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 straights. 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 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!
Here is how to make a salad in a jar
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):
- ½ lemon
- 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.
How to Pack a Salad in a Jar
This is the Definitive Guide to Salads in a Jar! Awesome dressings, info on shelf life of produce and everything else you need to know to get it just right.
- 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! 🙂
If you liked this 'how to' guide and love oats, then you've got check out our 'how to make overnight oats in jar guide'. Some of the flavour combos are just incredible!
Salad in a Jar FAQ
How long do certain ingredients stay fresh in the fridge?
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 5 days
- Onion (chopped) – lasts for 7 days
- Scallions (chopped) – lasts for 7 days
- Spinach (fresh)- lasts for 5 days
How long do certain dressings stay fresh in the fridge?
- Yogurt dressings – last for 7 days
- Vinegar and oil based dressings – last for 5 days
- Hummus – lasts for 7 days
With all ingredients in one jar how long does it stay fresh in the fridge?
The salads can stay fresh up to 5 days, even with more delicate ingredients in it. Of course, take note of the ingredients listed above. If you want to make salads that last for 5 days don’t add ingredients that won’t last that long. 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.
What’s the best jar size and where can I buy them?
I recommend getting 700ml jars (ca. 20oz/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 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!
- 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!)
- Summer Sunshine Salad in a Jar (lots of fresh veggies)
- 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!)