‘Salad In A Jar’ is an idea which has been floating around the internet for a while and it’s absolutely genius! It’s a great way to prepare nutritious salad lunches that stay fresh for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. That’s right, you can make 5 days worth of salads in one go!
Making your own Salad In A Jar has certain advantages over buying a salad from outside:
- You have more you control over the quality of the ingredients.
- You can personalise your salad to include more of the things you love.
- You can choose healthier eco-friendly reusable packaging.
- You save money by making your lunches at home.
The secret to making a great Salad In A Jar is in the layering of the ingredients. While some of the middle layers can be switched around (I’ve seen different variations online), there are a few cardinal rules which everyone seems to follow:
- The salad dressing goes in first. Always.
- A layer of hard vegetables goes in second to create a barrier between the salad dressing and everything else.
- The lettuce goes in at the very top and is furthest away from the salad dressing (NB: The only exception to this rule is if you are using perishable ingredients such as avocado or hard-boiled eggs, then it is ok to add these on top of the lettuce the evening before you plan to eat the salad.)
- Pack each layer of your ingredients tightly in the jar to avoid them moving around. This way everything stays separate until you toss them together in a bowl or plate.
Here is my step-by-step guide (with pictures) for making your own Salad In A Jar.
Step 1: Which jars to use?
To make Salad In A Jar, it is important that you use a jar with a tight-fitting lid. My preference is for using mason jars. The reason is because mason jars have very secure tight-fitting two-piece lids which not only prevent leaks and spills but also keep the food fresher. There is no need to vacuum seal the jars, simply closing them tightly is enough. I prefer to avoid plastic whenever possible, but if you really wanted to use a plastic container then I think you could as long as it has a tight-fitting lid (although I have never tried it).
The size of the mason jar you use will depend on the amount of salad you want to eat in one sitting. I like using 500ml (1 pint) mason jars for lunch and really packing the ingredients in. I use 1 liter (1 quart) mason jars for making and storing salads to accompany dinner for my husband and myself. Always make sure your jars have been washed in hot soapy water and are dry before filling them.
Packed correctly, Salads In A Jar can stay fresh in the refrigerator for upto 5 days, so make sure you buy enough jars for the number of salads you want to make!
Step 2: Collect and prepare your ingredients
Don’t let this image intimidate you. When I first started making Salad In A Jar, I only used salad dressing and 3 ingredients: cucumbers, chicken and lettuce. And guess what? It tasted great! Once I saw how easy it was, I started adding more ingredients. If you feel overwhelmed by the number of ingredients you think you may need, start small and build up slowly.
You can put virtually anything you like in your Salad In A Jar. There are no quantities as such. If you like a certain ingredient, add more of it. It is purely according to your preference.
Although this is the step which takes the most time, if you think about the number of lunches you are making ahead, then it’s actually time saved in the long-run. Some things you will need to do at this stage include the following:
- Use a separate bowl or plate for each of your prepared ingredients.
- Cook any ingredients which need to be cooked (ie. grilled protein, grains). Allow to cool and chop if necessary.
- Wash, dry and chop your vegetables and fruit (NB: it is important these are dry to avoid condensation forming in the jars).
- Dice or grate your cheese.
- Have your salad dressing ready (either home-made or shop-bought).
Step 3: Salad Dressing
How much salad dressing you use will depend on how robust its flavour is and your own personal preference. In my 500ml jar, I like to use 3 tablespoons of homemade dressing. If you use shop-bought dressing, you may only need to use 2 tablespoons as its flavour can be more enhanced than home-made dressing.
If you are new at this, you may want to experiment by making one salad jar and testing how many tablespoons of dressing you need to make it taste the way you want. You will very quickly get an idea of how much dressing is best for you.
Step 4: Hard vegetables
Hard vegetables which won’t get soggy in the dressing come next. This layer should be thought of as the barrier between the salad dressing and the rest of the salad. Some examples of hard vegetables include:
- Bell Peppers/Capsicum
- Broccoli (raw)
- Cauliflower (raw)
- Cherry tomatoes (whole)
- Red onions (chopped)
- Spring onions
- Sweet potato (raw)
Step 5: Grains and Beans
Grains and beans come next. Some examples include:
- Any type of beans (chickpeas/garbanzo, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, etc)
Step 6: Protein
If you plan on eating your salads within 3 days, you can place your chopped protein next. If you plan on eating your salads within 5 days, you may want to leave the protein out of some of the jars and add freshly cooked and chopped protein at the top of those jars later in the week (closer to the time you will eat it). Some examples include of protein include:
- Hard-boiled eggs (should only be added the evening before you plan to eat your salad, and can be placed on top of the lettuce as it will be there for less than 24 hours so won’t make the lettuce soggy)
- Seafood and fish (should only be added the evening before you plan to eat your salad, and can be placed on top of the lettuce as it will be there for less than 24 hours so won’t make the lettuce soggy)
Step 7: Cheese, please
Diced or grated cheese goes in next. Like protein above, if you plan on eating your salad within 3 days, go ahead and put it in the jars. If you plan on eating your salad within 5 days, you may want to leave the cheese out of some of the jars and add it at the top of those jars later in the week (closer to the time you will eat it). Some examples include of cheese which works well in salads include:
- Mozzarella (well-drained)
Step 8: Soft vegetables & fruits, fresh herbs, nuts & seeds
Softer fruits and vegetables go in next to avoid them getting squashed by the weight of the heavier ingredients. Some examples include:
- Avocado (If you toss diced avocado in lemon or lime juice, it should stay fresh in your jar for 2-3 days. You can always add avocado to the top of some of your salad jars later in the week closer to the time you plan to eat them.)
- Berries (blueberries, strawberries)
- Dried fruit
- Fresh herbs (coriander/cilantro, basil, flat-leaf parsley)
- Green Beans
- Nuts (peanuts, cashews, walnuts, pecans, almonds)
- Roasted vegetables (pumpkin, zucchini/courgette, eggplant/aubergine, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beetroot)
- Seeds (pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds)
- Tomatoes (diced with seeds removed)
Step 9: Top up with Green Leaves
Top up whatever space you have left with fresh green leaves. Remember that it is important that the jar is tightly packed so that the ingredients don’t move around too much.
Step 10: Refrigerate until ready to eat
Cover and refrigerate your completed jars for upto 5 days. When you are ready to eat your salad, simply empty the contents into a bowl, toss, and enjoy!