There's something so nostalgic about a chopped salad, don't you agree? They make me think of retro restaurant salads at old-school steakhouses or diners. But unfortunately many chopped salads take what should be a nourishing meal and smother those beautiful veggies in a ton of heavy, creamy dressing.
This rainbow chopped salad is different. It has all the visual and textural appeal of the classic, but it's made with an abundance of fresh and colorful veggies marinated in a light, oil-free, plant-based dressing. It's nostalgia that's reinvented in a whole-food, nourishing way. I've made this vegan chopped salad again and again since I first developed the recipe and we just can't get enough of it.
What is a Chopped Salad?
Although the term means different things to different people, I usually think of a chopped salad as a dish in which all of the ingredients have been diced to a similar size. To accommodate that preparation, many chopped salads rely on romaine or other hearty greens (here I use cabbage) instead of delicate greens like leaf lettuce. Unlike the classic, which is often just romaine, cukes, tomatoes, cheese, and a creamy dressing, my healthy chopped salad remake introduces a whole rainbow of colorful veggies and a much lighter dressing.
How to Make a Vegan Chopped Salad
No creamy dressings needed here! This healthy chopped salad has so much going on with a whole array of colorful veggies, you'll never miss the heavy dairy. The dressing is a bright, zippy mixture of lemon juice, coarse-grained mustard, and a bit of maple syrup; it's way more vibrant and exciting than ranch or blue cheese. To balance the lighter dressing, I add almonds and avocado for some whole-food, plant-based richness.
Rainbow Chopped Salad Variations
This colorful, healthy chopped salad can become so many different things. If you want to make it heartier, feel free to add chickpeas, cubed tofu (either raw or cooked would be great), or some cooked farro. You can easily make it nut-free by using sunflower seeds instead of almonds, or keep it fruit-sweetened by using date syrup instead of maple syrup. You can also sub in whatever colorful veggies you have on-hand. Best of all, it can act as a main course, a side dish, a healthy meal-prep lunch, or even a chip dip.
This salad is make-ahead friendly thanks to its hearty ingredients. If you want to prepare this healthy chopped salad in advance, mix the dressing and add in the cabbage, carrot, zucchini, sugar snap peas, and peppers up to a day ahead. For the best results, I prefer to add in the cucumbers and tomatoes at most several hours before serving since they can get a bit soggy. The almonds can get mixed in a day ahead of time too, or you can leave them off until the end for optimal crunch. Most importantly, don't cut the avocado until you're ready to serve because it will brown (or feel free to leave it off for a travel-friendly version).
Got leftovers? Excellent! Leftovers of this salad keep well for a few days. I just suggest eating all the avocado on the first day since it will brown during storage. If you're making this festive rainbow chopped salad for a party, it works great to make a double-batch and stash a few portions in the fridge for later in the week.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Here's what you'll need for this rainbow chopped salad, as well as some thoughts, tips, and possible substitutions. If you make any substitutions, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.
Coarse-grained mustard. Learn how to make your own here. I love using mustard in this healthy chopped salad because it creates a really rich texture in the dressing.
Salt and pepper
Baby zucchini. I like to use baby zucchini in this recipe, although a regular small zucchini will work fine.
Sugar snap peas
Baby red, orange, and yellow bell peppers. Or use full-size peppers if you can't find the cute baby ones.
Baby cucumbers. As above, a regular small cucumber will work fine if you can't find baby ones.
Rainbow cherry tomatoes
Avocado. Avocado adds a nostalgic richness to this vegan chopped salad. However, you can leave it off if you need to prepare the salad ahead of time.
Roasted salted almonds. Feel free to use your crunchy garnishes of choice; any nuts or seeds will be great.
This is a salad that you'll be glad to have in your arsenal. Whether you're doing some meal-prep, bringing it to a potluck, serving it as a side dish at a summer BBQ, or just looking for a no-cook meal on a hot summer evening, this rainbow chopped salad fits the bill. I started making it this past spring and it has been on repeat at least every other week since then.
Have I convinced you that "chopped salad" doesn't mean it's loaded with heavy dressing? This vibrant, whole-food, vegan chopped salad is nostalgic in all the right ways but has such an updated feel with its bright colors and nourishing ingredients. I hope you love it as much as we do!
It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.