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Mason Jar Salads: An Easy, Delicious, Make-Ahead Lunch

Two salads packed in mason jars.
Nataliya Arzamasova/Shutterstock

More healthy veggies, less waste, and a cute rustic vibe all in one? There’s a lot to love about mason jar salads, so make them part of your weekly routine!

Mason jars are more than just a hip drinking vessel or storage container for spare buttons. They’re currently the latest, greatest lunch boxes, too. If you’ve never made a salad in a mason jar, get ready! You’re about to experience a significant shift in your take-to-work-lunch routine.

Best of all, glass is more sustainable than plastic containers. Not only will you not have to worry about chemical leaching, but, unless you drop them, your mason jars will last forever.

How to Layer a Mason Jar Salad

A salad in a mason jar might sound strange, but it’s actually quite clever. The ingredients are layered by weight in the jar. The dressing sits at the bottom with the heaviest, nonabsorbent vegetables directly on top of it.

From there, you put your veggies in based on mass, with the lightest greens completing the layers. So, it looks something like this:

  • 1st Layer: Dressing.
  • 2nd Layer: Nonabsorbent, heavy vegetables, fruits, and hard legumes.
  • 3rd Layer: Grains, like rice or quinoa, if you include them.
  • 4th Layer: Proteins.
  • 5th Layer: Soft vegetables and fruits.
  • 6th Layer: Crumbled or shredded cheese.
  • 7th Layer: Salad greens.

You can adjust these as you prefer, of course. If you try to maintain this order, though, your salad will stay fresh and crisp until you’re ready to eat it.

All-Star Ingredients for Jar Salads (and Those to Avoid)

A mason jar salad loaded with fruits, grains, and vegetables.
Nataliya Arzamasova/Shutterstock

You can put almost any salad ingredient in your jar. We love using steamed or raw broccoli and cauliflower as a dense, nonabsorbent vegetable to sit on top of the dressing. Some other options are chickpeas, raw zucchini, and bell peppers.

Avoid putting things like cucumber at the bottom of your jar. Although they’re hard on the outside, they’re slightly soft when cut and work better as the 5th layer. We also love using quinoa or pearl couscous as our grain, but you don’t have to include a grain at all.

Chicken, turkey, or cold cuts work well in the 4th layer, but try to avoid items like hard-boiled eggs or shrimp if you don’t want an offensive odor to take over the office when your open your jar. The sulfur smell of eggs and the scent of seafood tend to permeate really quickly.

Just about anything will work for the top layer, except avocado. While it’s an excellent salad topper and sits nicely in the 5th layer, it will turn brown over time. Remember, the dressing (which contains acid) is also at the bottom of the jar.

Acid is typically what keeps an avocado from oxidizing on your salad. While a sealed jar and refrigeration will slow the process, we don’t recommend you prep a week’s worth of jar salads if you’re using avocado. By midweek, your 5th layer will turn from green to black.

FAQs About Mason Jar Salads

Now that you know how to build your delicious mason jar salad, there are still a few points worth covering. That’s why we’ve included some of the most common questions about mason jar salads below.

How Far in Advance Can I Prep a Mason Jar Salad?

How far in advance you prep your salad is determined by the ingredients you want to include. We already covered how to prep salads with avocados above. Generally, we recommend you prep your mason jar salad no more than five days in advance.

This assuming all your produce is at its peak, of course. If it’s been in your fridge a few days already, well, a salad is only as fresh as its oldest ingredient (with the exception of cheese).

What Kind of Jar Should I Use?

We recommend a 32 oz., wide-mouth mason jar. That might sound large, but salad greens take up a lot of room. The wide-mouth also makes it easier to load (and eat) your salad.

We also recommend you pick up some stainless-steel, rust-proof lids. The lids that come with the jars are for canning, and they come in two pieces (the ring and the lid itself). They’re a hassle to deal with and also tend to rust after multiple uses. That’s why stainless steel is the better bet.

You can also get plastic lids if you prefer.

How Do I Eat This?

Okay, this might seem like a silly question, but a jar is a unique form of transportation when it comes to mixed greens. Unlike a wide Tupperware container, in which your salad is already mixed when you crack it open, this is a wee bit different.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Make sure the lid is tightly closed.
  2. Shake the jar until the dressing coats everything inside.
  3. Pour the contents onto a plate or into a bowl and eat! Of course, you can also just eat it right out of the jar.

Easy, right? Mason jar salads are the perfect way to meal-prep for a week of healthy lunches. Not only will you feel like you did your body right, but you’ll also cut down on packaging waste. We’d argue that nothing tops that!

Lauren Sakiyama Lauren Sakiyama
Lauren Sakiyama is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience in the hospitality industry. She has managed restaurants, country clubs, and large-scale event operations, but her passion has always been about the food. Read Full Bio »

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