This Is the Easiest-Ever Way to Make a Mason Jar Salad

Mason jar salads are the portable, practical, and healthy solution to your sad desk-lunch problem.

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Salads make an excellent weekday lunch. With the right combination of grains, protein, and leafy greens, they fill you up without weighing you down and give you the energy you need to power through the afternoon.

Packing the salad, however, is where it gets tricky. Dress the salad too early, and it becomes soggy by the time lunch rolls around. Storing the dressing in an extra container makes for clunky transportation (and the possibility of leakage). Mason jar salads to the rescue!

These compact salads lend themselves to a weekend meal prep routine where you make multiple salads on the weekend to use throughout the workweek. Provided you layer ingredients in the correct mason jar salad order, they conveniently store in the fridge for days. Also, your cooked grains, beans, and proteins will soak up some of the flavors of the dressing (while leaving your greens and toppings sog-free). Ready to try one for yourself? Here's how to make a salad in a mason jar the right way.

What You Need:

  • Wide-mouth mason jar (or another container) with a lid
  • Salad dressing
  • Crunchy veggies
  • Beans or grains (optional)
  • Protein (optional)
  • Greens
  • Toppings (optional)
  • Large salad bowl for serving and a fork for enjoying

Ingredients for a mason jar salad vary widely, so customize yours with what you like and/or what's on hand.

How to Assemble a Mason Jar Salad

How to Make a Mason Jar Salad

Sarah Ferone

Step 1: Select a Jar

The optimal container for this salad is a wide-mouth, glass mason jar with a screw-on lid. (You don't need a two-piece canning lid like the ones often sold with mason jars, although it would work fine.) The wide-mouth style works best for pouring out your salad at lunchtime, as the regular-mouth jars tend to cause backups.

Mason jars are commonly sold in pint (16-ounce) and quart (32-ounce) sizes, and occasionally you'll find a pint-and-a-half size. Which size to choose is up to you: A quart jar is best for a meal-sized salad while pints work great for side salads or smaller appetites. You can also find a half-gallon (64-ounce) sized mason jar, which is great for toting to a potluck or serving a big family.

Truth be told, it doesn't have to be a mason jar or even a glass jar. Alternatively, you can repurpose a peanut butter or pickle jar for salad duty, or even use a tall plastic container with a snap-on lid, as long as it keeps the salad's layers intact.

Step 2: Add Dressing

Essentially, salad dressing goes at the bottom of the jar, and the greens sit at the top, ensuring they don't touch until you're ready to dig in. A vinaigrette works great, as does any kind of creamy dressing, pesto, guacamole, or salsa.

If using tomatoes, add them at this point since they're liquid-y and need to stay away from the leafy greens. They'll retain their texture while mingling with the dressing.

Step 3: Add Crunchy Vegetables

Add crunchy veggies—carrots, celery, cucumbers, or bell peppers—to the jar on top of the dressing, which allows them to marinate and soak in flavor. More options are olives, shredded carrot or cabbage, red onion, radishes, corn, edamame, broccoli, cauliflower...need we go on?

Whatever you use, make sure this layer covers the dressing—ensuring the next layer's ingredients aren't swimming in dressing—especially if your next layer is greens and you're skipping the rest, like for a side salad.

Step 4: Add Beans and/or Grains

Next, pile on heartier ingredients like cooked beans, lentils, beets, peas, sweet potato, or chickpeas. Cooked grains—quinoa, rice, bulgur wheat, farro, couscous, or pasta—are another option. This layer shouldn't be drenched in dressing, but floating atop it is OK.

You could add diced or sliced avocado here (or to subsequent layers), but it warrants a caveat. Before adding, coat the slices with lemon or lime juice to keep it from turning brown. Even using this tactic, it may only last a couple of days in the jar. Alternatively, add freshly cut avocado just before serving.

Step 5: Add a Protein

To make this salad a meal, add cubed tofu, cheese, hard-boiled egg, canned tuna, or cooked shrimp, chicken, turkey, ham, or beef. Of course, you can skip this layer if making a side salad.

Step 6: Add Greens

Pack in the greens! This is where you really fill up the volume of your jar. If your ingredients are less than packed, there's a chance your carefully assembled layers at the top will mingle with the bottom layer, which we don't want to happen until serving time.

Just about any kind of leafy greens work here—iceberg, romaine, spinach, arugula, or a packaged mix—but you have more options. Instead of greens, swap in zoodles (zucchini noodles), a bagged slaw mix, or sprouts.

Step 7: Add Toppings

Croutons, nuts, and seeds—like walnuts, pecans, pepitas, sunflower seeds, or hemp seeds—bring a nice crunch to your salad. Branch out and experiment with tortilla strips, crunchy fried onions, or bacon bits. This layer, along with the greens, is the one we want entirely separated from the dressing.

Step 8: Store in the Fridge

What sets a mason jar salad apart is its layering technique that keeps ingredients fresh for days when stored upright in the fridge. Keep in mind that the following storage times are generalizations based on a very fresh condition when prepared, and your ingredients may vary.

Salads made of just dressing, veggies, and greens can last over 7 days, while salads with animal-based products (like meat and cheese) last up to 5 days. If you include fruit or avocado in your salad, plan on serving it within 3 days.

Step 9: Enjoy!

Ready to serve? Empty your jarred salad into a bowl, and then mix until components are well distributed. You'll find the salad tastes fresh and full of flavor, and all the ingredients retain their crispness and texture.

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