During the summer, I crave salads of all kinds. Discovering the trend of Mason Jar Salads or Salad in a Jar was like a godsend for my summer work lunches. These have been all over Pinterest lately. They caught my attention because they looked like an effective way to bring an interesting salad without having a lunchbox full of separate containers for each ingredient. — So, I had to do an experiment to see if these salads in a jar would actually work.
One of my mason jar salads
I didn’t go out and buy mason jars. I live in the South and I’m crafty – I just used spare mason jars that I had hiding out in my kitchen. A lot of blogs posts about these salads marvel at how cheap these jars are. Yes, you can get a dozen for approximately $10.00 – but make sure that you pick up a set with both jars and lids. From my experience, the jars and the lids are usually sold separately.
Most of the salad in a jar recipes called for quart mason jars. Using a quart mason jar for a salad just seemed like a little much to me (that is 4 cups of salad!); instead, I used pint mason jars (only 2 cups of salad). After eating my very filling mason jar salads, I cannot imagine having a quart jar full of salad for lunch.
From jar to bowl – and only two cups
I made each of my salads the night before but supposedly, these can be made days in advance if you layer correctly. Based on my experiment with these salads, I would only make a lot in advance if you have very fresh ingredients.
How to Layer Your Jar Salad
The key to these salads is to keep the greens separate from the liquid or dressing. The Skinny Mom’s Kitchen suggests giving the jar a quick wipe with a paper towel and completely drying all ingredients before you start to assembly (to reduce the liquid in the jar). Try to not get the dressing on the sides of jar – or your salad will wilt before you eat it.
This helped me a lot in making my salads in a jar.
The basic layering of the salad in the jar is dressing, hearty bits, lighter bits, and greens on top. The Paleo Mama blog suggested that cut tomatoes should be at the bottom of the jar due to their higher water content — which worked perfectly! Whatever you put near the dressing, be prepared to have it marinated in the dressing. I had to push my cut tomatoes into the dressing to get enough lettuce for a healthy salad. A few blogs have the lighter bits (such as nuts, seeds, or cheese) on top of the greens, but I like the look of having those ingredients just below the greens.
None of the blog posts that I found mention cutting your greens prior to putting them into the jars. However, if you cut your greens, then you can put more into the jar and get a fuller salad.
Once you finish layering your jar, you store it up-right in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat it.
My Experiment Experience
By using the pint jars, I didn’t have any difficulty in getting the jars to stay up-right in the commute to work. The pint jars are small enough to fit into a lunch bag and still have room in the bag for dessert.
I didn’t notice any texture or flavor issues. By making the salads each night, nothing stayed too long in the dressing. I didn’t have any issues with the bacon but I made sure to place it closer to lettuce than the dressing. I like chewy bacon and my bacon seemed to stay chewy.
I didn’t use any recipes for my salads. I just layered whatever sounded interesting each day. Of my more interesting combinations, I ended up with a caesar turkey club and southwestern turkey salad.
Caesar Turkey Club Salad – Caesar dressing, cut tomatoes, turkey, bacon, cheese, and romaine lettuce
Southwestern Turkey Salad – Cucumber Ranch dressing, tomatoes, turkey, southwestern topping, cheese, & spring greens
My favorite part of these salads is pouring them out into a bowl at lunch. Due to the layering, the salads look like something you would get at a restaurant. It wouldn’t be impossible to eat the salad out of a wide mouth jar but I prefer eating it out of a bowl. To ease the hassle of carrying two containers for your salad, you could buy some paper bowls to keep at work.