Food prep (intentionally making food in advance) has played a big role in helping my family create a sustainable real-food lifestyle. By prepping food in advance, we’re able to eat real food, save money, and save time during the week.
Lately, I’ve been loving salads in a jar. There are so many ways to make salads in a jar, depending on the seasonal veggies available. Today’s recipe takes advantage of fall veggies to create a make-ahead salad in a jar that’s rich in nutrients and full of flavor.
Why make a salad in a jar?
Now, you may be thinking, “Okay, salad in a jar? That’s cute for Pinterest, but why put salad in a jar?” At least that’s what I used to think.
As it turns out, when it comes to prepping salad in advance, a jar, like a mason jar, proves to be super helpful in keeping a salad fresh for several days.
Typically, if you just mixed salad ingredients with a salad dressing, you’d end up a limp and soggy salad the next day. And no one wants to eat a limp and soggy salad. This is when the mason jar comes in handy.
A mason jar allows you to layer a salad so you still get a complete salad but without mixing those ingredients before you need to. This means no limp or soggy salads! Now we’re talking, right?!
How to make a salad in a jar
There are many ways to make salads in a jar, but no matter the ingredients, the key is layering.
The Salad in a Jar Formula
Add the salad dressing to the jar first, followed by the least delicate ingredients, then build up from there, adding delicate greens last.
When building a salad in a jar, here is what the formula looks like…
- First, add the dressing of your choice to the bottom of the jar. I usually add 1-2 tablespoons depending on the size of the jar and the amount of dressing I like.
- Next, add the heartiest ingredient so that ingredient rests in the dressing. This could be a protein, like chicken or beans, hearty veggies like onions or carrots, or a grain.
- Continue to build the salad ingredients in a layer.
- Finally, add leafy greens to the top layer. This will ensure the leafy greens don’t end up limp or soggy.
- Add a lid to your jar and place the jar in the fridge.
How long does a salad in a jar last in the fridge?
How long your salad in a jar keeps in the fridge will depend on the ingredients used to make that salad. As a general rule, most salads in a jar will last in the fridge for about 5 days. This is why using a mason jar and layering the ingredients in that jar is the ideal way to prep salads in advance.
That said, if you use delicate ingredients that brown easily, like pears or avocados, plan to enjoy the salad within a couple of days. Apples can also be an issue, but in today’s salad we avoid the issue of the apples turning brown by tossing them in lemon juice and placing them in the salad dressing (which is acidic thanks to the vinegar).
When it comes to meat or dairy (cheese), use the salad within 3-5 days for ultimate freshness. If you want to use these ingredients and keep the salad for longer, just add the ingredients before eating the salad.
What size mason jar is best to use for a salad in a jar?
When it comes to making a salad in a jar, the type of jar you use is key. Use a jar that’s tall and durable, glass, and one with a wide mouth (this is more of a preference). Ball brand is a great brand to look for. I also enjoy Weck brand. You’ll find Ball jars on Amazon and in most home stores (Target, Walmart, etc.). Weck jars can be found online (Amazon) and in some specialty home stores (World Market, Home Goods, etc.)
Here are my favorite sizes for making salad in a jar:
- 16-ounce jar: This size is perfect for a smaller appetite or if you want more of a side salad to go along with a sandwich or soup lunch. This is the size jar I use for today’s recipe.
- 24-ounce jar: This size is ideal for a complete lunch.
- 32-ounce jar: This size might be a bit large for a salad lunch, but if you have a large appetite or want to prep a salad in advance for dinner, this may be the way to go.
Along with jars, you’ll also need lids. If you’re using Weck Jars, stick with the glass lids that come with the jar. If you’re using Ball brand (or a similar mason jar style brand), I recommend purchasing a set of plastic lids. Trust me, the plastic lids are SO much better than the metal lids for long-term durability.
How do you eat a salad in a jar?
There are two options…
- Eat the salad straight from the jar: Before enjoying, just shake the jar to combine the ingredients. If you pack the ingredients tightly in the jar, it may be hard to combine the ingredients. A 32-ounce jar may be the best option for this method, as you can loosely layer the salad and have room for the ingredients to combine.
- Dump the salad in a bowl: This is my preferred method. Simply dump the contents of the jar directly into a bowl and enjoy.
Salad in a Jar Recipe Varieties
I encourage you to take today’s fall salad in a jar recipe and make it your own.
- Use different seasonal veggies
- Use a different leafy green (try baby spinach or kale or lettuce)
- Use your favorite vinaigrette dressing (make your own using my master recipe)
- Add beans (chickpeas would be lovely) or shredded chicken
- Use a different grain (like barely or millet)
Take the concept of today’s recipe and put your own spin on it each time you make this fall salad.
Harvest Fall Salad In a Jar
Harvest Fall Salad:
- 2 medium beets chopped, any variety beets
- 1 medium butternut squash chopped (alternatively purchase pre-cut fresh butternut squash, like the 16-once option from Trader Joes)
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- salt to taste
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 large apple chopped, any variety
- 1/2 lemon juiced
- 4 ounces goat cheese crumbled (alternatively use shaved parmigiano reggiano, feta cheese, or blue cheese)
- 3 cups baby arugula alternatively use baby spinach or chopped lettuce
- Preheat the oven to 425F.
- Combine the dressing ingredients in a bowl or mason jar. Set aside.
- On a parchment-lined sheet pan, combine the beets and butternut squash. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt (a few good pinches). Roast for 25-30 minutes or until tender.
- While the veggies are in the oven, cook the quinoa according to the directions on the package.
- Squeeze the juice from half of a lemon over the apples. Toss to combine.
- Crumble the goat cheese using a fork.
- Allow the quinoa and veggies to cool before the next step.
- Evenly add the ingredients among 4 16-ounce mason jars in the following order: salad dressing, apples, roasted veggies, quinoa, goat cheese, and finally arugula. Top with a lid. Store in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Note: You'll most likely have salad dressing leftover. Use this dressing within 2 weeks, store in the fridge.
- To serve: Dump the salad into a bowl or eat the salad directly from the jar (shake well to combine the ingredients).