As bright and colorful as its name implies, this fresh crisp rainbow salad is quick and easy to make. With a little shopping and chopping, you’ll have this crunchy vegetable salad on the table in under thirty minutes. This veggie protein salad is higher in protein than your typical rainbow salad with the addition of edamame and beans. Toss with your favorite salad dressing like vegan green goddess dressing.
This is one of our favorite vegetable salads to serve! It is lovely centered on a dinner table or as part of a buffet. This colorful salad always gets lots of oooohs and ahhhs when taken to a potluck party. It makes a perfect side dish and would be deliciously served with a white bean burger. But this salad is a little higher in protein than most salads so you can enjoy this veggie protein salad as the main course too!
If you are plant-based or vegan, attending a potluck party is easy! Take a few dishes that you can eat and that everybody will enjoy. Asian peanut noodle salad is always a hit along with air-fried corn on the cob and fresh fruit salad with poppy seed dressing. This bright rainbow vegetable salad drizzled with vegan green goddess dressing is a great option to make and take to a special event with friends and family.
What you will need to make vegetable rainbow salad
The fun thing about this vegetable salad is that it’s customizable to the flavors and textures you enjoy and works with various colorful seasonal vegetables that you can easily find at the grocery store. I like to make my rainbow salad with a little extra protein too so that it becomes a main-course meal.
Please read the following suggestion and customize your rainbow salad the way you’d like. Remember to include a variety of textures and flavors. You need some sort of onion and bell pepper for depth of flavor so keep that in mind as you are planning your dish.
And remember the colors of the rainbow: R-O-Y-G-B-I-V. R/red, O/orange, Y/yellow, G/green, B/blue, I/indigo (though we don’t use that), V/violet – or purple. And then there is a “new” rainbow color – PINK! That’s right, pink:) Ask any youth and they will tell you that pink comes after purple in the rainbow.
The fresh produce I used in today’s rainbow salad is listed in bold – Other suggestions follow
- Red – tomatoes, red bell pepper – but only use red bell pepper if you aren’t using another color of pepper for the yellow, or orange. Beets – pickled beets would be best.
- Orange – shredded carrots, orange bell pepper – but only use if you don’t use another color pepper or the red, yellow or green. Cooked, cubed sweet potatoes.
- Yellow – yellow bell peppers, corn, or yellow squash.
- Green – edamame (for the protein too), cucumber, green onion – Soooo many choices for the green. In fact, it’s easy to go overboard on this one. Remember to try to keep the colors fairly even. You don’t want for half of your salad bowl to be green veggies only. So, green bell pepper – but only if you don’t use a pepper for the red, orange, or yellow, zucchini squash, fresh green peas, snap peas, baby spinach, or avocado.
- Blue – Blueberries – I don’t know…I’m stumped! Let me know if you can think of anything else blue that might work.
- Purple – Red/purple cabbage and red onions (which look more purple than red). Remember, you will need some sort of onion. Also, purple cauliflower if you can find it or purple carrots. I don’t suggest eggplant because you’ll need to cook it and the texture is a little mushy.
- Pink (yes, that’s a thing now with the younger set) – You can play around with this one because pink isn’t a real rainbow color (unless you are gen Z or younger). I use the tri-color beans because if you squint, they will almost look pinkish. A mix of kidney beans and cannellini beans would also work. Beans are a great way to add an extra protein boost.
- Seeds – Every good salad needs nuts or seeds. Place them in the middle for a nice effect. I like to use pepitas. You can also use sunflower seeds, pistachio seeds, or sliced almonds
- You need a really yummy salad dressing to bring it all together. Today I used my favorite, vegan green goddess dressing. You might also like the tahini dressing I made to go with this crunchy vegetable salad, or for an oil-free dressing try jalapeno ranch dressing or oil-free balsamic dressing.
- A large shallow flat bowl for displaying the colors of the rainbow. Your bowl will need to hold at least eight cups.
How to make a vegetable rainbow salad in under thirty minutes
Really, all you have to do is to shop and chop! I’ve given you a few important shortcuts below that will help make this colorful vegetable salad quickly and easily.
It helps me to work fast in the kitchen when I take a few minutes to prepare and measure what I need ahead of time. Before I start building the rainbow salad I wash, dry, chop, dice, rinse and drain all of the ingredients.
The exact ingredients with measurements can be found in the recipe card below along with more concise abbreviated instructions. Read on for more details, tips, and tricks so that you will feel confident making this recipe.
Prepping THe protein
Edamamae, beans, and pepitas are what turn this vegetable salad into a veggie protein salad. Not only do they provide vibrant color and crunch, but a healthy amount of plant-based protein as well.
If my edamame is frozen – which it usually is – I take it out of the freezer and rinse it with water to start the thawing process. Then drain the rinsed edamame and set it aside for when it’s time to build your salad.
Remember that the beans are for added protein along with the edamame. I use them to fill in the (unnecessary) pink place in the rainbow.
Open the can of beans and drain and rinse them. Pat the beans dry and set them aside for later. You do not want soggy beans to be added to your crisp veggie salad so make sure they are fully drained and patted dry before using.
You can use any beans you’d like. Going with the “pink” rainbow color theme, I used tri-color beans. These consist of cannellini beans, pinto beans, and kidney beans. The pinto beans were a little bit more mushy than the other two types. I might add a half can each of kidney beans and cannellini beans next time I make this recipe.
Every good salad needs a few nuts or seeds sprinkled in! Today I used colorful pepitas, with their lovely greenish shade. I like to use roasted and salted seeds but if you are concerned about sodium then used unsalted seeds or nuts.
Shelled green pistachio nuts are another colorful nut you can use. Shelled sunflower seeds or slivered almonds are both whitish and look nice when placed in the center of the rainbow salad.
Measure out your choice of nuts or seeds and have them ready to go when needed.
Preparing and chopping the vegetables
Of course, you will need to have everything washed and patted dry before you begin. Like with the canned beans, please make sure to pat all the vegetables dry well before adding them to your salad so you won’t have a soggy salad bottom!
The carrots and the cabbage
If I can find a quick and easy shortcut that does not compromise the final outcome, I’ll always use it! Bagged shredded purple cabbage and shredded carrots are one shortcut I will almost always take!
If you can’t find shredded purple cabbage – or it you just prefer to cut your own, it’s easy enough to do but you will need to add a few more minutes to the prep time listed in the recipe card below.
Cut the cabbage head in half, lay it on its side, and using a sharp knife, start making thin slices – the thinner the better. The recipe calls for one cup of shredded/sliced cabbage.
Depending on the size of your cabbage head, you will use about one-fourth of the head of the cabbage. You can use the rest another day in a yummy purple cabbage slaw with miso vinegar dressing!
Feel free to shred your carrots by hand too. You will need two or three medium-sized carrots for one cup of shredded carrots.
If you want to get extra fancy, you can make thin carrot slices with a vegetable peeler as I did in this flavorful raw carrot salad. Again, you will need two to three carrots to yield one cup for the salad.
Slicing and dicing the other vegetables
I find it best to slice and dice everything ahead of time before I start building my rainbow salad. Then when you start to build your salad, everything will be waiting and ready to go.
I use cherry tomatoes so I only need to cut them in half. I recommend cherry or grape tomatoes over a whole tomato because whole tomatoes tend to have lots of juicy seed areas which can make your salad watery. If you use a whole tomato then remove most of the seeds along with the watery/juicy areas.
When you dice the bell pepper, cut it in half, remove the stem and seeds, cut the pepper into strips about 1/4 inch wide, line them up, and slice down the strips.
I use an English cucumber or some other type of cucumber with a thin edible skin. All cucumber skins are edible, but some have a rubbery mouthfeel. Do not peel the cucumber because you want that bright green to show!
After washing and drying the cucumber, cut it in half lengthwise and, then cut each half lengthwise in half again. As with the bell peppers, line the lenghtwise pieces up and cut down the length of the four long pieces. You will use about one-half of an English cucumber.
I slice and use both the white and green parts of the green onion. Cut the rooty ends off, remove any slimy or old pieces, line up and slice.
You will only use a small portion of the red onion to get the one-fourth cup needed. This little bit of onion makes a big flavor difference!
And what should you do with your cut onion? Martha Stewart says it’s best to wrap your cut onion tightly in plastic and store it in the refrigerator. But do keep it away from foods that might absorb the oniony flavor!
Building the Rainbow salad
Ready to build your rainbow salad? Now the fun part starts! Keeping the colors of the rainbow in mind, start building your salad with red and work around clockwise until you reach the end with the “pink” beans. Kind of gage the placement as you are going so that you will have enough room to place all of the vegetables.
Since I am using more tomatoes than carrots, I place a few under where the carrots will be and then place the carrots on top of the small layer of tomatoes.
Same with the blueberries. I am using so many more green vegetables than I am blueberries, that I place a small layer of green cucumbers and edamame where the blueberries will be and then layer the blueberries on top.
You can just layer the red onions on top of the purple cabbage shreds. You have very few red onions as compared to the cabbage.
Hopefully, you’ve calculated everything just right and have just enough space to place the beans at the end. You might need to scoot things around a bit to get everything to fit just right. If I find I don’t have enough space for all the beans, I set them aside (so as not to crowd my presentation) and then toss them in at the end along with the dressing. No way am I giving up the protein from the beans!
Add the pepitas right in the center of the salad. Now you can place it on the table and enjoy the beautiful rainbow you made! Wait to add the dressing until right before serving the salad.
Now drizzle your dressing and toss!
Time to eat? Then it’s time to add your salad dressing! My favorite dressing with this salad is vegan green goddess dressing! The flavors perfectly meld and I think the light avocado color works well too.
Which salad bowl is best to use for veggie rainbow salad?
It is important that you are able to display the vegetables in such a way that it looks visually appealing with the rainbow colors prominently displayed in rainbow color order. You will need a large flat bowl to best display the vegetables before tossing them together with the salad dressing.
I used this stunning blue ceramic bowl with a 7-cup capacity which honestly wasn’t quite large enough to toss the salad in. But I love it…
If you find yourself in the same predicament, simply remove the veggies to a larger bowl to toss with the dressing and return the dressed salad to your favorite bowl for serving.
A larger capacity bowl like this stunning 2.8qt capacity black ceramic bowl would fit your vegetables and the dressing, AND allow for easy tossing! Just make sure your bowl is shallow and flatish.
Serving and saving the rainbow salad
This salad makes a total of eight cups of fresh crunchy deliciousness. I’ve calculated five servings at a little over one and a half cups each. If you are serving this as a main course without anything else, you might want to plan on 3-4 large dinner plate servings.
Leftovers can be saved in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to two days – even when tossed in the dressing! Because this salad does not contain lettuce, it won’t wilt sitting in a pool of dressing. Give it a retoss to coat and serve when ready!
The printable recipe card
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Rainbow Salad with Fresh Crisp Vegetables
- 10 ounces tomatoes chopped
- 1 cup carrots shredded
- 1 yellow pepper diced
- 2 green onions sliced, the green and the white parts
- 1 cup English cucumbers diced
- ¾ cup edamame shelled
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1 cup purple cabbage cut thin
- ¼ cup red onions diced
- 16 ounces beans
- ¼ cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds, shelled and roasted)
- dressing of choice
- Chop all vegetables and place them in a large flat bowl as shown in the blog post. Place the vegetables in rainbow color order for the best presentation. I dice/cut the vegetables in order and place them in the bowl as I am cutting them. If the edamame needs thawing then take it out of the freezer in enough time to thaw. Open the can of beans and drain and rinse. Wash the blueberries and set them aside to dry.
- Remember to place the cut vegetables as you go, keeping in mind how much space you will need for the remaining ingredients. Dice the red tomatoes. If you are using cherry or grape tomatoes then just cut them in half. Shred or slice the carrots with a peeler – you will need 1-2 carrots for one cup. Dice the yellow pepper. Slice the green onion, stalks and bulbs. Dice the cucumber. (Don't forget to place the edamame and the blueberries.) Shred or thinly slice the purple cabbage – you will need about one-quarter of a head of cabbage. Dice the red onion – you will need a thick wedge of onion. (Don't forget to place the beans). Place the pepitas in the center of the salad.
- I like to place the salad on the table for everyone to oooh and awww over before tossing with the dressing. Drizzle on your favorite dressing, toss together and serve.
- Red – red bell pepper – but only use if you aren’t using another color of pepper for the yellow, or orange. Beets – pickled beets would be best.
- Orange – orange bell pepper – but only use if you don’t use another color pepper or the red, yellow or green. Cooked, cubed sweet potatoes.
- Yellow – Corn, or yellow squash.
- Green – Soooo many choices for the green. In fact, it’s easy to go overboard on this one. Remember to try to keep the colors even. Green pepper – but only if you don’t use a pepper for the red, orange, or yellow, zucchini squash, fresh green peas, snap peas, baby spinach, or avocado.
- Blue – I don’t know…I’m stumped! Let me know if you can think of anything else blue that might work.
- Purple – Purple cauliflower if you can find it or purple carrots. I don’t suggest eggplant because you’ll need to cook it and the texture is a little mushy.
- Pink (yes, that’s a thing now with the younger set) – You can play around with this one because pink isn’t a real rainbow color (unless you are gen Z or younger). I use the tri color beans because if you squint, they will almost look pinkish. A mix of kidney beans and cannellini beans would also work – or just pink one or the other – whatever. But I do like to use beans for the extra protein boost.
- Seeds – Every good salad needs nuts or seeds. Place them in the middle for a nice effect. I like to use pepitas. You can also use sunflower seeds, pistachio seeds, or sliced almonds.