This Layered Rainbow Salad with a creamy buttermilk poppy seed dressing is a crowd pleasing layered salad that can be assembled ahead of time so it’s perfect for picnics, potlucks, and barbecues. It’s colorful and festive, and guaranteed to get raves!
I was on the treadmill the other day and watched The Pioneer Woman put one of these together, then she trotted it off to a church supper. I’m not sure I’ve ever been to a church supper, but I love the vibe of this big beautiful salad brightly layered and fit to feed a crowd.
You can use almost any salad ingredients you like to make this, but the more vivid the colors the bigger the ‘wow’ when you set it out on the table.
I’m kind of a rainbow freak when it comes to cooking, I feel like the more color you can jam into a dish, the better. Not only does it add eye appeal, but those colors signal great flavor and lots of nutritional benefits, too.
My rainbow includes baby kale, cherry tomatoes, orange bell pepper, grilled corn, purple cabbage, hard boiled eggs, olives, cheddar cheese, toasted pecans, and last but not least, crisp crumbled bacon (because there’s a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow.) When you assemble yours you should be careful not to get a creepy three eyed owl staring out at you like I did (above)…if you do, just give the bowl a half turn…
That’s better. The trick to layering up a large salad like this is to put each new ingredient in a ring around the perimeter of the bowl, and then fill in with a little more greens in the center. This way, when the dish is completed, you’ll have a nice balance of greens to ‘add ins’.
Check your progress through the side of the bowl as you go to make sure you’re getting the layered effect you want.
You’ll need a glass bowl with straight sides for this layered rainbow salad so you can see and stack all those pretty layers. I found mine at a thrift store, but you can sometimes get lucky at home goods stores, or of course, online. I’m addicted to Amazon Prime.
This one is perfect. You can use it to make summer trifles later.
- 1 5-ounce tub of baby spinach or baby kale, or a mixture of sturdy lettuces
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 orange bell pepper, cut in a small dice
- 2 ears of fresh corn, blackened on a grill pan, kernels removed
- 1/4 small purple cabbage, shredded
- 3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
- 6 ounce can black olives, sliced
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 cup pecans, toasted
- 10 pieces of crisp bacon, crumbled
- 1/2 cup buttermilk (give it a shake before measuring)
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 Tbsp poppy seeds
- juice of 1 lemon (about 2 Tbsp)
- 1/2 - 1 tsp salt or onion salt
- fresh cracked black pepper
- fresh thyme leaves or snipped chives
- Put down a good layer of the clean and dry greens on the bottom of your bowl.
- Arrange the cherry tomatoes around the edge to form the second layer, and check from the side to insure that you can see them. For each layer you will add a bit more greens to the center of the bowl to even off the layer. (This is to make sure you have enough greens in the final salad.)
- Repeat the layers for all the ingredients, and top with the nuts and bacon.
- Make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together. Taste to adjust any of the ingredients.
- Pour some of the dressing in an even layer over the top of the salad. Scatter some fresh thyme leaves, or sniped chives, over the dressing for a garnish. Set aside the rest for serving alongside the salad.
- Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Choose a sturdy lettuce for this salad, no delicate spring mix please, it’ll get squashed. I like to use triple washed greens because they are DRY. You don’t want to layer up wet or even damp greens.
- All amounts are approximate, use enough so that you can create a layer along the outside rim, for each ingredient. Don’t stress over getting the layers perfect, it’s kind of a losing battle. As long as you have enough of each ingredient, the layers will show in the end. One trick is to chop the ingredients finely whenever possible, or even shred them, so the layers will be more distinct.
- A thick creamy dressing will sit on the top and you can set the whole salad in the fridge until serving. If you choose a more fluid dressing, like a vinaigrette, dress it at the table instead.
- There’s no need to toss the whole thing when you serve it, just let people scoop out individual portions, and serve extra dressing on the side.
- Plan to make this the same day you plan to serve it.