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 the 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 work week without having to painstakingly chop and assemble your salad ingredients every day.
But before you start assembling, you’ll need 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 retailers 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, 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 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!
Written by Elle Penner, a nutrition and wellness writer, recipe developer, blogger and nutrition consultant whose favorite things include her camera, carbs and quality time with her toddler. For more from this busy mama, check out Elle’s lifestyle blog or connect with her on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.
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5 Easy, Quick Steps to Making Mason Jar Salads
by Elle Penner, MPH, RD
February 4, 2018