Thank you for the recipe!5 stars

    Reply
    • Jovita
      January 25, 2015 at 6:58 pm

      Thank you for reporting back, Vanessa! I’m so glad you liked this recipe!

      Reply
  • Michelle
    February 7, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    I love this salad. I usually don’t write a review on annoying but I just had to. This will be made st least once a week. Thank you for the recipe.5 stars

    Reply
    • Jovita
      February 9, 2015 at 6:01 pm

      I’m so glad you liked this salad, Michelle. Thank you for reporting back!

      Reply

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