Rainbow Salad

A colorful bowl of fresh, raw vegetables tossed with a wonderful Sweet Lemon Vinaigrette and if you like, fresh herbs, nuts, bits of cheese and more. No two bowls are the same! The "rainbow" colors are inspired by those pretty heads of purple, orange and green cauliflower found in some produce departments, plus magenta-pink watermelon radishes and spring-green asparagus and ... all the hues and hints of color you can put your hands on! It's easy to make, it's fun and oh my, a Rainbow Salad is a total show-stopper on the table.

Rainbow Salad ♥ KitchenParade.com. Pretty pastel-colored vegetables tossed in a Sweet Lemon Vinaigrette.

Whole Food, Fresh & Inventive. Fun Picnic Food. Easily Adapted to Your Family's Tastebuds. Great for Meal Prep. Potluck & Party Friendly. Scales from Small Plates to Large Platters. Easy DIY. Low Carb. Low Fat. Weight Watchers Friendly. Not just vegan, Vegan Done Real. Naturally Gluten Free. So Good!!

~ PIN This ~

Rainbow Salad ♥ KitchenParade.com. Pretty pastel-colored vegetables tossed in a Sweet Lemon Vinaigrette.

Recipe Overview: Rainbow Salad

  • Rainbow Salad is all about color and texture, a pretty bowl of raw, fresh vegetables selected especially for their color and crunch and chopped small for a sort of vegetable confetti. It's tossed with a little onion, optional fresh herbs and then tossed in a light honey-sweetened lemon vinaigrette or your own favorite salad dressing. So pretty, this!
  • When to Serve = as a side salad for a brunch, baby shower, Easter lunch, ladies' lunch and ... ?!
  • Distinctive Ingredients = the rainbow of pretty vegetables + Sweet Lemon Vinaigrette
  • Kitchen Tools = just a cutting board and a sharp knife for chop-chopping all those vegetables; an inexpensive benchknife is optional but sure makes it easy to transfer all those small bits of vegetables into a bowl; a mini food processor (affiliate link) makes quick work of the Sweet Lemon Vinaigrette.
  • I make Rainbow Salad with raw vegetables. But some vegetables might benefit from blanching (that is, cooking in boiling water just until the rawness cooks off, then dropped into ice water to stop the cooking).
  • This is such a beautiful salad to look at but it has wonderful freshness and crunch, too.
  • No special techniques are needed, just a little knife work.
  • This is a calorie-friendly recipe, it's wonderful with just vegetables and a little dressing. It's also possible to make it a little richer with nuts, seeds, cheeses, etc.
  • I've written the recipe so that you can make as much as you want, or need, or have the patience to cut up!
  • So good! I hope you love it!

  • If you're a fellow fan of chopped salads, be sure to check out my Big Italian Chopped Salad and Big Cajun Chopped Salad. So much goodness!
  • Not quite what you're looking for? Check out my other salad recipes.
Rainbow Salad ♥ KitchenParade.com. Pretty pastel-colored vegetables tossed in a Sweet Lemon Vinaigrette.

You Might Wonder Be Wondering ...

Have another question? Ask away, I'll do my best to answer!

  • Where do you find all those pretty colored vegetables? Usually, I start at Whole Foods, where most of the time the bins include purple cauliflower, orange cauliflower, lime green heads of romanesco, a cauliflower-broccoli hybrid. Daikon? Kohlrabi? Red cabbage? Red carrots? Those too! For more colored carrots, check Trader Joe's.

  • Is Rainbow Salad kid-friendly? Maybe not? I had my fingers crossed, hoping that the name, the pastel colors and the sweet vinaigrette would appeal to kids. But so far my favorite guinea pigs test subjects Littles who live just around the corner just aren't sold.
Rainbow Salad ♥ KitchenParade.com. Pretty pastel-colored vegetables tossed in a Sweet Lemon Vinaigrette.

For Best Results

For my weekly column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I interviewed chefs and translated their restaurant recipes for home kitchens. The most illuminating question? "How can a home cook ensure the same results?" So now I ask that question of myself, too, for my own recipes. Have another question? Ask away, I'll do my best to answer!

Avoid "wet" vegetables. Have you ever thought that some vegetables are "dry" compared to others that are "wet"? Think cauliflower and broccoli vs cucumber and tomatoes. If you'd like to include some wet veggies, just add them right before serving.

Keep onion, herbs and dressing separate until ready to serve. This is a favorite salad to include when making a meal for a family that's moving, just had a baby, lost a loved one, etc. I put the chopped vegetables in quart-size mason jars, then separately pack up green onion, cheese bits and salad dressing.

Watch the dressing color. A tangy feta dressing tastes really good but that creamy cheese, when it's in the dressing itself, obscures the pretty colors of the vegetables. Instead, just crumble the feta (or blue cheese or Parmesan or ...) into the chopped salad vegetables.

Rainbow Salad ♥ KitchenParade.com. Pretty pastel-colored vegetables tossed in a Sweet Lemon Vinaigrette.

What Makes This Recipe Special

Why would anyone go to the trouble of making Rainbow Salad from scratch? Here are a few reasons. Why do you make it? Let me know in the comments!

  • DISTINCTIVE You'll not find a Rainbow Salad ready-made or at a restaurant.
  • PRETTY The colors are so pretty! Pastels are pretty for spring celebrations like Easter and Mother's Day but think red, white and green for an Italian feast; green, purple and gold for Mardi Gras; orange, white and green for an Indian meal; etc.
  • MAKE-AHEAD If you like, make the salad a day ahead. Just keep any onion, herbs or dressing separate until shortly before serving.
  • KEEPS But if you have leftovers, don't worry, the salad is still good to eat for another two or three days.
  • ADJUST TO YOUR OWN TASTE I'm Team Lemon for the dressing here but use what you love.
  • CRUNCH A healthy, raw salad is so welcome, especially at parties and potlucks where foods are often soft and rich.
  • Ready to get started? Here's your recipe!

Bookmark! PIN! Share!

How do you save and share favorite recipes? recipes that fit your personal cooking style? a particular recipe your mom or daughter or best friend would just love? If this recipe inspires you, please do save and share! I'd be honored ...

Rainbow Salad ♥ KitchenParade.com. Pretty pastel-colored vegetables tossed in a Sweet Lemon Vinaigrette.

~ PIN This ~


Hands-on time: varies but allow about 10 minutes per pound of vegetables
Time-to-table: again, varies
Makes as much as you like (see ALANNA's TIPS), it keeps for days!
    (choose at least 3 or 4, my favorites in italics)
  • For purple or lavender: purple cauliflower or red cabbage or red carrots or radicchio
  • For pink: watermelon radish
  • For white: daikon or white cauliflower or bok choy stems or fennel
  • For orange: orange cauliflower or small carrots
  • For green: romanesco or thin asparagus or edamame (needs cooking) or sugar snap peas or tender peas or snow peas or green cabbage
  • For yellow: yellow carrots or endive
  • Green onion, white and green parts, chopped small (about 2 tablespoons per pound of vegetables) or very finely diced red onion (about 1 tablespoon per pound of vegetables)
  • Good salt to taste
  • Sweet Lemon Vinaigrette
  • Fresh herbs, chopped small, think dill, parsley, chive, cilantro even a salad green like arugula or frisée (about 1/2 cup per pound of vegetables)
  • Crisp nuts or seeds such as toasted slivered almonds, salted pistachios, marcona almonds, salted sunflower seeds, pine nuts, to taste
  • Bits of aged cheese such as Parmesan, Romano, Gruyere, to taste
  • Edible flowers? perfect!

COLORFUL VEGETABLES If needed, wash the vegetables ahead of time so there's time for them to dry off. Chop the vegetables into small pieces (or possibly larger but evenly-sized pieces) and collect in a bowl, tossing every so often to gauge what colors to highlight and add more of. If chopping the vegetables ahead of time, stop once the vegetables are done, cover and refrigerate.

EXTRAS Just before serving, stir in the onion, salt and your choice of dressing.

OPTIONAL ADDITONS Stir in what looks good, sounds good and tastes good!

ALANNA's TIPS Choose the vegetables (and how much of each one) based on what's pretty to your eyes, balancing the colors and possibly letting one color stand out. Stick to "dryer" vegetables such as cauliflower or cabbage vs "wetter" vegetables such as bell peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes. How much to make? That depends. If you're making Rainbow Salad for a particular meal, I typically allow a half-cup serving per person if there's just one salad or a quarter-cup serving if there are other salads or it's a bigger meal such as Easter, Mother's Day, etc. That said, my husband and I easily go through eight cups (about 2 pounds of chopped vegetables) over two or three days, just the two of us. No lemons? I also love Rainbow Salad with our house dressing, the wonderful My Everyday Creamy Herb Salad Dressing made with fresh dill.

FOR MORE INFO If you "skipped straight to the recipe," please scroll back to the top of this page for ingredient information, ingredient substitutions, tips and more. If you print this recipe, you'll want to check the recipe online for even more tips and extra information about ingredient substitutions, best results and more. See https://www.kitchenparade.com/2024/03/rainbow-salad.html .


Hands-on time: 10 minutes
Time-to-table: 10 minutes
Makes about 3/4 cup, enough for about 2 pounds of vegetables
  • Zest of a lemon (about 1 tablespoon, 8g)
  • 4 tablespoons (47g) fresh lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons (80g) honey (or maple syrup for vegan)
  • 4 tablespoons (32g) good olive oil
  • Salt to taste (be generous)
  • A good sprinkle of freshly ground pepper

In a mini food processor (affiliate link), mix all the ingredients until light and homogenous, about 30 seconds. No mini food processor? No problem. Just whisk the zest, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper, then whisk in the olive oil.

More Spring Salad Inspiration

A collection of seasonal Salad Recipes ♥ KitchenParade.com. Side salads to supper salads and everything in between.
~ salad recipes ~
Seven-Layer Strawberry Salad with Homemade Poppy Seed Dressing, another show-stopping salad ♥ AVeggieVenture.com, a strawberry riff on the classic seven-layer salad.

Pickled Beet Salad with Fresh Blueberries & Mint, another quick and easy summer salad ♥ AVeggieVenture.com, totally fresh and summery! Quick. Vegan. Low Carb. Gluten Free. WW Friendly.

Five-Minute Fruit Salad ♥ KitchenParade.com, it's all in the presentation.

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

~ cauliflower recipes ~
~ carrot recipes ~
~ daikon recipes ~
~ kohlrabi recipes ~
~ lemon recipes ~

~ All Recipes, By Ingredient ~
~ How to Save Money on Groceries ~

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail, you'll find my current address in the FAQs. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, for more scratch cooking recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.