Layered Rainbow Salad

Easy to asemble and healthy Layered Rainbow Salad can be made a head before a picnic, potluck, or barbecue.

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!

A pretty Layered Rainbow Salad topped with crunchy toasted pecans and bacon, drenched in a tangy buttermilk poppy seed dressing.

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.

Easy to asemble and super healthy, this Layered Rainbow Salad can be made ahead before a picnic, potluck, or barbecue.

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.

Layer upon layer of colorful greens and veggies make up this classic potluck Layered Rainbow Salad.

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…

Layered Rainbow Salad is healthy and gorgeous --- it'll feed a hungry crowd!

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’.

Building a Layered Rainbow Salad

Check your progress through the side of the bowl as you go to make sure you’re getting the layered effect you want.

Pretty and healthy Layered Rainbow Salad

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.




Easy to asemble and healthy Layered Rainbow Salad can be made a head before a picnic, potluck, or barbecue.
3.5 from 8 votes

Layered Rainbow Salad

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!
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Yield 8 servings
Author Sue Moran


  • 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

buttermilk dressing

  • 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.

Cook's notes

  • 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.
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

Don’t forget to pin this Layered Rainbow Salad!

 Layered Rainbow Salad pin

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    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    Geraldine | Green Valley Kitchen
    April 27, 2016 at 8:02 am

    What a pretty salad, Sue. Love all the flavors going on – perfect color and texture. I didn’t see the owl until you pointed it out – lol!

  • Reply
    Robyn @ Simply Fresh Dinners
    April 27, 2016 at 4:10 am

    5 stars
    I love layered salads because it’s got it all – flavor, texture and color. This is a beauty, Sue, and I love the little owl, lol.

  • Reply
    Gerlinde @ Sunnycovechef
    April 26, 2016 at 8:39 pm

    I do remember these layered salads from way back . They always had peas in them. Your version looks wonderful and I love the dressing.

  • Reply
    Mary Ann | The Beach House Kitchen
    April 26, 2016 at 6:13 pm

    Gorgeous Sue! The colors, the dressing! YUM!

  • Reply
    [email protected] is How I Cook
    April 26, 2016 at 11:09 am

    I love layered salads. Even though we are Jewish, growing up in the Midwest, we always had great church suppers to attend. You always knew which had the best cooks! This would have been perfect!

  • Reply
    2 sisters recipes
    April 25, 2016 at 8:09 pm

    Your rainbow salad looks and sounds delicious! So easy too- this is one salad going on our list to make this summer! Thanks for sharing Sue! 🙂

  • Reply
    Jennifer @ Seasons and Suppers
    April 25, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    I love layered salads and this one is beautiful! So many flavours. LOL at the olive eyeballs 🙂

  • Reply
    April 25, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    Beautiful salad Sue, the layers, the ingredients and the dressing. Way to go!

    • Reply
      April 25, 2016 at 3:42 pm

      Thanks Cheri <3

  • Reply
    Laura | Tutti Dolci
    April 25, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    I love the layers and I so wish I could dig into this salad!

  • Reply
    [email protected]'s Recipes
    April 25, 2016 at 10:58 am

    It looks amazingly delicious! I just love the colour, freshness and flavour.

    • Reply
      April 25, 2016 at 11:21 am

      Thanks Angie — I think I’ll do more of these, now that I have the bowl, it seems a shame to make a regular salad!

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