Have you ever tried making salad in a jar? It may sound like a trendy Pinterest fad, but in all honesty the method works really well for a few different reasons.
Dressing at the Bottom
First, the dressing goes in the bottom and ingredients are layered in order of "hardiness" with greens on the very top. This prevents soggy spinach or arugula which can be a deal-breaker when packing salads for lunch. It also means you don’t have to pack dressing separately or remember to grab your favorite bottle on the way out the door.
No Mixing Required
When you dump the salad into a bowl or onto a plate at lunch time, the dressing comes out last and is then evenly distributed. There is nothing worse than when you only taste it in the first few bites.
Easy to Transport + Clean
Lastly, the jars are compact and only require one container for a complete lunch. When trying to get out the door in a hurry, salad in a jar is literally a grab and go lunch. Once you are finished eating, the jar can go right into the dishwasher for easy clean-up.
Because I use this idea so much, I wanted to share one of my favorite seasonal variations. The recipe below makes 4 generous salads (or 5 if you make them each a little bit smaller). Basically in as much time as it takes to chop and roast a butternut squash, you can make lunches for the entire week. Just get everything else out and prepped while the squash is in the oven.
Another thing to note is that this is super customizable based on your preferences and what you have on hand. Here are a few things you can easily swap in:
walnuts for almonds
feta for bleu cheese
spinach for arugula
roasted sweet potatoes for the squash
chicken or tofu for the beans
Keep all of the jars for yourself or share with a significant other and make his/her day. Here’s the full recipe!
My Favorite Fall Mason Jar Salad
Author: Leanne Ray, MS, RDN
Yield: 4 salads | Cook Time (squash & almonds): 15-20 min | Total Time: 30 min
Balsamic vinaigrette (store-bought or see recipe at the end)
15.5 oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
One large honeycrisp apple, diced
One small butternut squash, cubed small and roasted (let cool)
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/3 cup dried tart cherries
4 oz container of bleu cheese crumbles
Arugula, one small clamshell
Note: This will basically be an assembly line, so it works best if all ingredients are out and ready. You will need 4-32 oz mason jars with lids off.
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Peel and chop squash, toss in olive oil, salt and pepper then roast for 20 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile toast the almonds, chop the apple, and make the dressing (if using homemade).
3. Equally divide all ingredients between the four jars in the order they are listed.
4. Screw on lids tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
5. When ready to eat, remove lid and pull out ingredients with a fork onto plate/bowl.
Homemade balsamic vinaigrette: Add the following to small jar: 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, generous squeeze of honey and dijon mustard, salt & pepper to taste. Optional add-ins include dried oregano, garlic powder, red pepper flakes or shallots. Shake the jar like crazy until everything is well-combined. Use as much as you need for the salads and refrigerate the rest for later.
To toast almonds, add to a dry skillet on medium heat and stir until fragrant. Watch closely because they burn fast if left unattended.