5 Mason Jar Salad Recipes for Healthy Lunches All Week Long

mason jar salads

Save money and calories by packing a lunch you’ll love. Beloved by meal preppers, busy parents, dietitians, and chefs alike, these mason jar salad recipes can add more color, flavor, and nutrition to your mid-day menu. Get our favorite salad in a jar recipes below, including greek salad, pasta salad, and more.

When was the last time you worked through lunch? If you’re like the average American, fairly recently. According to recent surveys, experts estimate that about 7 in 10 employees skip their lunch break in lieu of multitasking through another sad desk lunch.

Rather than resorting to fast food delivery or deeming a vending machine purchase “lunch,” why not build a fresher, healthier, and easy to prep lunch that you’ll actually look forward to eating? Mason jar salads check all those boxes, not to mention they’re easy on the eyes! Whether you enjoy it during some actual time away from your screen (psst…these 15 pro tips for how to achieve work-life balance might help!) or tuck in while you type, these easy salad in a jar meals will satisfy.

Why Make Salad in a Jar?

With a stock of mason jar salads assembled and ready in the refrigerator, you’ll have pre-made, portable meals that are ready for you when you’re ready for them, explains Kristin Porter, the Des Moines, Iowa-based founder of Iowa Girl Eats

“If you make eating healthy easy, it will be easier to eat healthy,” she explains, who in addition to her full-time job as a recipe developer is a busy mom of three, so knows a thing or two about speedy, simple meals.

By creating a batch for the week, you’ll not only save time but you’ll also save money by potentially cutting down on food waste. (Translation: You can finally use up that whole container of fresh greens if you dole it out among five mason jar lunches.) 

“Jarred salads are also a more economical, and usually healthier, option than grabbing lunch from a deli or restaurant,” Porter says, where you might expect to invest about $15 per entree. We don’t know about you, but we’re certainly watching our budgets more than we have in the recent past. ICYMI, food prices have jumped about 10.6 percent from November 2021 to November 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Cutting down on food waste—and cooking more at home—are two of our go-to tricks to spend less so we can save more. 

Health-wise, mason jar salads are a win, too, says Roxana Ehsani, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., LDN, a Miami-based registered dietitian nutritionist.

“If you’re sticking to a certain number of calories or a particular diet, these work well as ‘portion-controlled’ lunches or dinners,” Ehsani explains. And compared to a pre-made meal you might buy at the supermarket or order from a restaurant, “they’re customizable. If you are planning to make salad jars for the entire household, everyone can pick their favorite ingredients and add them to their own jar,” she adds.

Tips to Make the Best Mason Jar Salads

Hands down the best part of mason jar salads? The cylindrical structure and near air-tight seal means your food will stay fresh and flavorful for up to five days. Just follow the tips below from Ehsani and Porter for supreme salads all week long.

  • Size up. Porter swears by 32-ounce wide-mouth mason jars for assembling mason jar salads. “They allow for easier layering—and easier access for your fork,” she says.
  • Add the dressing first. If you think of mason jar salads by layer, the first one should be your dressing. This will protect the more delicate ingredients on top from wilting sooner. Another option: pack the dressing separately. The exception to this rule is any salad you’d prefer to marinate, such as a kale salad. (Massaging the leaves, as Porter does in her Everyday Kale Salad, or marinating them for a bit tames out the bitterness and slightly tenderizes the hearty greens.)
  • Then layer on the sturdy ingredients. “Chickpeas and grains like quinoa, paired with crunchy vegetables including carrots, peppers, cucumbers, celery and radishes play nicely as the first layer above dressing in mason jar salads,” Porter says. “They hold up well to being stacked then refrigerated for several days.”
  • Finish with protein, garnishes, and greens. Whether you opt for a plant-based option like tofu, seafood such as shrimp, poultry, beef, or pork, add this next to amp up the satisfaction factor. Then, if you’re using any other garnishes like fruit, dried fruit, nuts, or seeds, add them next. Lastly, finish with the tender greens before screwing on the cap.
  • Run produce through a dry cycle. “After you wash your greens, be sure to spin them through a salad spinner or shake off as much water as you can from them in a colander to avoid them from getting soggy quickly. Adding wet greens to a mason jar will likely lead to a limp salad,” Ehsani warns. “The same goes for fruits and veggies. Wash, slice, and try to remove water from items like bell peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes before layering them in.”
  • Save space. “If you don’t plan on pouring your mason jar salad into a bowl to eat, be sure to leave a couple of inches of empty space at the top of the mason jar. This will ensure there’s plenty of room to shake the ingredients up and coat them evenly in dressing,” Porter suggests.
  • Prep your way. When stored in the fridge, most salads will last three to five days in a mason jar. Either build a batch for the work week on Sunday night, or “prepare all the ingredients for a few different ones over the weekend, then store them in the refrigerator in separate airtight containers,” Ehsani says. Then you can assemble each one the morning before you head out or the night before you plan on eating it. “Leaving them too long in a jar could lead to spoilage for one of your ingredients, which could lead to the entire jar being compromised,” she says, but storing separately allows you to save the other items if one goes bad early.

5  Mason Jar Salad Recipes to Try 

Now that you know how to build your best “salad kit” yet, here are some recipe ideas from Porter and Ehsani to get you started.

1. Mason Jar Greek Salad

PREP
10 minutes
SERVES
4

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 2 cups diced cucumber
  • 1 1/3 cup sliced cherry tomato
  • 1 cup diced yellow pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1/2 cup sliced kalamata olives
  • 6 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • 4 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • salt to taste

SUPPLIES

  • 4 quart-size mason jars, with lid

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. For the Greek dressing, to a small bowl add minced garlic, oregano, basil, mustard, red wine vinegar and salt. Whisk to mix everything together. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Set aside.
  2. To each jar add 3 tablespoons of the dressing, 1/2 cup diced cucumber, 1/3 cup cherry tomatoes, 1/4 cup yellow pepper, 2 tablespoons of chopped red onion, 2 tablespoons of kalamata olives, 1/2 cup shredded chicken, 1 1/2 cup chopped romaine, and 1 tablespoon feta cheese.
  3. Put the lid on and store in the refrigerator.

2. Mason Jar Fruit Salad Parfaits

PREP
5 minutes
SERVES
1

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 ounces plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup of berries or diced fruit
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds

SUPPLIES

  • 1 large mason jar

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a large jar, layer 6 ounces plain Greek yogurt with 1 cup of berries or diced fruit
  2. Top with 1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts and 1 tablespoon chia seeds, then secure the lid and refrigerate for up to 3 to 5 days.
  3. Enjoy parfait-style or shake to coat ingredients in the dressing, then enjoy.

3. Mason Jar Pasta Salad

PREP
5 minutes
SERVES
1

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt-based ranch dressing
  • 1/4 cup diced protein of choice (like rotisserie chicken, deli turkey or tofu)
  • 3/4 cup cooked small-cut pasta (such as macaroni, cavatappi or farfalle)
  • 1/4 cup diced cucumber
  • 1/4 cup diced tomato
  • 1/4 cup diced bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup diced or crumbled cheese

SUPPLIES

  • 1 large mason jar

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a large jar, layer 1/4 cup Greek yogurt-based ranch dressing with 1/4 cup diced protein of choice (like rotisserie chicken, deli turkey or tofu), 3/4 cup cooked small-cut pasta (such as macaroni, cavatappi or farfalle), 1/4 cup diced cucumber, 1/4 cup diced tomato, 1/4 cup diced bell pepper, and 1/4 cup diced or crumbled cheese.
  2. Secure the lid and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Shake to coat ingredients in dressing, then enjoy.

4. Mason Jar Thai Crunch Salad with Peanut Dressing

PREP
5 minutes
SERVES
1

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 cup peanut sauce or Thai-style salad dressing (such as Primal Kitchen’s Sesame-Ginger Vinaigrette or Annie’s Shiitake Sesame Vinaigrette)
  • 1/4 thinly sliced red bell pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups coleslaw mix
  • 1/2 cup diced or shredded chicken
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped peanuts
  • 1 chopped green onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

SUPPLIES

  • 1 large mason jar

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a large jar, add 1/4 cup peanut sauce or Thai-style salad dressing (such as Primal Kitchen’s Sesame-Ginger Vinaigrette or Annie’s Shiitake Sesame Vinaigrette).
  2. Layer on 1/4 thinly sliced red bell pepper, 1 1/2 cups coleslaw mix, 1/2 cup diced or shredded chicken, 2 tablespoons finely chopped peanuts, 1 chopped green onion, and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro.
  3. Secure the lid and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Shake to coat ingredients in dressing, then enjoy.

5. Apple, Cranberry, and Almond Mason Jar Salads

PREP
5 minutes
SERVES
1

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons poppy seed dressing
  • 1 chopped stalk of celery
  • 1/2 cup diced or shredded chicken
  • 1/2 cored and chopped apple
  • 1 tablespoon sliced almonds
  • 2 tablespoons dried cranberries
  • 1 sliced green onion
  • 1 1/2 cups baby spinach or mixed greens

SUPPLIES

  • 1 large mason jar

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a large jar, add 2 tablespoons poppy seed dressing. Layer on 1 chopped stalk of celery, 1/2 cup diced or shredded chicken, 1/2 cored and chopped apple, 1 tablespoon sliced almonds, 2 tablespoons dried cranberries, 1 sliced green onion, and 1 1/2 cups baby spinach or mixed greens.
  2. Secure the lid and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  3. Shake to coat ingredients in dressing, then enjoy.
Karla Walsh
Karla Walsh
December 29, 2022
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