Caribbean Rainbow Salad: topped with all kinds of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and herbs! It's the ultimate vegan and gluten free summer salad! || recipe

Caribbean Rainbow Salad

Say hello to the summery dinner of your dreams.

Be ready to have a full-on love affair with this salad, friends. It’s going to happen. I guarantee it.

Caribbean Rainbow Salad: topped with all kinds of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and herbs! It's the ultimate vegan and gluten free summer salad! || recipe

Caribbean Rainbow Salad: topped with all kinds of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and herbs! It's the ultimate vegan and gluten free summer salad! || recipe

I’ve written about this incredible restaurant in Pittsburgh called Kaya before – and, in fact, made a copycat recipe of their incredible hot bean dip, but I don’t know if I quite captured just how obsessed I am with this place.

Everything I’ve had there – from their tacos, to their mojitos, to their wine, to their vegetable paella, to their concord grape ice cream (YAAAS) – has been nothing short of spectacular. It’s located in my favorite place on earth – Pittsburgh’s Strip District, and it’s my birthday dinner every single year.

But when we went there on “Mark Day” – aka. the day before Mark started his job and he got to choose everything we did that day -, we wanted something light so we split this Caribbean Rainbow Salad. It came in a giant bowl topped to the 9s with fresh and exotic ingredients like mango, chickpeas, herbs, avocado, and malanga. Honestly, I could have eaten 3 of these salads, and we had literally just eaten our weight in chips and salsa not five minutes before.

I know salads are assigned this stereotype that they’re boring, sad, and flavorless. I’ve definitely had my fair share of a giant bowl of lettuce with a mere sprinkling of toppings.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Friends, this is no boring salad. It’s anything but. There are just SO many different textures, flavors, and colors – your mouth will constantly find something new and exciting with each bite.

This salad is the you-know-what.

Caribbean Rainbow Salad: topped with all kinds of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and herbs! It's the ultimate vegan and gluten free summer salad! || recipe

Caribbean Rainbow Salad: topped with all kinds of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and herbs! It's the ultimate vegan and gluten free summer salad! || recipe

I let out a weird shriek-like sound once I took the first bite of my version of Kaya’s famous salad, and Mark came running and thought I hurt myself. No, Mark. I’m just completely and totally jazzed about this Caribbean Rainbow Salad.

I took some short-cuts, as I wasn’t quite sure where exactly to find some of the ingredients (I’m looking at you, malanga), but I think my substitutions can definitely stand up to the original.

So let me break this bad-boy down for you:

veggies: romaine, green onion, garlic, and hearts of palm – this combo gives us some great texture! We’re doing something a little zany with the garlic…we’re making garlic chips! You’ll just pan-fry garlic slices in some olive oil until brown and crisp. They’re so simple to make, and they give this salad so much texture and flavor! They’re going to be your new fav salad topper.

And the hearts of palm!! I love it so much. I added it as a substitution for malanga, and it was a fab idea (she says so humbly). It’s chewy and briny and SO yummy. If you’re having trouble finding it at the store (I found a nice jar at Trader Joe’s near the olives), feel free to sub some chopped artichokes.

fruits: mango, tomatoes, lime, and avocado – can you say SUMMER?! Mango is one of my all-time favorite summer flavors, yet I never really buy it. It’s SO juicy and sweet, and that bright yellow…forget about it. Pro tip: I used this method for peeling my mangos, and it worked great!

And is it really a vegan salad without avocado? Answer: no. It pairs so incredibly well with those garlic chips we’ll make!

protein: chickpeas and hemp hearts – I just adore chickpeas in salad, and they’re a great way to really make this a “salad for dinner” kinda salad. Nothing’s worse than eating a dinner salad and then getting hungry a whole 5 minutes later. No thank you.

And the hemp hearts…I just think they look pretty sprinkled over the top. #eatprettyfood

herbs: mint and cilantro – OK, this is my favorite part about this salad. WHOLE leaves of cilantro and big, gigunda chunks of mint are thrown in with the romaine. Using fresh herbs are part of your salad greens is such an easy way to add some freshness to the final product.

other goodies: olive oil, honey/maple syrup, and salt+pepper – for a simple dressing! I know what’s going to happen: you’re going to make this dressing, and you’re going to be like, “This blogger lady has no freakin’ clue what she’s talking about. This isn’t enough to cover this salad!” But friends, trust me. It’s going to be enough to coat everything just enough and really let the other ingredients shine. An overpowering salad dressing (or worse, a soggy salad) is never a good thing!

But this salad…this salad is all the good things. [insert heart-eyed emoji here]

Caribbean Rainbow Salad: topped with all kinds of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and herbs! It's the ultimate vegan and gluten free summer salad! || recipe

Caribbean Rainbow Salad: topped with all kinds of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and herbs! It's the ultimate vegan and gluten free summer salad! || recipe

Is it weird to just want to have a salad on repeat morning, noon, and night? Because that’s what this salad will do to you.

Best part? YOU CAN MAKE IT AHEAD OF TIME! A few hours before serving, do your chopping and tossing, and then add the avocado and garlic chips right before serving. Holla. Best picnic, party, or get-together ever.

Caribbean Rainbow Salad
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2-3 servings
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 lime, juiced plus ½ per person
  • 1 tsp. honey (or maple syrup for vegans)
  • 1 small-medium head romaine, chopped
  • 1 mango, cut into strips
  • 3 green onions, finely sliced
  • 2 stalks hearts of palm, chopped*
  • 10 mini heirloom tomatoes (or your favorite tomatoes), sliced into circles
  • 1 handful cilantro, leaves only**
  • 10 large mint leaves, roughly chopped into big chunks
  • 1 avocado, thinly sliced
  • 1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • salt + pepper
  • hemp hearts, for topping
  1. Place 1 Tbsp. olive oil and sliced garlic in a small sauce pan, turning to coat the garlic slices in oil. Over medium heat, cook the garlic until it becomes dark and crisp (see second photo). Remove each slice and place on a small plate as it browns, and make sure none of the slices burn. After all garlic is removed, remove oil from heat.
  2. Measure ½ Tbsp. of the garlic oil and add it to the bottom of a large bowl. Add another 1 Tbsp. plain olive oil, the juice of 1 lime, and honey/maple syrup. Season with salt + pepper, and whisk to combine.
  3. Add romaine, mango, green onion, hearts of palm, tomatoes, cilantro, mint, avocado, and chickpeas to the same bowl, and toss to coat.
  4. Roughly chop your garlic chips and sprinkle them on top of the salad. Season with additional salt + pepper, and sprinkle the salad with hemp hearts.
  5. Serve with a half lime per person for juicing and another small drizzle of olive oil if desired.
*If you can't find hearts of palm (I got mine at Trader Joe's by the olives), you can sub artichokes in a pinch.
**If you're a cilantro hater, use basil! Roughly chop it and use it in place of the cilantro.


Inspired by my one true restaurant love, Kaya.

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  • Reply Marina @ A Dancer's Live-It May 23, 2016 at 7:48 AM

    Sooooo I need to make this and pretend I’m on an island because it looks THAT good. I often scream when food tastes good too and I leave everyone else highly confused….glad to know I’m not alone! ;)

    • Reply Alexa [] May 29, 2016 at 7:47 PM

      Haha thanks, Marina! You’re definitely not along in your overzealous reactions towards yummy foods ;)

  • Reply Erin @ The Almond Eater May 23, 2016 at 8:36 AM

    This salad! These photos! I can’t. I also really need to go to Kaya…. now I have super high expectations so it better be amazing ;)

  • Reply Gretchen | Gretchruns May 23, 2016 at 2:11 PM

    Ugh this looks amazing! I’m all about Caribbean flavors lately thanks to my trip, so I will have to try this one out :) (p.s. I’ve never been to Kaya….so we might have to fix that. We need to hang out soon anyway, so two birds with one stone?!)

  • Reply Kellen McAvoy May 23, 2016 at 2:33 PM

    This pictures are absolutely stunning! I still haven’t tried hemp hearts yet but I have a bag in my cupboard. I’ll have to make this and try them out :)

    • Reply Alexa [] May 29, 2016 at 7:50 PM

      Aw thanks, Kellen! I think you’ll love hemp hearts! They barely taste like anything, but they pack such an awesome nutritional punch! In love!

  • Reply Megan May 23, 2016 at 4:48 PM

    I love how fresh and vibrant this looks. Your photography is on point!

    • Reply Alexa [] May 29, 2016 at 7:51 PM

      Thanks so much, Megan! I think half the fun is definitely in eating it :)

  • Reply Lucia @ The Foodwright May 23, 2016 at 5:47 PM

    Gorgeous, photos, Alexa! This salad is so pretty! Sounds so delicious and tropical!

  • Reply Liz May 23, 2016 at 6:32 PM

    Can’t get over that avocado— I just want to eat it up right now! OHHMMYYGEEE loveeee Kaya! They really know how to bring out the flavor in all their dishes. And this looks absolutely fabulous— can’t wait to try!

    • Reply Alexa [] May 29, 2016 at 7:52 PM

      Ahh that avo is SO good! And we might just have to venture over to Kaya when you’re here this summer! Which is SO soon!! :D

  • Reply Kristy @ Southern In Law May 23, 2016 at 7:40 PM

    This looks incredible! So many awesome flavours and textures!

    I don’t think I’ve ever tried hearts of palm – but now I’m totally intrigued!

    • Reply Alexa [] May 29, 2016 at 7:52 PM

      Thanks so much, Kristy! Hearts of palm add such an interesting texture to salads – I love throwing it in whenever I have the chance!

  • Reply jill conyers May 24, 2016 at 4:06 AM

    Alexa this looks so good. So many of my favorite foods in one bowl. If I come visit you will make this right.

  • Reply Becca @ Fork in the Kitchen May 28, 2016 at 9:07 PM

    This sounds amazing, Alexa! Cannot wait to try it – loving all the fresh, summer flavors!

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