5 Easy, Quick Steps to Making Mason Jar Salads

by Elle Penner, MPH, RD
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5 Easy, Quick Steps to Making Mason Jar Salads

By now you’ve likely seen them all over the Internet, in magazines and on your co-workers’ desks at lunch. Mason jar salads have quickly become a thing because, as it turns out, they’re a perfect, portable solution for getting in your greens while on the go.

Another reason to love them? You can make four or five at a time–enough to get you through the entire workweek without having to painstakingly chop and assemble all of your salad ingredients every day.

But before you start assembling, you’ll need to get the right jars. Mason jars are affordable and easy to find. They come in all different sizes, but hearty salad-lovers will want to pick up several of the larger, quart-sized jars. You can order them online or grab some from home stores like Walmart, Target or Cost Plus/World Market (in the U.S.). You might even be able to find them at local grocery and hardware stores.

Start with the Dressing

The secret to great mason jar salads lies in the layering, so it’s best to start with the dressing. After all, the longer those ingredients mingle, the more flavor your dressing will have. If you’re short on time, bottled dressing will do in a pinch, but homemade salad dressings are quick and easy, and often more affordable and healthier than store-bought stuff. Many contain just a handful of ingredients, which you likely already have on hand. (If you don’t yet have a go-to vinaigrette, try one of these!)

If you’re planning to eat your salad within a day or two, the dressing can go straight into the bottom of the jar (about 2-3 tablespoons for a quart-sized salad; 1-2 tablespoons for pint-size). If you’ll be keeping it longer than that, consider storing the dressing separately in travel-friendly, 2-ounce containers.

Chop Your Resilient Veggies

Resilient veggies are those that can hold their own in the bottom of the jar–meaning they won’t get soggy, and can handle the pressure of having other, lighter ingredients layered on top. Some to consider: raw onion (letting these sit in the dressing will mellow them out a bit), bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, snap peas, grape tomatoes, olives and artichoke hearts. If you’re feeling a little fruity, grapes and diced apples hold up well, too–just sprinkle a little lemon juice onto the apples first to keep them from browning if you won’t be eating it right away.

Pack in Some Protein

For a more satisfying salad with staying power, layer some lean protein on top of your resilient veggies. Some to consider: chopped hard-boiled eggs, diced chicken breast (or deli meat), canned tuna or salmon, and cooked beans or chickpeas.

Grab Your Greens

Next, cover your resilient veggies and protein with a good handful (or two) of greens. Packing the greens tightly will help keep ingredients in place. Darker varieties pack more nutrients, so skip the iceberg and mix dark greens like kale, spinach or spring mix with chopped romaine.

Top it Off

With your mason jar mostly full, now is the time to sprinkle on your favorite toppings. These can be croutons, shredded cheeses, nuts, seeds and more delicate ingredients like berries and sprouts.

When it’s time to dig in, pour your salad onto a plate or into a bowl, or shake things up and enjoy it right from the jar. Just don’t forget to pack a fork if you’ll be eating it on the go!


  • ellie

    Love this idea! I am going to try this. Thank you.

  • Great ideas!

  • Mônica

    Love it!

  • Janice P

    How long will a salad keep with and w/o dressing?

    • Grammy2

      I’ve made 5-6 jars on Sunday, refrigerate all with the sealed lids. Not sure how this works but using the seal lids and ring covers, it vacuum-packs the jars. When I opened on the 6th day, it was as fresh and crunchy as the day I packed it.

      • NB

        Mine have been as good as day one 10 days after the initial prep. Mine do not contain meat and I wait to dress them until I eat them. I use cabbage (both red and green) and lacinato kale as my greens.

      • Jennifer Kolb Farnsworth

        How did you get a seal on it Without heating up the jar and lid?


          I’m assuming the temperature change inside the jar creates a vacuum inside, sealing it.

          • LadyWriter

            No, the canning process is what creates the vacuum. Merely using a canning jar and lid for storing salads and other foods isn’t going to create a vacuum.

    • connie

      Today I had one made 8 days ago without dressing and protein on the side and it was still fresh.

  • twinzmom903

    Mine was still fresh 3 days after preparation in the fridge. Make ahead on your bake/prep days and then “grab and go”!

  • Heidi

    Would the nutrition value still be OK on the 6th day?

  • Marise

    I love the sound of the freshness. I cant wait to get the jars.

  • Nancy

    I do this a lot and agree it is so nice to have salads for the week! It takes time to do the prep but so worth it! Get creative but if you want some inspiration check out Pinterest? Don’t limit yourself to one recipe, mix it up!

  • Tim

    I wonder if it would stay fresh longer if one used a Foodsaver to vacuum the lids on… Maybe it’s not even an issue, but I hate oxidized salad..

    • BBTink98

      If you use the original lids they seal themselves.

    • CTGIRL

      I make 10 of them for me and my husband on Sunday and they last all week. He has even had it on Saturday if he skips one during the week and it was still good…don’t think I would go longer than that though.

    • Terry A.

      Certain vegetables should not be vacuum-sealed unless they are being frozen. Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage give off gases when they are stored and can actually go bad faster if vacuum-sealed. Tomatoes, mushrooms and garlic can develop botulism if vacuum-sealed and not frozen.

      Properly layered Mason jar salads will last all week, so the benefit of vacuum sealing them is not worth the risk.

      • LadyWriter

        There is no need to worry about spoilage, as these salads are not being canned, only stored in the fridge for a week. Even using the metal lids isn’t going to create a vacuum because they aren’t being canned, although I prefer using the white screw-on lids designed for canning jars that are being used for non-canning purposes, such as these salads

        • Terry A.

          Understood. My reply was directed specifically to someone who asked about whether they could vacuum-seal their mason jar salads with a Foodsaver. Doing so is not necessary, and would not be advisable for the reasons I stated.

  • Kris Allen

    This is a good one! I already use Mason Jars for my salads. I like the fact that they last about a week, and I can just get them out of the refrigerator when I’m ready.

  • Becky Rice Simpkins

    I started making the mason jar salads a few months ago and I love them! I would advise against having the croutons in the same jar, though. My croutons absorbed the moisture and ended up being soft and mushy. I also prefer my chicken to be freshly heated, so I keep a bag of frozen diced chicken n the freezer at work. I also prefer to drizzle my salad dressing right before I eat it, so I also keep my dressing in the work frig. Have you ever tried drizzling a little BBQ sauce on your salad? Try it! It adds just a little bit of kick. I personally use the wide mouth pint jars. I’m able to squeeze in a huge salad.

  • Zahra

    This sounds really good. Does anyone know where they sell similar jars in the UK?

    • Kirstie Campbell

      Dunelm does a whole range of jars in different sizes, UK equivalent is Kilner Jars.

    • The Range, Wilkos and Amazon all sell them, search for ‘Kilner’ x

    • Sue

      You can buy Kilner jars in any good kitchen shop, eg Lakeland.

    • Lorna G

      Hi Zahra you can get good sized jars in Asda for £1.50

  • BBTink98

    I’ve been doing this for a year now and I absolutely love it… I make my salad for the week and never have a problem with freshness. Really like incorporating some sort of beans and corn. Hope you like it as much as I do.

    • Jacqueline

      That looks really good. What is above your chick peas?

      • BBTink98

        Chicken and shedded cabbage. I used a bag mix, discarded the sauce, makes it easier than shredding cabbage. 🙂

        • Jacqueline

          That is a good idea! Thanks!

  • Stephen Rawlins

    An additional advantage of using mason jars is that they can be easily vacuum sealed with an attachment to your FoodSaver vacuum sealer. We use vacuum sealed jars for nearly everything in our refrigerator. I even kept fresh celantro for three weeks in a vacuum sealed jar.

  • I would use plastic jar lids though….the metal lids get a little funky in my experience!

  • Lyn Ann Kadon

    I have been making these jar salads for about a year. I love them. I often use leftover food in them, like chicken from a dinner, just dice up and use in a jar salad. I buy all kinds of things to put in my jar salads, shirmp, edame, chick peas, olives. The possibilities are endless.

  • Casper Crusader

    This is the first time that I have heard of this, what an amazing idea!! This will work really well for me, since I love alone. Keeping salad fresh for a week has always been an issue for me, but it won’t be now. Thank so much for sharing this great idea!!

  • Janet

    Question…Is there any problem with recycling pickle jars..to use for the salads?

    • Bonnie

      There should not be any problem. sometimes there might be a slight vinegar seal on the rubber part of the lid, but we use them for storing all kinds of leftovers without any issues.

      • Gina Aguilar

        There is a problem. Only mason jars, specifically, prevent food spoilage, and therefore food poisoning.

        • LadyWriter

          Because one is merely storing the salads and not canning them, you may use any glass container and lid that you wish 🙂

        • Tesstarosa

          Rather than just saying there is problem — state what you believe the problem is. No one is using these for long term preservation and storage, so I believe you are wrong. mason jars are not the only storage containers that prevent food spoilage for short term storage. You are correct that you can’t use pickle jars for canning (ie, long term preservation and storage) but that’s not what this article is about.

        • Danny Chaney

          Incorrect how many times did she say “you’re not canning your salad” it doesn’t matter what type of glass jar you use there is not patented antimicrobial that is used in Mason brand jars. Just redonkulous

    • Gina Aguilar

      Yes there is a problem. Only Mason jars, specifically, can prevent food spoilage, and therefore food poisoning.

      • ladythoms

        There is no problem with this. Any type of clean food grade container is suitable for short term food storage.

      • cope1

        Since the jar is only the transport medium it doesn’t matter if it is a glass Mason jar, glass Ball jar, or the jar your favorite pickles or peppers came in. It isn’t being used for canning purposes so there is no problem……………………..

    • LadyWriter

      Absolutely no problem using any glass container for salads or other foods because you’re not canning them, but rather storing them in the fridge.

  • Janice Kraubner

    I reuse store bought pickle jars. In fact, I think the photo in the article is showing the same–those aren’t mason jars.

    • Bonnie

      Yes, those in the pic are definitely reused jars, not Mason jars.

    • Pam

      The jars in the pic are Ball canning jars. Just a different brand name. Canning jars are available both from Ball and Mason.

  • Teresa Smith Maurer

    This sounds great and I have everything needed to make some for the rest of the week . Has anyone tried it with making fruit salads

    • LadyWriter

      Yes, I use mine to store fresh fruit, which will keep for about a week or so in the fridge.

  • Hypocrisysux

    They’re pretty. Do they taste good?

    • Alexandria Nicole Aranda

      Do you like salad?

  • Bianca lynn

    I’m anxious to try this on Sunday! I usually do all my meal prepping for the week on Sunday. And I think this will be a nice change.

  • Clifford Abbott

    I hear onions will cause a problem when not consumed right away and may be the cause of saminela poisoning when in Mayo and do not keep well even in the refrigerator. Is there any truth in this?

    • LadyWriter

      Salmonella poisoning is caused by the Salmonella bacteria being present in beef, chicken, eggs, and milk. Veggies can become contaminated by the bacteria if they come in contact with an unclean food handler or a contaminated product. For example, if one cuts up raw chicken and uses same cutting board for chopping veggies, the veggies could become contaminated. And when I buy ready to eat veggies that proclaim to be ready to serve, I wash them anyway 🙂 Regarding onions, mine stay on the counter until I slice them and at that time, I store them in the fridge in a Mason jar. Sliced onions will keep up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

      • sam

        Thanks for that information about onions

    • Ivlia Blackburn

      Onions can start to ferment and cause health problems as a result so always refrigerate them after dicing. I prefer to add them fresh daily, leaving the rest diced in the fridge for dinner when I get home.

  • LadyWriter

    You aren’t using the jars to seal your salad, so you may use any glass container or lid that you wish. I think the intent is that you can see what’s for lunch and glass is much more sanitary for storage (and heating) than plastic, and so easy to stack and store. I prefer using white screw-on lids designed for non-canning use with Mason jars, and I absolutely love them. I’ve been using my Mason jars for leftovers and veggies for years! I take my salads, both fruit and vegetable, in them. I use jelly size ones to store dressing and bits of cheese in, to use in the community fridge at work. You can even freeze homemade soup and casseroles in canning jars, but you need to use WIDE mouth pint jars and leave 1 inch of space between food and top of the jar, as the food will expand during freezing. I also use the bigger jars for storing pasta, homemade granola, and more! Very rare to have a jar break, even if I drop it, as I have a stash of jars that will last this earth longer than I will, LOL. So glad to see this article.

    • Barb

      Where can I find white lids?

      • LadyWriter

        They can be purchased at Farm and Fleet. If you don’t have a store near you, I believe they also sell items online. Sometimes Wal-Mart has them. Either choice would have them located near canning supplies.

        • robin7521

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  • I have been doing this for over a year now.. I use Mason jars and vacuume seal my salads. I make a weeks worth for lunches and a weeks worth of oatmeal in a jar. Very convenient to reach in the fridge and grab breakfast and lunch.

    • Kasey Brooks

      like this idea i def am gonna try it very healthy and convenient

  • Randi

    I would not add croutons to the top, wait until you serve before adding croutons. They will get very soggy, as will nuts.

  • Jim Barr

    What about using a Food Saver jar attachment?

    Would the salad keep longer? My concern would be that the dressing might get sucked into the greens making them soggy. I guess I’ll have to try it!

    • Becky

      I have a friend who does this and SWEARS by it. Others say not necessary.

  • Kim

    Since the article says to put the salad dressing on the bottom, I was expecting the suggestion of shaking the salad or inverting it into a bowl before eating. How else will the dressing get on the salad ? Since you’re starting w/the resilient veggies and ending w/the greens, it makes sense to invert it before eating then everything would be in the right order.

  • Marni Anbar

    Is there any reason you can’t just layer and pack the salads in a plastic tupperware container? It’s not like you’re heating the salad.

    • Traci Poole

      My ingredients didn’t stay out and the salad was soggy pretty quickly. The mason jar lets me stack ingredients without providing extra room for shuffling around. If I had a long round Tupperware that would be a different story.