How to Pack a Salad in a Jar + 21 Stunning Recipes
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Lunchtime at work can be annoying at times. Some colleagues want to go the Italian restaurant with the unfriendly staff and their super heavy pasta dishes again.
Others want to grab something from the supermarket. But it’s a little expensive and not exactly satisfying either.
Yes, we’re in dire straits. And that’s why I want to show you how to make a salad in a jar (also known as mason jar salad)!
Of course, bringing your own lunch to work is not the newest idea in the world, but this way of doing it is healthy, time saving, money saving and really tasty.
In theory you could prepare lunch for the whole work week in about 45 minutes on a Sunday. The only thing you need are 5 mason jars (or lunchboxes) and enough space in the refrigerator.
The idea is pretty simple: start with filling a dressing into a jar and then layer various ingredients like greens, veggies, rice and cheese on top.
Keep those jars in the fridge until you need them. Grab a bowl and empty the jar. The dressing will then cover the whole salad. Done.
Sounds easy? Well, it is! To get you a little inspired I’ve put together a step-by-step tutorial plus 21 awesome recipes to try out! Alright then, let’s start!
What is a mason jar?
A mason jar is a glass jar with a screw-on metal lid. They were historically used for canning / preserving food such as jams and pickled vegetables.
However, they have recently been given a new lease of life as a lunch box / drinking vessel.
They are often proposed as an eco-friendly alternative to tupperware. Another, even thriftier and eco friendly option would be to reuse old jam jars!
How to make a salad in a jar: the ultimate guide!
Time needed: 30 minutes.
- Layer 1:
Important! First add the dressing into the jar. You can take any type of dressing. If you add the dressing later, ingredients that you’d much rather stay dry might get soggy.
We don’t want that. This is particularly important when you prepare glasses for several days.
Alternatively you can keep the ingredients for a quick dressing at work and just prepare right before you eat.
Here are my favourite three dressings to get you started:
Refreshing sweet and sour dressing (enough for 2 jars):
1 tbsp honey
5 tbsps olive oil
Pinch of cumin
Pinch of salt
Couple of chili flakes (or dried cayenne pepper will do the trick nicely)
Honey Mustard Dressing (enough for 2 jars):
4 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp mustard
2 tsp maple syrup (or honey for non-vegans)
Salt and pepper to taste
Asian Style Peanut Butter Dressing (enough for 2 jars):
1 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp honey or maple syrup to make it vegan
1 tbsp vinegar or lemon
2-3 tbsp water
A pinch or two of chopped or grated ginger (dried is fine)
- Layer 2:
Now enter crisp ingredients such as tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, asparagus, celery, peppers, carrots into the jar.
This level is important to “protect” the other ingredients from getting soggy. Best are vegetables that you can imagine pickled in vinegar.
- Layer 3:
This level is for ingredients that should not necessarily swim in dressing, but it’s also not a drama if they do get wet.
Some ideas would be mushrooms, zucchini, beans, lentils, peas, corn, broccoli and so on.
- Layer 4:
More delicate ingredients such as hard boiled eggs and cheese (feta, gouda, cheddar etc.) can be added now.
- Layer 5:
Now it’s time to add something more substantial! From rice over pasta to more exotic ingredients like quinoa or couscous, use anything you like to “seal” the jar.
- Layer 6:
Finally we’ve arrived at the last level with ingredients that are less palatable when wet (cool word, eh?). These include nuts and greens such as lettuce, spinach or arugula.
Now just close the jar or the lunch box and place it in the refrigerator. Each morning, pick one and off you go to work.
The variations for salads in a jar are as endless as the universe. Also, heretics are welcome: no need to follow these 6 levels religiously! Think of it rather as an entry-level guide.
- Clean jars with lid (around 24oz/ 700ml)
- Layer 1: your favourite dressing
- Layer 2: tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, asparagus, celery, peppers, carrots
- Layer 3: mushrooms, zucchini, beans, lentils, peas, corn, broccoli
- Layer 4: boiled eggs and cheese (feta, gouda, cheddar etc.)
- Layer 5: rice, pasta, quinoa or couscous
- Layer 6: nuts and greens as lettuce, spinach or arugula.
- Get all the ingredients ready, meaning cut, peel, wash the veggies/fruits. Boil the pasta, quinoa or rice.
- Prepare the dressing(s).
- Once everything is laid out chuck all the ingredients according to the layers into the jars. Then lid on top and off they go into the fridge. As easy as that.
- You’ll be a meal prepping master in no time! 🙂
Salad in a Jar FAQs
Make sure the jar is fully sealed, store it in the refrigerator and eat it within 4-5 days! Layer your ingredients wisely: anything that isn’t nice when soggy (ie. leafy greens, nuts) should go at the very top of the jar, far away from the dressing.
4 – 5 days. Of course, this depends on the ingredients you use – some last longer than others.
Personally, I prepare three jars to last me till Wednesday and then I make another two for the Thursday and Friday or switch to an entirely different lunch.
To easily store and transport their lunch! You can store a salad in a mason jar for up to 5 days in the fridge, so, with a bit of meal prep, you can have lunch ready in no time.
There is also an environmental reason behind mason jars: if you already have them in the house, they are a more sustainable food container than a new plastic tupperware!
First, mix the dressing in the bottom of the jar. The rest of the layers must be organised according to what can handle getting wet and what would go soggy. So start with crisp chopped veggies such as tomatoes, carrots and cucumber.
Then add any cooked vegetables or legumes that you might want to use. After this, layer cheese or egg, if you are using them. Then layer any grains you might want such as cooked rice, quinoa or bulgar wheat.
Finally, pack in some leafy greens and/or a sprinkling of nuts and seeds (these are the ingredients that really can’t get soggy!)
Here’s a list of the most common ingredients for a salad in a jar. If you have more ingredients you’re not sure about, I recommend having a look at Eat by Date, a very helpful website on shelf life.
Asparagus (fresh or cooked) – lasts for 5 days
Avocado – this is a tricky fruit. One option is to not add it to the salad when serving. If you add avocado into the jar make sure to coat it with lime beforehand. Then it lasts for 2 days.
Beans (cooked) – last for 5 days
Bean sprouts – last for 3 days
Feta cheese – last for 7 days
Hard boiled eggs – You can add them to the salad right away. Peeled hard boiled eggs last for 2 days. A better idea is to add one to the salad just before serving. Hard boiled eggs with peel last for 1 week in the fridge.
Lettuce (chopped) – lasts for 4 days
Mozzarella cheese – last for 7 days
Mushrooms (fresh, sliced) – last for 5 days
Pasta (cooked) – lasts for 7 days
Peas (cooked) – last for 5 days
Rice (cooked) – lasts for 4 days
Onion (chopped) – lasts for 7 days
Scallions (chopped) – lasts for 7 days
Spinach (fresh)- lasts for 5 days
NOTE: Of course check always for yourself if the foods are still good. Do the sniff test and all that. These are just ballpark numbers. Cheerio!
Yogurt dressings last for 7 days. Vinegar and oil based dressings last for 5 days. Hummus lasts for 7 days.
I recommend getting 700ml jars (ca. 24oz/1.5 pint) to make sure you’ll have a satisfying lunch. Most popular and certainly well suited for Salads in a Jar are classic “Mason Jars”. You can buy them here on Amazon and in well-stocked home improvement stores.
Personally I use empty pickles jars. Those a big and “for free”. It meant I had to eat many pickles though, haha. And of course I get minus points in the category of “style”.
Got any questions about salads in a jar that I haven’t covered yet? Just let me know in the comments and I’ll try to answer them.
Alright, now you know pretty much everything about salads in a jar. It’s time for some recipe inspiration, isn’t it? Here are 21 awesome salads in a jar for you to try out!
- Vegetarian Ramen Noodle Salad (healthy, high-protein, delicious!)
- Rainbow Mason Jar Salad (includes chickpeas, feta & quinoa)
- Cruciferous Salad with Asian Sesame Dressing (common ingredients, different taste!)
- Mexican Salad in a Jar (includes tacos for an extra crunch!)
- Peach Tomato Basil Salad (light and refreshing)
- Deconstructed Sushi Jar (quick, easy, delicious!)
- Layered 7-Bean Salad in a Jar (for those with an extra need of protein)
- Rainbow Salad in a Jar with Hummus (the dressing is a pretty cool avocado hummus mixture!)
- Italian Orzo Salad (this recipe doesn’t follow the “classic” instructions, but we’re not set in just one way, are we?)
- Rainbow Fruit Salad in a Jar (lots of fruits and a cool yogurt dressing!)
- Paradise in a Jar Salad (another one with fruits, nuts and a lemon yogurt dressing)
- Mason Jar Zucchini Pasta Salad (if you’re into zoodles!)
- Wheat Berry and Blistered Tomato Mason Jar Salad (deffo a fancy pants version)
- Pesto Pasta Salad (a classic)
- Chopped Black Bean and Corn Salad (the ingredients fill exactly 5 jars)
- Asian Noodle Salad Jar (the dressing looks awesome!)
- Guacamole Mason Jar Recipe (very light as is. You’ll need some bread with it I think)
- Quinoa Pear Spinach Salad in a Jar (definitely a refreshing combo of ingredients!)
- High Protein Salad in a Jar (lentils do the trick here)
- Sprouted Spring Salad in a Jar (easy, filling and quickly put together)
- Wheat Berry Apple Salad in a Jar (with body, sweet, tangy and sour. Cool combo!)
This is such a great post! I love the tutorial you gave. And thank you SO much for including my “out of the box/jar” orzo salad! We love it so much and it’s awesome cold or at room temp so a great lunch salad.
Thank a lot, Sophia!!
Yes, I remembered your orzo salad from a couple of weeks ago, so I thought it could go well here 🙂
I love all the other ideas too! SO good!
What an informative post. Thank you for including my Paradise in a Jar Salad. You have a fantastic website/blog and I will be checking back often.
Hi Amy!! Thanks for stopping by! Your salad is awesome, would’ve been a shame not to add it. 😀
Fabulous inspiration, thank you! I started trying to eliminate starchy carbs a while back and needed ideas to replace sandwich lunches, and these are perfect 🙂
Yes, reducing starchy carbs on a veggie diet can be a bit of a challenge. We’ll very soon make an update on this post as well :-))
I don’t know why I’ve never tried salad in a jar. It makes so much sense and great for picnics, not to mention it makes for great presentation. Thanks for all of the inspiration!
Mason jar salads are the best! I love the layers in yours. Thanks for including my summer sunshine salad in a mason jar. 🙂
Love this post – probably my favourite so far! I see salads in a jar everywhere – but was never sure how to layer them.
Love the photos done as a pair all the way through. Very detailed explanations are so helpful. Pinning!
What a cool idea to make and keep the salad in a jar!
I liked it so much 🙂 I have plenty of jar to try one day. I can make a family salad jar table 🙂
How do you then eat them? Stick the fork in the jar and mix or do you dump it in a bowl first?
Both is possible, Fawn!
You can shake the jar and then just munch away or throw everything into a bowl 🙂
Love those layering step by step photos! Gorgeous salad layers 🙂
I love food in jars. Salad, oatmeal. All great and so portable and healthy!
What a great post! I love salad in jars. It’s so great for picnics or for work. 🙂
There is seriously NO excuse not to try this, especially all the information you included! Quite the extensive list of combinations and such a great idea to include the Q&A.
This is a great idea! So, how do you eat them? Pour them out into a bowl or just mix in the jar and eat?
Both is possible (you could shake the salad in a jar), but I’d go for the bowl. Easier to eat 😀
What a wonderful guide! I’ll definitely have to keep this in mind next time I pack a salad 😉
Do you vacuum the jars? And if not then do you think the ingredients will last longer if I do?
Good question Melanie! Nope, I don’t vacuum them. And unfortunately I don’t know if it will help you making the ingredients last for longer. But I’ll ask around. Should be possible to get an answer on that 😉
Awesome post – am going to link it on my facebook page
Thanks a ton Melissa! Glad you found it helpful 🙂
What an interesting and beautiful idea! A must try!
Awesome you like the idea 😀
Thanks for the guide, just wondering in the dressing, which vinegar do you mean?
you could use both balsamic vinegar or regular vinegar. But for those particular dressings better go for regular vinegar 🙂
Love this guide!! Started taking salads to work last week after reading it & it worked so well!! It’s now my go-to salad guide. Thanks guys!☺☺
These are absolutely gorgeous!
Do you eat it from the jar? Or dump onto a plate? I’m wanting to make this for my Art and craft shows I’m in.
Ah cool stuff, Shane!
Both would be possible. You could just shake to spread the dressing and eat right out of the jar.
Personally, I like dumping the salad on a plate though 🙂
Could you use store bought guacamole as the base instead of dressing?
Yes you could, if you ate the salad within a day. I’m not sure how it is with store bought guac, but usually it’s not really tasty anymore the following day, if not sealed off properly. Well, now that I think of it, you could add guac into the jar first and then “seal” it with a thin layer of olive oil. Then all the other ingredients on top. Probably that way it’s fine for another day or two. But all in all, guacamole is best, when it’s fresh 🙂
I liked this ‘tutorial’ very much, it was very detailed including the pictures. And I also liked the ‘bonus’ dressing recipes you gave.
Thank you, Kelly! Glad you found it so useful. We have a few other ‘how tos’ you might like as well – acai bowls – https://hurrythefoodup.com/how-to-make-acai-bowl/ and Buddha bowls – https://hurrythefoodup.com/how-to-make-a-buddha-bowl/ – are a couple of faves 🙂
Hi these look lovely. I tired making. Salad jar the other day and this site told me to put lettuce at the bottom then onion, the tomatoes and cucumber but in day 3 the cucumber looked funny. Going to try your way this time.
Thank you! made one yesterday and loved it.
Hello and let me tell you….you are a life saver…I love this blog…it’s so hekpful..I have started using your salads in z jar…and have gone mad about it….I do miss some meat protein though… could I add chicken,, beef , prawns, tuna to any if these salads and if yes what shelf life would they have?? Thanks so much in advance
Ah, reaally cool you enjoy the suggestions from this article, Elena!!
Hmm, difficult to say about the shelf. I’d be a bit more careful with seafood. Chicken is ok for 2-3 days. All in all I wouldn’t make salads in a jar with meat more than one day ahead. One jar today, one tomorrow. Done 🙂
This might be a silly question–or someone might have already asked?–but how much dressing do you put in each jar? I was wondering, in case I decided to use a store bought dressing. Thank you for sharing the recipes, by the way!
You’re very welcome, Mila! I’d say decide individually. Around 0.5 to 1 cm of dressing per jar is definitely enough 🙂
Our family has simplified weekly salad prep. Using a mason jar is pretty but not practical since you don’t eat out of the jar. It’s just the storage vessel, but you still have to transfer contents onto a plate, bowl, etc.
We prefer containers you can prepare, store, transfer, and out of which you can eat. We use 3-cup rectangular glass containers with lids by Pyrex which allows us to separate chopped vegetables from the salad base.
Having on hand a variety of smaller containers with lids is useful for toppings we want to stay more crisp.
Most of our salad combinations are so flavorful, we don’t really need dressing. However, we just mix up a jar of dressing suited to the salad and on the day, add it to the Pyrex container.
The best part is being able to eat out of it.
Aahh! That is also really smart. Yes, it would keep the veggies crispier for longer. Actually I also switched mostly to glass containers. But mostly because they are just the right size 🙂
Can you omit Layer 5: rice, pasta, quinoa or couscous? I like a salad for my evening meal but don’t eat carbs at that meal. Or can you suggest another alternative for this layer that isn’t a carb?
Yes, for sure! Definitely leave it out if you so wish. Or what about cauliflower rice for low-carb instead? We cover how to make it here 🙂 https://hurrythefoodup.com/how-to-make-a-burrito-bowl/
Hi – fabulous idea. What about beetroot, I always find it difficult when peeping salad in advance. Also don’t the tomatoes go soft? I thought uncut cherry tomatoes may stay fresher?? Thanks
Hi Brenda. The cherry tomatoes could definitely stay whole! I personally prefer them like that, too :). I’ve never tried beets in this – but yes, why not? Everything would definitely look pretty 😀
Is this a vegan website(and obviously recipe)?
If yes, how come you add egg and cheese?
Nope, we’re a vegetarian website. Some recipes contain egg and/or dairy and honey 🙂
But many recipes are vegan
This is an awesome idea…what about meat, bacon or ham? should those be last?
Haha well, on this site we’d say never ;). But if it must be in there, then definitely keep it last and at the top 🙂
Thank you for sharing very informative posts to people. You are all blessings to many.
I happened onto your page by accident when I googled salads in a jar. Very helpful and I can’t wait to go to the store to buy fresh stuff for the jar. I see a lot of ingredients but I curious, what is something, if anything, that someone might have said does not do well?
Karen! So glad you found us 😀
Glad you found the article helpful. I’m not sure I understand your question though, I’m afraid 🙁
Hi, this looks lovely. Do you have to seal the lids onto the jars?
Hi Ana, no not all – just screw them on tight and you’ll be fine 🙂
For the love of Bob. Why in the heck would I want to put a salad in a mason jar, when there are actual bowls with lids out there as reusable plastic containers or even glass if you’re trying to get plastic out of your life? Mason jars are great for storing buttons, marbles, candy, leftover sauces, soups, broth, etc. But putting salad in them has got to be one of the kookiest ideas the internet has come up with yet.
Hi Audrey! Well, what’s the advantage of a plastic or glass container over a mason jar or similar? Plus, I think it’s a bit prettier with these jars. And that’s part of the fun as well, indeed! 🙂
I love this concept but are you aware eating 5 day old cooked rice could possibly kill you?
Further to my previous comment, rice carries spores that can be highly toxic..
“When the rice is cooked, the spores can survive. Then, if the rice is left standing at room temperature, the spores will multiply and may produce poisons that cause vomiting or diarrhoea.
“Reheating the rice won’t get rid of these poisons.
“So, the longer cooked rice is left at room temperature, the more likely it is that poisons produced could stop the rice being safe to eat.
“It’s best to serve rice when it has just been cooked. If that isn’t possible, cool the rice as quickly as possible (ideally within one hour) and keep it in the fridge for no more than one day until reheating.”
So even chilled it should only be kept for one day.
Hi Marc! Thanks for your comments. I’ve looked into it again and I agree rice is best when served right away. Regarding how long it will last: yep at room temperature it should be eaten within a day. Maybe there have been cases when this happened even after refridgerating cooked rice. But from my experience and from reading various sources 4-6 days should be fine.
Whoa! That sounds awesome! We love salad . Thanks for the tip!
Thanks for the tip! That is beautiful !
Wow I start a new job next week and was looking for healthy lunches on the go as I may be doing yard duty at lunch time. You are my saviour for eating healthy and not relying on sandwiches everyday. Thankyou my friend.
Awesome!! Very happy to make things easier for you, Donna 🙂
I am really in to salad! I am the happiest when I saw your blog! I can’t wait to make some of these salads! Thanks for sharing!
Hi, Thank you so much for the good read I really learnt a lot.
You’re welcome, Ryan!
Thank you for sharing such a nice way to packing salad.
Hi, thank you for all the perfect details for salad in a jar. My husband is a long haul truck driver and can not always find a salad at a truck stop. These are perfect for him! I already cook all his meals at home, vacuum seal them, then freeze them. This way he has portion sizes and can just “nuke” them. You salad in a jar ideas are perfect to go with his meals. Thank you!!
Really happy to help! Sounds like they’ll work perfectly for the long trips. Thank you for writing, your comment is appreciated!
I grow my own sprouts and microgreens. While I would put my delicate microgreens at the top, which layer do you recommend putting bean sprouts?
Hi Susanne! I think I’d put them in at level 3 or 4. At 4 they should stay dry, at 3 they may get a little wet (but also get a nice taste from the dressing). So whichever you prefer the sound of really.
These are great recipes.
I read it in 2016, still applicable to cooking now.
Great! Thanks for the sharing!
Hope the page grows stronger and stronger!
Thank you!! Very kind of you to say, and glad it’s been helpful over the years 🙂
Just awesome ! I work full time and single mum so these ares great for me !
Happy to help! They really do make a super-speedy lunch 🙂
Hi thank you for all this scrumptious information. Was given a Kilner salad jar for Christmas and just for my own information starting looking up recipes. Found you and must say how kind to be so generous with all your knowledge and recipes.
Hi Katie! We’re happy to help and that’s awesome you’ve found a way to use your Christmas present! Enjoy the salads, and thank you for writing 🙂
These look inspiring! Starting a new position and looking forward to trying these out!
Awesome! Let us know your favorite combination!
Brilliantly explained, and I love the recipe ideas. Off to buy some jars of pickle…
Brilliant!! I hope your salads turn out tasty!!
Best article I’ve found on the internet regarding salad jars and has given me inspiration to do them!
Can you put shredded/pulled chicken in one, and if so, which layer would it go in? The egg/cheese layer…?
Hi Emma, thank you! Yes, I’d add it to the egg/cheese layer 🙂
This is such an awesome tutorial. Especially showing how many days each item lasts. Very helpful. Mason Jar Salads are so convenient and a great way to use up leftovers too! I can’t wait to try all of your recipes. Thank you!
Thanks a lot Jan! Really glad you find it helpful. Agreed Mason jars are excellent!