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Eat the rainbow with this vibrant, healthy, nutrient-dense rainbow salad packed with immune-friendly, health-boosting ingredients. A gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan side or main that’s ready in under 30 minutes!

completed Rainbow Salad against a white surface

Eating the rainbow (and no, I’m not talking about Skittles) is a well-known method to ensure you’re consuming a diverse variety of antioxidants, nutrients, and benefits for your gut and overall health. Now, this rainbow salad recipe makes it fun and delicious, too, in a versatile, aesthetic salad made to impress!

Looking for more simple vegan salads? Why not try this Panzanella Salad, Mediterranean Pearl Couscous Salad, or Strawberry Kale Salad.

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Why You’ll Love This Rainbow Salad

  • It’s simple to prepare: Like most raw salads, this rainbow salad just requires chopping and mixing. Perfect for a quick and healthy meal.
  • It’s colorful: We eat with our eyes, so this vibrant salad is sure to impress adults and children alike (any dish encouraging veggie eating is a big plus!).
  • It’s nutritious: This colorful salad recipe is loaded with a diverse array of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals to improve your health. That includes plenty of antioxidants and micronutrients like vitamins A, C, K, iron, calcium, potassium, and more.
  • It’s versatile: The aim is to eat the rainbow (and build up towards your 5-a-day), but you can easily adapt the ingredients to your preferred taste/texture preferences. It’s a great ‘clear out the fridge’ salad. You can adapt it further with mix-ins like extra plant protein, grains, nuts, vegan cheese, etc.
  • It’s satisfying: The combination of soft, crunchy, & crisp makes a satisfying raw veggie salad, especially with the tangy, slightly sweet vinaigrette.
  • It’s refreshing: This gluten and dairy-free salad is perfect for summery cookouts, picnics, potlucks, and poolside. It’s light and refreshing, filling you up without weighing heavy in your tummy.

The Ingredients and Substitutes

ingredients for Rainbow Salad measured out against a white surface

The Raw Veggie Salad

  • Spinach: This is the base of the colorful salad recipe, though other leafy greens work. I.e., butterhead lettuce, rainbow lettuce, mixed greens, kale, etc. Make it a regular or non-lettuce salad.
  • Purple cabbage: Shredded, for tons of crunch.
  • Cherry tomatoes: Or grape tomatoes. Alternatively, larger salad tomatoes and vine-ripened tomatoes will work well during their season.
  • Carrots: Any color, shredded. For crunch and sweetness.
  • Bell pepper: We used yellow to complete the colors, but any color (i.e., red, orange, yellow, or green) will work. Red is sweetest, and green is bitter.
  • Cucumber: Use a Persian or English cucumber, which contain fewer seeds with a thin peel. Otherwise, it may require peeling and de-seeding first.
  • Red onion: Fresh or pickled. Shallots will also work for the sharp flavor (but without color). Alternatively, for a very mild oniony flavor, use green onion.
  • Avocado: This adds a creamy element to the raw salad, sliced or diced. Use one without many brown spots, as they can affect the flavor.
  • Fresh herbs: We like to use a combination of minced fresh parsley and basil.
  • Red pepper flakes: (optional) If you like a little heat in the raw salad.

The Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • The acids: We combine lemon juice (fresh is best), apple cider vinegar, and balsamic vinegar for a bright, vibrant, full-bodied vinaigrette.
  • Olive oil: (optional) This helps the dressing cling to the salad, with a smooth mouth-feel.
  • Sweetener: You could use maple syrup, agave, or sugar-free syrup. Adjust the amount to taste.
  • Water: To achieve the correct consistency.
  • Salt & pepper: Add to taste.

Other dairy-free salad dressing will also work, like a citrus vinaigrette/lemon poppyseed dressing, tahini dressing, vegan honey mustard, or something creamy like vegan Caesar or vegan ranch dressing.

What Else To Put In A Salad?

Depending on your desired flavor, texture, and color, there are many more healthy things to put in this salad, including:

  • Radishes (thinly sliced or julienned)
  • Celery
  • Edamame
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Apple (shredded or sliced – sweet or tart)
  • Zucchini or Summer squash
  • Corn (canned or grilled)
  • Cooked sweet potato or butternut squash
  • Beetroot (roasted and diced or shredded)
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli (shredded raw or cooked florets)
  • Olives (any color, pitted)
  • Mushrooms (raw or sauteed)
  • Pomegranate

How to make salad more filling?

  • Vegan cheese: To add a rich, creamy element to the colorful salad. You could add shredded/chopped vegan cheese (like cheddar/ smoked) or crumble over some vegan feta.
  • Nuts or seeds: These will add crunch, protein, and healthy fats. I.e., walnuts, almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, pepitas, hemp hearts, flax seeds, etc.
  • Grains: For a heartier salad, why not try adding some cooked quinoa (which is also packed with plant-based protein), couscous, millet, or farro.
  • Pasta: Transform this into a delicious rainbow pasta salad by finely chopping the veggies and adding al dente pasta (regular or gluten-free).
  • Chickpeas: To add protein and plenty of fiber, use chickpeas or white beans. Lentils would also work (canned or home-cooked).
  • Tofu: Sweet & Salty Tofu will add texture and a heap of plant-based protein.

How to Make Rainbow Salad

  • 1) First, combine all the salad dressing ingredients in a small bowl (or jar) and whisk well, then set aside.
  • 2) Meanwhile, rinse and prepare all the vegetables. Shred the cabbage and carrots, halve the tomatoes, slice the bell pepper and onion, and slice or dice the cucumber and avocado. Also, mince the fresh herbs.
  • 3) To assemble the rainbow salad, place the spinach in the bottom of a large bowl/plate, then top it with rows of the ingredients.
  • 4) Drizzle the rainbow salad with the dressing and finally garnish with the minced herbs and an optional sprinkle of red pepper flakes – enjoy!

Recipe Pro Tips

  • Use ripe, in-season produce: The best salads will always contain the freshest ingredients – it just makes sense.   
  • For mellower red onion: Slice and soak it in ice water for 10 minutes. Then, drain and add it to the raw salad recipe.
  • Prepare the dressing first: This allows time for the flavors to meld.         
  • To speed prep: This rainbow chopped salad is the perfect time to use any kitchen gadgets you have. i.e., a mandoline, food chopper, or food processing slicing/shredding disks.
  • Adjust the texture: It’s up to you whether you want fairly chunky veggies or chop them really fine to get a little of everything in practically a single bite.
  • Tweak the dressing: Adjust any ingredients to tweak it to your liking.  

FAQs

Is it good to eat salad every day?

Salads (depending on what you include) allow you to maintain a balanced diet, packed with various macro and micronutrients and plenty of antioxidants. As long as you aren’t piling the salad high with highly processed and fatty ingredients every single day (occasionally is fine!), then there’s no reason you couldn’t enjoy one daily.

What is a rainbow salad made of?

Rainbow salads change depending on who’s making them. However, a vegetable-based rainbow salad recipe generally contains ingredients across the color spectrum. This may include purple cabbage, red tomatoes, orange carrot, yellow bell pepper, green cucumber, and more.

completed Rainbow Salad against a white surface

Serving Suggestions

This colorful lettuce-free salad is a delicious and appealing option when prepared for potlucks, picnics, BBQs, and an everyday lunch, especially when paired with additional carbs or protein, like:

  • Quinoa, couscous, brown rice, or farro
  • A simple pasta dish
  • Garlic bread
  • Corn on the cob
  • A baked potato
  • A small portion of soup – like tomato soup or gazpacho
  • Some fries or wedges
  • Crispy tofu or tempeh (cubed or kabobs)

How To Meal Prep Rainbow Salad

Not only can you prepare the dressing a whopping two weeks in advance to store in a jar in the fridge, but the raw veggie salad is also meal-prep friendly. Though there are a couple of ways to do so:

  1. You can chop/shred/slice the various ingredients (not including the avocado) 2-3 days in advance and store them in separate containers in the refrigerator until needed.
  2. Assemble the salad/s into airtight containers and store them in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Add the avocado and dressing just before serving the rainbow salad.

More Easy Vegan Salad Recipes

Photos by Alfonso Revilla

Rainbow Salad

5 from 46 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 0 minutes
Total: 20 minutes
Servings: 2
Eat the rainbow with this vibrant, healthy, nutrient-dense rainbow salad packed with immune-friendly, health-boosting ingredients. A gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan side or main that's ready in under 30 minutes!

Ingredients 

For the dressing:

  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon of maple syrup or agave
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the salad:

  • 3 cups of baby spinach
  • 1 cup of purple cabbage, shredded
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 carrots, shredded or julienne
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 cup of cucumber, diced
  • ¼ cup of a red onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup minced parsley, for garnish
  • Avocado, sliced (optional)
  • Crushed red peppers (optional)

Instructions 

  • In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, apple cider, balsamic vinegar, oil, sweetener of choice, water, salt, and pepper. Mix well and set aside.
  • To assemble the salad, place spinach on a large bowl or salad plate. Then top with veggies, each in a section of the plate.
  • Drizzle some dressing and garnish with parsley, basil, avocado slices, and a sprinkle of crushed red pepper.
  • Serve cold.

Notes

Add edamame, Sweet & Salty Tofu Bites, or quinoa for a protein-packed salad.
If you want to make this even more colorful, you can swap the yellow bell pepper for an orange one and add a cup of corn kernels.
    • Use ripe, in-season produce: The best salads will always contain the freshest ingredients – it just makes sense.   
    • For mellower red onion: Slice and soak it in ice water for 10 minutes. Then, drain and add it to the raw salad recipe.
    • Prepare the dressing first: This allows time for the flavors to meld.         
    • To speed prep: This rainbow chopped salad is the perfect time to use any kitchen gadgets you have. i.e., a mandoline, food chopper, or food processing slicing/shredding disks.

Nutrition

Calories: 205kcalCarbohydrates: 32gProtein: 5gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gSodium: 130mgPotassium: 1067mgFiber: 6gSugar: 17gVitamin A: 16074IUVitamin C: 189mgCalcium: 143mgIron: 3mg

Disclaimer: Although plantbasedonabudget.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, kindly note that these are only estimates. Nutritional information may be affected based on the product type, the brand that was purchased, and in other unforeseeable ways. Plantbasedonabudget.com will not be held liable for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information. If you need to follow a specific caloric regimen, please consult your doctor first.

Additional Info

Author: Toni Okamoto
Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Method: No cook
Diet: Vegan
Tried this recipe?Please tag us at @PlantBasedOnABudget! 🙂
About

Toni Okamoto

“They say you are what you eat, so I strive to be healthy.
My goal in life is not to be rich or wealthy,
‘Cause true wealth comes from good health and wise ways…
we got to start taking better care of ourselves ” – Dead Prez

More about Toni Okamoto
5 from 46 votes (34 ratings without comment)

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This rainbow salad has become a quick favorite lunch for me! Love the bright colors and textures, and it’s so easy to assemble. Thanks for the great recipe!

  2. 5 stars
    I always love new salad ideas! Especially rainbow ones. Love the different textures and flavors. A+!

  3. 5 stars
    This salad is amazing. The dressing with maple syrup really gives it a fresh new flavor!

  4. 5 stars
    This Rainbow Salad recipe was a pleasure to see on the table – it is tasty, simple to make and quite satisfying. The dressing is lovely and I will use it again.