Learn to make the perfect mason jar salad with this “how-to” tutorial. Mason jar salads, or often called salad in a jar, are the ultimate meal prep recipe! You can prepare five mason jar salads on Sunday to enjoy a healthy lunch all week. I even included some of my favorite salad recipes at the bottom of this post!
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Over the last ten years, I’ve been a mason jar salad queen. I love making these salads and really can’t imagine life without them.
There are now hundreds of mason jar ideas floating around Pinterest, so I’m not sure who the original mason jar salad brainchild was, but they are my hero. Seriously, I love you!
I feel I have become quite the expert on making mason jar salad recipes through trial and error, so I put together this tutorial with my best advice and tips.
Before I get to the step-by-step instructions and share all of my recipes, I want to first go over some common questions I get every time I post a new mason jar salad recipe. Hopefully, I get them all, but if you have a question you don’t see answered here, leave a comment below, and I will respond with an answer!
I use wide mouth quart size (32-ounce) mason jars for my mason jar salad recipes. These make for a lot of salad; so, if you wanted to use a smaller size (16-ounce), you certainly could, but the 32-ounce is the size I most often use.
Whatever size you use, I recommend getting the wide-mouth mason jars. Using a wide-mouth makes it much easier to fill up and dump out the mason jar salad ingredients.
No matter what size you use, always follow the same steps for layering the ingredients.
You can purchase mason jars from any grocery store! I’ve seen them at Target, Walmart, Wegmans, and even at Rite-aid. However, you can buy mason jar sizes on Amazon for great prices.
Also, I recommend picking up a package of plastic mason jar lids. Again, you can purchase these on Amazon. Mason jars come with metal lids, but those will eventually rust, and the plastic lids work great!
I’ve used both plastic and glass jars to store salads in, and I prefer mason jars.
First, I feel the mason jars keep my salad fresh for much longer. I ate a mason jar salad seven days after making it, and it was just as fresh as the first day. I can’t say the same for plastic containers.
You get a better seal with a mason jar than with a plastic container, which helps keep food fresh longer.
Second, the whole appeal (at least to me) behind a mason jar salad is that you can store the salad dressing in the same container.
Therefore, you don’t have to worry about remembering to bring salad dressing with you.
I make these salads for work, so I always eat them within five days. So at a minimum, they will last at least five days.
I can honestly say that in the decade I’ve been making mason jar salads, I never had soggy lettuce – not one time. Even when my jar tips over in my bag, everything’s still okay.
The key to non-soggy lettuce is to layer ingredients correctly and keep the dressing at the bottom away from the lettuce.
For a mason jar salad to work, you need to have hearty vegetables acting as a barricade between the dressing and lettuce. I typically use tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and onions in this layer.
These vegetables end up pickling in the dressing, so any vegetable you think would taste good pickled would be OK in the barricade layer. By the end of the week, these are delicious!
Any hearty vegetables that you think would taste yummy pickled would do fine in the dressing. I’m sharing more examples of hearty vegetables to use in the “how-to” instructions below.
I use avocado in my mason jar salads sometimes, especially when I make a cobb salad.
Whenever I do, I always squirt lime or lemon juice on it before I layer it into the mason jar salad.
That, combined with being in the mason jar, seems to do the trick with keeping the avocado green.
I think the mason jar does a great job of keeping air out, so this helps keep the avocado fresh.
No, I do not. I just fill the mason jars with ingredients, put the top on, and twist it closed. I have never had an issue with freshness doing it this way, so I do not see a need to use a vacuum seal.
No, I don’t eat straight from the jar. I shake the salads in the jar and then dump it into another bowl I bring with me.
When I first started to eat these, I tried eating them from the jar, but it was awkward. I prefer putting the mason jar salad into a bowl.
Some people think that is too much work or too many bowls to bring to work, but honestly, it doesn’t bother me.
I find the benefits of eating a fresh, healthy, delicious salad every day outweigh the annoyance of bringing an extra bowl with me.
I have personally only used mason jars. But, as long as the jar has a tight-fitting lid, I am sure any glass container would do!
Glass is undoubtedly heavier than plastic, but I would not consider these so heavy that they become a burden to transport. Again, it is a small price to pay for eating a healthy homemade lunch every day.
I think it entirely depends on your taste. I have used both vinaigrettes and creamy dressings for my salad in a jar recipes.
My personal favorites are the vinaigrettes because I love the way the tomatoes and other vegetables taste after they have been marinating all week. But, the creamy dressings are good too!
Keeping in mind with the creamier dressing is you have to shake the jar a bit more to get it all out. Not a biggie but one difference between the creamy and vinaigrette dressings when making mason jar salads.
- 32-ounce Wide-Mouth Mason Jars
- 16-ounce Wide-Mouth Mason Jars (if you want a smaller salad)
- Wide-Mouth Plastic Lids
- Large Lunch Bowl
How To Make The Perfect Mason Jar Salad
Okay, now let’s get to the “how-to” part of this mason jar salad tutorial. I have divided this section into salad jar layers, starting at the very bottom.
Layer 1: The Salad Dressing
The first layer of the mason jar salad is always the dressing. You can use any type of dressing you like!
As I previously mentioned, I prefer a vinaigrette dressing, but I do like a creamy ranch and blue cheese too. It ultimately depends on your preference.
But also, keep in mind, the vinaigrette dressing will come out of the mason jar easier. If you use a thicker dressing, you will have to give it a fair shake and probably use your fork to scrape it out.
I use about 2-3 tablespoons of dressing. Currently, I use bottled salad dressings, but you can certainly use homemade dressing if you want.
Layer 2: Hearty Vegetables
This layer is essential because it shields the dressing from the lettuce and other vulnerable ingredients. In this layer, you’d use vegetables that can hold up to being in dressing for a week or so.
As I said, think vegetables that would do well in a marinade or pickled.
Vegetables I have used are:
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Red onion
Pretty much any other hearty vegetable you like! Add whatever you want.
Layer 3: Beans And Other Less Hearty Vegetables
This layer is where you’ll put beans and other less hearty vegetables like:
- Green beans
Essentially, any veggies you think would get soggy fast. If you are using an avocado, then that would be in this layer too.
This layer acts as a second defense between the dressing and lettuce. You don’t want this layer marinating in the dressing, but it will be fine should some of the ingredients get exposed.
Layer 4: Pasta And Grains
This salad layer is where you add your pasta, quinoa, and other grains if using. At this point, the other 1-2 layers should keep the dressing away from this layer.
However, if by some chance dressing does make its way to this layer, no worries! Everything should be fine.
You can use any type of pasta, rice, couscous, or quinoa for the pasta and grains. Anything would work, so get creative.
Layer 5: Protein And Cheese
In this layer, I put chicken breasts, steak, boiled eggs, and cheese. I like to keep these ingredients away from the dressing because I do not feel they do well if sitting in dressing for a couple of days or more.
If you are using shrimp or other seafood, I would add those ingredients to this layer.
For cheese, I have used:
- Blue cheese crumbles
- Feta cheese
- Goat cheese
- Shredded cheese
- Cubed cheese
Each of them has worked fine in all of my salads in a jar!
Layer 6: Lettuce, Nuts, And Seeds
In this last salad layer, you want to put ingredients that would wilt or become too soft and soggy if exposed to the salad dressing too soon.
This layer includes any type of lettuce or green. I also have nuts in this layer because some nuts can lose their crunch if in the dressing.
My favorite greens to use are:
- Baby spinach
- Field greens
But, of course, you can use whatever you prefer.
Final Step: Seal Tightly And Store
After you fill the mason jar with the different salad layers, you just put the top on and close them tightly.
Also, there is no rule with the number of ingredients to put in each layer or include all layers. The most critical layer is layer 2 with the hearty veggies.
You want to make sure to have enough ingredients to keep the dressing and lettuce away from each other.
When you’re ready to eat the mason jar salad pour it into a bowl and enjoy!
Favorite Salad In A Jar Recipes
Now that I answered all of your questions, here are some of my favorite mason jar salad recipes to add to your meal plans.
- Steak Salad in A Jar
- Protein Power Mason Jar Salad
- Keto Greek Salad in a Jar
- Turkey Club Mason Jar Salad
- Vegan Taco Salad
- Detox Salad in a Jar
I love mason jar salad recipes, and I hope you found the information in this tutorial helpful so you can also start to enjoy them as much as I do.