I am a “take my lunch to work” gal. I can’t justify spending extra money on lunch when I typically have more than enough in my fridge or pantry to whip something up that will keep me going through the afternoon. Having said that, I would much rather make something that takes 5 minutes as opposed to 20. Jar salads are one of my favorite go-to lunch meals and make frequent appearances during the week. Quick and easy, filling and colorful, with a dressing that is ready to go, makes it that much easier to get my greens in during the day. Not only that, they are fun to eat. Maybe it’s something about the layers, the dressing that spills out over everything or the fact that they are in a pretty glass jar that makes the difference. Who knows. Whatever the reason they always seem to taste extra delicious to me.
The great thing about jar salads is that you can make a few a couple days in advance and eat them throughout the week. As long as the layering is done right your veggies will stay fresh and crisp for a decent amount of time. Speaking of layering, let’s talk basics. Salads in a jar require the right balance of ingredients and layers to make sure things aren’t soggy and wilted when it’s time to eat lunch. FYI, I bought glass mason jars at the Container Store and have four on hand for lunches. Here’s the low-down:
– Bottom Layer: if going with a dressing, this is the first thing that should go in the jar whether you choose something creamy or a vinaigrette. The key with salad jars is to make sure they STAY upright. If so, the bottom layer will give you no issue whatsoever. If the jar does tip over your dressing may soak into some of your greens making them wilt after all day in the fridge. Not ideal.
– Second Layer: this is where I place my crunchy things: aka carrots, onions, cucumbers, celery, cabbages or apple slices for example. Remember, these ingredients will essentially be taking a bath in your dressing so you want things that will stand up to the dressing without falling apart. The ingredients I just listed do fine. Sometimes if using a vinagrette they may even acquire a slight pickled taste too (say sliced onions or cucumbers for example) but I love it! You want enough of the crunchy things to create a distinct level between the dressing and the third layer.
– Third Layer: this is where I add softer items or items that without all the crunchy things below may sink to the bottom of the jar. So in goes any cheeses, grains (farro, quinoa, wild rice, rice pasta), beans (black, kidney, white, garbanzo), corn, egg slices, leftover cooked tuna or chicken…things like that.
– Fourth Layer: the fourth and final layer is your greens! Feel free to use whatever types of greens you like – spinach, arugula, mixed greens, romaine, baby lettuces or even iceberg for those who like things super crunchy. Because the greens are on the highest level (again, as long as no tipping is involved) they will stay crisp and perfectly fresh guaranteed every time.
That’s it! Super simple. Come lunch time, it’s fun time! Simply get out a big bowl, open your jar, flip over and dump out everything into the bowl. As all the ingredients spill out the dressing will cover everything. Give it a little mix and lunch is served!
Doesn’t this look good? This particular salad was a mix of the following:
Bottom Layer: homemade vinaigrette
Second Layer: slivered carrots, sliced cucumbers, sliced red onion, sliced orange pepper
Third Layer: leftover farro cooked with almonds and golden raisins, feta cheese, black beans
Fourth Layer: arugula
The great thing about these salads is that you can get really creative. Think of all the combinations you can come up with.
Some of my favorites include:
- Sliced apples, sliced/diced beets, feta, pecans, hardboiled egg, spinach (homemade balsamic vinaigrette)
- Sliced red onions, carrots, cucumber, red cabbage, quinoa, black beans, corn, leftover taco meat, light cheddar cheese, avocado, crunchy romaine (homemade mexican vinaigrette)
- Sliced red onions, apple slices, feta, pecans, tuna, hard boiled egg, black beans, mixed greens (homemade balsamic vinaigrette)
- Sliced red onions, pecans, feta, thinly sliced jalapeno (seeds removed), sliced grapefruit or oranges, arugula (homemade lemon/olive oil vinaigrette)
- Sliced red onions (can you tell I like onions!?), cucumber, red pepper, garbanzo beans, feta cheese, avocado, farro, kalamata olives, leftover grilled chicken, fresh thyme, romaine (homemade lemon/olive oil vinaigrette)
- Sliced red onions, sliced apples, pecans, roasted sweet potatoes (with cinnamon, cayenne and maple sugar), hardboiled egg, feta, black beans, wild rice, kale (homemade balsamic vinaigrette or tahini dressing)
- Sliced red onion, chopped cherry tomatoes, red cabbage or radicchio, cucumbers, feta, garbanzo beans, avocado, provolone cheese (homemade balsamic or lemon/olive oil vinaigrette)
- Roasted brussels sprouts, roasted broccolini, avocado, campari tomatoes (sliced in half and in half again), hard boiled egg, roasted sunflower seeds, kale, hummus (added at the end) (homemade apple cider vinaigrette)
If you’d like to know how I typically make my homemade vinaigrette, go here! So many different combinations. Seriously. Go crazy. Have fun and enjoy your salads in a jar!