Last week I decided to test out the popular food trend Mason Jar Salads or Salad in a Jar. These have been all the rage on Pinterest and in the food blog world. They caught my attention because they looked like another great way to make my meals ahead of time. If you have been following my blog then you already know that I am a huge fan of prepping meals in advance. In fact, at this point, I am not sure if I could ever survive without it. Well maybe I could survive but knowing what I know now it certainly would not be a very healthy existence.
As I put the salads together I shared the process (along with some pictures) on the Skinny Mom’s Kitchen facebook page. Everybody seemed just excited as I was about mason jar salads. I even received some great tips from salad in a jar believers – thanks ladies! Did you ever think that foods in a jar would bring so much joy? Yeah me neither. Oh the little things.
After preparing and testing out these salads I want to share my thoughts.
Based on my experiences, the mason jar salads were really easy to prepare, made lunches super convenient during the week, and for the most part tasted great (I will explain more about this in a bit). These three reasons alone have made me a mason jar salad believer.
Making lunches is my least favorite meal to prep ahead of time – especially for myself. I always struggle with lunch ideas and usually end of eating leftovers or homemade freezer burritos (bean or chipotle turkey). These are good and do the trick but there have been many weeks I wanted to get more fresh salads on my lunchtime menu plan.
One reason I would never make salads ahead of time was I would always forget dressing or I did not want to transport dressing because of the fear it would leak everywhere (not like that has ever happened before). Also, I did not think that lettuce and other salad fixins stayed as fresh in plastic containers. Using mason jars to put salads together ahead of time alleviates all of these issues. The dressing can be added right in the jar and everything – when packed correctly – stays very crisp and fresh.
How to Put a Mason Jar Salad Together
The key to mason jar salads is in the assembly of the ingredients.
To keep the lettuce crisp you have to keep it separate from the dressing or other liquid. Also, you need to make sure the jar is completely dry before you start filling them. I add this tip because more than likely you will wash your jars or ingredients prior to using so there might be a chance of moisture. Give the jar a quick wipe with a paper towel and completely dry all ingredients before you start to assembly.
Layers should go like this.
- Bottom layer is dressing or other wet ingredient. Again, this is key. You need to keep the dressing away from the lettuce to keep it from getting soggy.
- Second layer needs to be a hearty vegetable like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, etc. Think about veggies that would taste good marinated in dressing. You will need a good amount of these vegetables to keep the dressing and lettuce separate.
- Third layer is proteins or grains. This could be eggs, beans, rice, quinoa, pasta, etc. Next add the lettuce or greens.
- Last you would add seeds or nuts. I would also add crumbled bacon to the last layer (see my reasoning below).
For my salads the ingredients I used were 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar dressing, grape tomatoes (sliced in half), hard-boiled egg, crumbled bacon, sunflower seeds, and baby spinach. The only ingredient issue I had was the texture of the bacon. I used organic nitrate free bacon that I cooked up real crisp. However, by the second day it was very chewy and the color was a little off. The flavor was still there and it did not prevent me from eating it but it is something I noticed. I think next time I use bacon I will put at the top to see if that makes a difference. Also, next time I make these salads I will put seeds at the top as well. The texture issues were not as noticeable as the bacon but I do think they would have stayed crunchier if further away from the liquid. Basically what I learned is if you would not marinate the ingredient then keep it away from the dressing.
I did have two technical issues with the salad. First, it was hard to keep the jar upright as I drove to work. It did not fit into my lunch bag so I just threw it into a canvas bag and brought it with me. Well it tipped over as I was driving and some of the dressing mixed with the lettuce. Not a huge deal but just something to consider. Also, even though I purchase wide mouth mason jars I found it much easier to dump it onto a plate or into a bowl to eat. This might annoy some people who wanted the mason jar to serve double duty as the container and bowl. It is not impossible to eat the salads out of the jar but personally I prefer it on a plate. Again, not a big deal, just an fyi.
Where to purchase wide mouth mason jars?
For my mason jar salads I used wide mouth quart sized glass jars made by Ball. I found a 12 pack at my local grocery store (wegmans) for $10. I was actually pleasantly surprise by the cost because I was expecting them to be much more. They were in the baking section.
My husband’s thoughts
I thought I would add this since my husband also tested out one of the mason jar salads. He thought it tasted great so flavor was not an issue. However, he did not like having a quart size jar along with a bowl to put the salad in. In his opinion, it was kind of a hassle to bring both containers to work. He suggested putting everything in a plastic container. However, that would not work because the dressing and lettuce would mostly touch. The reason mason jars work so well is they give the height to keep the two separate. Also, the ingredients stay fresher in glass jars.
Overall, I really enjoy these salads and foresee them making their way to my menu plan on a regular basis. They help tremendously with getting more vegetables into my diet. I will be playing around with different salad recipes and seeing what ones I can adapt and create to become tasty mason jar salads. As I put recipes together I will post them.
Would love to hear about your tips and experiences with mason jar salads? Let me know if you have any other questions.