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What is a rainbow parfait?

A rainbow parfait is a colorful layered dessert made by stacking different flavored gelatins, puddings, cookies, fruits, and whipped cream in a clear glass. It’s an eye-catching treat that’s perfect for special occasions or just because. The layers resemble the colors of a rainbow, making it a fun and festive dessert.


The origins of the rainbow parfait are unclear, but layered gelatin desserts became popular in the late 1800s. Gelatin was an affordable and versatile ingredient that allowed creative cooks to make colorful concoctions. The earliest published rainbow parfait recipe appears to be from the 1970s, when parfaits and gelatin desserts experienced a resurgence in popularity. The groovy, psychedelic era embraced bold colors and flavor combinations, which made a multicolored parfait quite fitting.

Making a Rainbow Parfait

Making a rainbow parfait is easy and customizable. The basic technique is layering soft, spoonable ingredients in a clear glass and repeating with different colors and flavors. Here are some tips:

  • Use clear parfait or tall sundae glasses so the layers are visible.
  • Choose gelatins, puddings, mousses, whipped cream, or yogurt for the layers.
  • Select vibrant colors and complementary flavors: strawberry, orange, lemon, lime, raspberry, blueberry, etc.
  • Layer ingredients while still soft and spoonable.
  • Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving to allow layers to set.
  • Top with whipped cream, cookies, fruit, or sprinkles.
  • Use 6-8 layers total for best visual effect.

Gelatin Layer Ideas

Gelatin Flavor Fruit Addition Color
Strawberry Sliced strawberries Red
Orange Mandarin oranges Orange
Lime Lime zest Green
Raspberry Whole raspberries Pink
Blueberry Blueberries Purple

Pudding and Mousse Layer Ideas

  • Chocolate pudding
  • Vanilla pudding
  • Lemon cream
  • Key lime pie filling
  • Piña colada mousse
  • Raspberry mousse
  • Mascarpone cream

Serving Suggestions

Rainbow parfaits make great desserts for parties, potlucks, or Friendsgiving. Here are some serving ideas:

  • Mini parfaits: Make bite-size rainbow parfaits in small plastic cups or shot glasses.
  • Dessert buffet: Arrange full-size parfaits on a tiered dessert stand for self-serve style.
  • Individual servings: Assemble parfaits just before serving by layering ingredients in glasses at the table.
  • Kids’ parties: Rainbow parfaits make a perfect treat for school parties or youth birthday celebrations.
  • Garnish ideas: Top with sprinkles, crushed cookies, toasted coconut, chocolate shavings, fresh berries, maraschino cherries, etc.

Pairing and Presentation Ideas

  • Serve with homemade cookies like snickerdoodles, sugar cookies, or shortbread.
  • Offer bubbles: pair with sparkling wine or Italian soda.
  • Add texture with a granola or streusel topping.
  • Make it boozy: layer with liqueurs like Kahlúa, amaretto, or spiced rum.
  • Use seasonal fruits like peach, mango, and kiwi based on availability.
  • Garnish with fresh edible flowers for an extra pop of color.


A rainbow parfait is the perfect light and refreshing dessert for any occasion. The colorful layers are sure to delight both kids and adults. Feel free to get creative with flavors, textures, and garnishes. Just remember to build the layers while ingredients are still soft and let the parfait chill completely before serving. Top with crunchy cookies, sprinkles, or fruit for some extra fun. Now go make a rainbow!