When I think of my life-changing moments, it’s a short list. The chance to move abroad for the first time as an elementary school student. Holding my newborn twins as a first-time mother. And discovering mason jar salads. You may laugh (or roll your eyes if you live with a teenager as I do), but mason jar salads truly transformed my eating habits.
By prepping a week’s worth of salads at one time, I am more likely to grab a salad for lunch or dinner instead of a high-sodium, saturated fat-filled, generally unhealthy frozen meal. And in case you haven’t heard, folks living past 100 in “Blue Zones” around the world are choosing a Mediterranean diet of vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and healthy fats, not frozen burritos, frozen pizzas, and modern-day TV dinners.
What Is A Mason Jar Salad?
Mason jar salads layer ingredients into a wide-mouth glass jar in a specific order, ensuring that all of the ingredients will stay fresh for up to five days. And while anyone could spoon potato salad into a mason jar and maintain it at its peak for a week, mason jar salads keep romaine lettuce, fresh spinach leaves, baby kale, and other leafy greens crisp.
Pro Tip: These 32-ounce, wide-mouth mason jars work best for mason jar salads.
How Do You Make And Store The Perfect Mason Jar Salad?
Hate getting out a pile of fruits, veggies, and leafy greens every time you want to make a salad? (I do.) That’s why mason jar salads were so life-changing for me! You only have to wash, slice, shred, and chop ingredients once to prepare a week’s worth of healthy meals!
Although I share some of my favorite mason jar salad recipes below, you can easily convert any salad recipe into a mason jar salad by filling the mason jar in a designated order.
Start by pouring your desired dressing at the bottom of a large wide-mouth mason jar. Then add the hearty ingredients, like proteins and crunchy vegetables, followed by any eggs or cheese. Next come more delicate ingredients like tomatoes, peas, fruit, and berries. Then fill the rest of the jar with greens. (I shoot for at least 40 to 50 percent greens in my mason jar salads.) Tightly secure the lid and store the salad jars in a fridge or cooler where they’ll stay fresh for up to a week!
While you should always dry leafy greens as much as possible when making a salad, it’s especially important to do so when assembling the perfect mason jar salad. In addition to adding the greens as the final layer in the mason jar, removing any lingering water will help keep the lettuce crisp.
Pro Tip: What if you (or someone you love) isn’t into lettuce or other leafy greens? You can still take advantage of convenient mason jars — with a substitution. A protein-packed, high-fiber alternative to lettuce is quinoa. Each of these four salads focuses on it (instead of greens) as the primary ingredient.
Other Tips for Making Mason Jar Salads
Here are several other tips that will help you master mason jar salads in no time:
- While it’s easy to see the benefit of spinning lettuce just once for a week’s worth of salads, save even more time by using pre-washed bagged lettuce, spinach, spring mix, or other greens.
- If you’re converting a regular salad recipe into a mason jar salad, don’t fret the order too much. Just don’t put anything that can get soggy, mushy, or slimy on top of the dressing (like croutons and nuts) and be sure to add the leafy greens as the final layer.
- Mason jar salads are a great way to breathe new life into leftovers. Have some extra rotisserie chicken, shredded pork, taco meat, salmon, black beans, or chickpeas? Use those ingredients for your protein layer!
- Short cut the creation of your protein layer by tossing a piece of fish, lightly seasoned chicken breast, or frozen breaded chicken patty into the oven or pressure cooker while you wash and cut the other ingredients. Or speed things up even more by purchasing a rotisserie chicken or defrosting pre-cooked chicken strips to dice or shred. Canned tuna and chicken are quick options for meat lovers, and a can of rinsed black, cannellini, or garbanzo beans will do the trick for vegetarians and vegans.
How Do You Eat A Mason Jar Salad?
When it’s time for lunch or dinner, simply give the mason jar a few good shakes and invert the ingredients onto a plate or into a large bowl. The greens will be at the bottom, followed by all of your favorite mix-ins, and the dressing tops it all off. And, whether you select romaine lettuce, spinach leaves, kale, or another option, the salad greens will stay crisp and fresh for up to five days (provided you add them to the mason jar last)!
Road Tripping With Mason Jar Salads
My family loves checking out the local food scene when we travel. In fact, we spend as much time researching where we’re going to eat as what we’re going to do in the towns we visit! But we also try to eat at least one meal a day with food we’ve packed from home or purchased at a local grocery store, usually breakfast or lunch. Not only does that help us stretch our travel budget, but it also allows us to make healthy choices in a country where restaurant portion sizes are consistently super-sized.
A selection of mason jar salads fits nicely in our large cooler along with healthy breakfast and snack options like boiled eggs, yogurt, cheese sticks, and fresh fruit. It’s easy to scrub out the empty mason jars each night, and, to save space as we continue our adventures, we often refill them with additional healthy snacks we buy along the way.
My Favorite Mason Jar Salads for Road Trips
Mason Jar Taco Salad
Whoever invented the taco salad is a genius! Like all mason jar salads, it’s easy for each family member to customize a mason jar taco salad. Browning one pound of ground beef provides protein for two to four mason jar taco salads. My meat lover enjoys occasionally substituting canned chunk chicken or a shredded chicken breast to make her taco meat, and I usually open a can of black beans for mine. And each of us can customize the rest of the mason jar meal to our heart’s content.
Burrito Bowl In A Mason Jar
Beginning with a tasty chipotle cream sauce, I love layering the ingredients of this easy burrito bowl recipe into mason jars using the handy dandy graphic above so that I have a week of grab-and-go options available.
Mason Jar Greek Salad
The same mix-and-match flexibility is available with this mason jar Greek salad. It’s easy for us to customize proteins like slices of packaged gyro meat, chicken breast, and chickpeas before layering in our desired mix of tomatoes, cucumber chunks, slices of red onion, and crumbled feta cheese.
Mason Jar Cobb Salad
With a creamy blue cheese dressing base, crunchy vegetables, and plenty of deli meats, boiled egg, and bacon bits, a classic cobb salad is a very filling meal packed into a mason jar.
Strawberry Spinach Mason Jar Salad
Nothing signals that summer (and summer road trips) are on the way like seasonal strawberries and garden-fresh spinach. That’s why this strawberry spinach salad is another favorite. Start by pouring the poppyseed vinaigrette into a mason jar, then layer the crumbled goat cheese, pecan pieces, quartered strawberries, and spinach.
Pro Tip: Make this salad faster by using pre-packaged sweet and spicy pecans (I love the ones at Trader Joe’s) and prepared poppyseed dressing.
Rainbow Salad In A Mason Jar
You’re sure to get a rainbow full of fresh veggies making this salad in a mason jar. Start with the dressing of your choice and then layer in orange carrots, red tomatoes, green cucumbers, and other veggies before topping the jar with spring mix lettuce.
Mason Jar Chef Salad
Along with easily suiting each diner’s taste, a mason jar chef salad helps you clean out the fridge as you prep for your road trip. Got a few leftover slices of turkey, half of a chicken breast, or some shredded pork? These are perfect proteins for a mason jar chef salad.
Have a kid that hates tomatoes or a hubby who can’t get enough olives? Put out a selection of veggies, cheeses, fruits, and other salad ingredients and let each person build their salad as desired. Remember, the number one rule of success is layering the ingredients in the order mentioned above, finishing with the lettuce on top.
Grilled Vegetable Mason Jar Salad
As the weather turns colder and veggies such as cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins are in season, this grilled vegetable salad hits the spot. Roast or grill the veggies, then layer them between balsamic dressing on the bottom and baby spinach or another leafy green on the top.
Mason jar salads are a fast and easy way to make a week’s worth of salads at a time and pack your road-trip meals with leafy greens, veggies, and fruits.