Don’t toss those stalks! Repurpose them in a broccoli stem salad by tossing with dried cranberries, cilantro, and a homemade sesame dressing for a simple food waste recovery salad.
Have you ever cut the florets off a stalk of broccoli and tossed away the stem? If the answer is yes, you’re not alone. We regularly tossed out broccoli stalks before realizing they’re perfectly edible…in fact, they’re downright delicious!
Now, instead of wasting food we’re repurposing those stems and turning them into a delicious, flavorful salad with chopped cranberries, cilantro, and a homemade toasted sesame dressing.
👉 Ready to learn how to make this simple, 10-minute salad from leftover broccoli stems? Let’s do it!
🥦 Ingredients + tools
- Broccoli stems: The stem of a head of broccoli is not only good enough to eat, it’s actually packing a nutrition punch: according to Berkeley Wellness, they’re high in vitamin C, potassium, B vitamins like folate, calcium, and a small amount of iron (all important in a plant-based diet).
- Dried cranberries: Dried cranberries add a touch of texture and sweetness to this crunchy salad, as well as fiber and vitamin C.
- Fresh cilantro: Fresh chopped cilantro brings an flavorful, herbal bite to the crunch of broccoli and the tangy sweetness of the cranberries.
- Sesame seeds: Sesame seeds are sprinkled on top of this salad for a light crunchy garnish.
- Garlic ginger sesame dressing: A light dressing made with sesame oil, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, and maple syrup adds a bit of savory and sweet.
- Recommended tools: To make this recipe you’ll need a cutting board and knife set, a small saucepan for toasting the seeds, and glass mixing bowls for tossing the salad.
🥣 How to make (step-by-step)
1️⃣ Step One: Slice the broccoli stalks
The first step to making this salad is to prepare the broccoli stems. First, remove the broccoli florets by cutting them about 1-2 inches below the heads and saving the florets for another recipe (likely you’ll have already used them and will just have the stalks left!).
Broccoli stalks typically have some dried stems on the sides, which you can remove with a knife. Also remove the first 1-2 inches of the bottom of the stalk, which — which edible — tends to be very hard.
Next, start from the bottom of the stalk and cut into thin slices, about ⅛” inch. When you reach the smaller stalks that turn into the florets, cut each small stalk as well.
2️⃣ Step Two: Combine salad ingredients
Add the broccoli stalk rounds into a large mixing bowl and add the chopped dried cranberries and the chopped cilantro. Set aside the bowl.
3️⃣ Step Three: Make the toasted sesame dressing
Next it’s time to make the toasted sesame dressing. First, toast the sesame seeds by heating a small saucepan over medium-low heat and adding the seeds and cooking for about 30-60 seconds, or until the seeds begin to brown and become fragrant.
Next add the minced garlic and ginger and the olive oil and reduce the heat so the garlic and seeds do not burn. Cook until the garlic begins to brown (about a minute more) and remove from the heat.
Pour the seed and oil mixture into a small mixing bowl and add a drizzle of sesame oil, rice vinegar, sugar (or maple syrup if you prefer), and a pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk to combine, adding more of each ingredient until you get your desired taste.
4️⃣ Step Four: Toss the salad in the dressing
Finally, combine the toasted sesame seed dressing with the broccoli stems and toss to combine. You can enjoy this salad right away, but we found that letting the salad sit for 30-60 minutes to marinate actually made the stems a bit softer and we like the flavor as well.
❓ Recipe questions + quick tips
Broccoli stems are edible and are both delicious and nutritious! The stalks are a great source of vitamin C, potassium, magnesium and calcium. Eating broccoli stems is also a great way to reduce food waste!
There are many ways to cook with broccoli stems. They can be added to salads, stews, stir fries or even used in place of celery in a stuffing recipe. If you’ve got any leftover broccoli stems, try making them into this delicious broccoli stem salad!
Broccoli stems are quite fibrous when cut raw, but there are many ways to soften them up when using them in recipes. You can cut them into thin slices for easier crunching, or blanch them quickly in hot water before preparing and eating. You can also use a microwave to soften them.
🧊 How to store
This broccoli stalk salad is super easy to make once and eat again and again. Here’s how to store it for best freshness:
- Refrigerator storage: Store in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Freezer storage: We do not recommend freezing, as broccoli stalks will lose their crunchy texture and become watery after thawing.
♻️ Sustainable kitchen tips + tricks
We are all about going green in the kitchen here at Fork in the Road! Here are a few tips and tricks for making this salad with broccoli stalks even more sustainable:
- Ripe broccoli stems work best. Have you ever noticed that old broccoli stems get softer? This is because as the stems ripen the stalks lose water content and the starches begin to break down. You can revive limp broccoli by cutting off the stem and placing in water, but for this recipe broccoli stems that are a bit softer are actually a good thing (easier to crunch).
- Let the stems soak in the dressing for best texture and taste. We found that letting the sliced stems marinate in the oil-based dressing for 30-60 minutes before serving made for the best taste because the oil helps the broccoli to soften a bit.
- Ingredient substitution ideas: The possibilities are endless, but you could substitute the cranberries for another dried fruit like raisins, the sesame seeds for either pumpkin or sunflower seeds, and the cilantro for another leafy herb like parsley. We also like to add a bit of crunch with crispy ciabatta croutons when we have them on hand. Play with what you have (and let us know what works for you!)
👉 More recipes using food scraps
Want more food scrap recipes? We’ve got you covered:
- Pesto made with broccoli stems
- Food Scraps Vegetable Broth
- Leftover Espresso Ground Brownies
- Celery Apple Crunch Salad
- Sautéed Carrot Greens
- Pan-Cooked Radish Leaves
- Sun-Dried Tomato Oil Salad Dressing
NOT SURE WHERE TO START WITH PLANT-BASED EATING?
Get my 4-Day Plant-Based Meal Plan to start your journey on the plant path.
Leftover Broccoli Stem Salad
Broccoli Stem Salad Ingredients
- 3 whole broccoli stalk stems
- ½ cup dried cranberries chopped
- ⅓ cup fresh cilantro chopped
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- Slice the broccoli stalks: First, trim broccoli stems by cutting off the florets. Then cut the dried stems on the side of the stalk and the hard part of the stem itself, usually the bottom 1 inch. Then starting from the bottom of the stem, slice thin (about ⅛”) along the stalk and include the smaller stems that turn into the florets.
- Combine the salad ingredients: Add the slices to a large mixing bowl, top with chopped dried cranberries and cilantro, and set aside.
- Make the dressing: To make the toasted sesame dressing, heat a dry small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the sesame seeds and toast dry for about 30-60 seconds, until the seeds start to brown and become fragrant. Reduce heat to low and add the garlic, ginger, and olive oil and cook about 60 seconds more, until the garlic starts to brown, and then remove from the heat and transfer the mixture a glass mixing bowl. Add the sesame oil, rice vinegar, sugar, and a pinch of salt and pepper and whisk to combine.
- Toss the salad in dressing: Finally, add the sesame dressing to the bowl with the broccoli stalk stems and toss to combine. Top with sesame seeds as a garnish. For best results, let the salad sit for 1 hour (or more*) for the stems to soften in the oil, but it can also be served right away if needed.
- Recipe notes: While you can eat this salad right away, we find that letting the broccoli stems marinate in the oil for at least 30 minutes to an hour at room temperature made for a slightly softer broccoli crunch. We also find that using broccoli that’s a bit older means the stems are a bit softer.
- Tools needed: cutting board, knife set, small saucepan, glass mixing bowls, whisk
- Prep ahead: Both the broccoli stems and the dressing can be made ahead of time, if needed
- Leftovers + storage: This salad is a great make-ahead option because the broccoli stalks actually get softer with time (we think two days ahead would be the max amount of time to prepare ahead of time). Store this salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.
UPDATE: This recipe was originally published in March 2020 and updated for clarity in October 2021.