Have you heard about the latest craze of “salad in a jar?” Piles of fresh ingredients are layered in a canning mason jar and transported in a lunch bag or picnic basket for an easy and delicious meal.
University of Illinois Extension Nutrition and Wellness Educator Jenna Smith explains that the advantage to these mason jar salads is that they can be made up a few days ahead of time without sacrificing fresh taste. “While canning jars may be used, this is not a method of food preservation, but rather a means to build a convenient and healthy meal,” said Smith.
Proper layering is essential in order to avoid soggy lettuce greens. First, the dressing goes in the bottom of the jar.
Then, the heaviest and most non-absorbent ingredients are layered on top of the dressing, ending with the actual salad greens. As long as the jar stays upright, the greens will stay fresh and dressing-free until you’re ready to eat.
“Any canning jar with a lid can be used, but wide mouth jars are easier for packing ingredients in and dumping them back out,” said Smith.
Choose a pint size jar for a side salad or a quart size jar for a main entrée salad. Each salad can be built a bit differently based on individual taste. For example, balsamic vinaigrette dressing, cucumbers, chicken, strawberries and romaine in one jar and ranch dressing, black beans, tomatoes, sunflower seeds and romaine in another.
By changing the ingredients, you can have a salad for lunch every day and never tire of it.
Once the jar is packed, screw on the lid and refrigerate. Most salads will stay fresh for four to five days. However, the more perishable ingredients, like avocado, will need to be consumed quickly and may be best if simply added at the time of serving.
If proteins such as cooked chicken or canned tuna are added, the salad should be used within three to four days. When ready to serve, give the jar a good shake and pour the contents in a bowl for eating.
Mix with a fork if additional mixing is needed.
“Take a bite and you’ll fall in love with the “salad in a jar” concept,” said Smith.
Salad in a Jar
2 Tablespoons of favorite salad dressing
Hard vegetables, chopped (carrots, cucumbers, radishes)
Canned and rinsed beans or cooked brown rice
Protein (canned tuna, cooked chicken, hard-boiled egg)
Soft produce, sliced (avocado, tomatoes, strawberries)
Nuts or seeds
Salad greens (romaine, spinach, kale)
Layer each mason jar, starting with salad dressing and ending with salad greens. Refrigerate and use within four days.
Yield: 1 serving