Learn to layer the perfect mason jar salad with this “how-to” tutorial. Mason jar salads, often called salad in a jar, are the ultimate meal prep recipe! You can prepare five mason jar salads on Sunday to enjoy a healthy lunch all week. You’ll also find my favorite mason salad recipes!

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Since 2011, I’ve been a mason jar salad queen. I love making these salads and really can’t imagine life without them.

There are hundreds of mason jar ideas floating around Pinterest, so I’m not sure who the original mason jar salad brainchild was, but she is my hero. Seriously, I love you!

I feel I have become quite the expert on making mason jar salad recipes, so I put together this tutorial with my best advice and tips.

Jump to:

Reasons You’ll Love Preparing a Salad in a Jar.

  • Meal prep champion! Make all your lunches for the week every Sunday.
  • Money-saving. Instead of wasting money on take-out, bring a homemade lunch to work.
  • Eat healthier. Mason jar salads make it easy to bulk up your daily intake of veggies. 
  • Lots of variety. You can make the same salad each week or switch up a few ingredients when you want different flavors.
  • A grab-and-go healthy lunch recipe. This is the same as meal prep, but it’s awesome to grab an already prepared portable healthy lunch as you’re running out the door.

How To Make The Perfect Mason Jar Salad

step by step collage showing how to layer a salad in.a jar.

Preparing the best salad in a jar recipe is all in the layers. 

Layer 1: The Salad Dressing

The first layer of the mason jar salad is always the dressing. You can use any dressing you like!

I prefer a vinaigrette dressing, but I like a creamy ranch and blue cheese. My favorite dressings are this homemade Italian dressing, homemade balsamic vinaigrette, or a simple olive oil and vinegar dressing. Ultimately it depends on your preference. 

But also, keep in mind that the vinaigrette dressing will come out of the mason jar easier. If you use a thicker salad dressing, you will have to give it a fair shake and probably use your fork to scrape it out.

I use about 2-3 tablespoons of dressing per salad.

Layer 2: Hearty Vegetables

This layer is essential because it shields the dressing from the lettuce and other vulnerable ingredients. In this layer, you’d use vegetables that can hold up to being in dressing for a week or so.

Think vegetables that would do well in a marinade or pickled. For example, the vegetables I have in layer two of a salad in a jar are:

  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Red onion
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Asparagus
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Peppers

Pretty much any other hearty vegetable you like! Add whatever you want.

Layer 3: Beans And Other Less Hearty Vegetables

This layer is where you’ll put beans and other less hearty vegetables like:

  • Chickpeas
  • Black beans
  • Mushrooms
  • Zucchini
  • Sprouts
  • Green beans
  • Corn

This layer acts as a second defense between the dressing and lettuce. You don’t want this layer to be marinated in the dressing, but it will be fine if some ingredients are exposed.

If you are using an avocado, that would go in this layer. More on using avocado in the FAQs section.

Layer 4: Pasta And Grains

This salad layer is where you will add pasta, quinoa, and other grains; that’s if you’re using them. At this point, layers two and three should keep the dressing away from this layer. However, if, by some chance, the dressing does make its way to this layer, no worries! Everything should be fine.

You can use any variety of pasta, rice, couscous, or quinoa for the pasta and grains. Anything would work, even gluten-free pasta, so get creative.

Layer 5: Protein And Cheese

I put chicken breasts, steak, bacon,  boiled eggs, and cheese in this layer. I like to keep these ingredients away from the dressing because I do not feel they do well if sitting in dressing for a couple of days or more.

If you use shrimp or other seafood, I would add those ingredients to this layer.

For cheese, I have used:

  • Blue cheese crumbles
  • Feta cheese
  • Goat cheese
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Cubed cheese

Each has worked fine in all of my salads in a jar!

Layer 6: Lettuce, Nuts, And Seeds

In this last salad layer, you want to put ingredients that would wilt or become too soft and soggy if exposed to the salad dressing too soon. 

This layer includes any lettuce or green. I also have nuts in this layer because some nuts can lose their crunch in the dressing. 

My favorite greens to use are:

  • Arugula
  • Baby spinach
  • Kale
  • Field greens
  • Chopped romaine lettuce

But, of course, you can use whatever salad green you prefer.

Final Step: Seal Tightly And Store in the Fridge

After filling the mason jar with the different salad layers, you put the top on and close them tightly.

Also, there is no rule when choosing the number of ingredients to add to the salad layers. The most critical layer is layer 2, with the hearty veggies. You want to have enough hearty vegetables to keep the dressing and lettuce away from each other.

If you are concerned with calories or the nutritional information in the mason jar salads, you can always calculate that information ahead of time using My Fitness Pal. You can also make a smaller salad using a pint size mason jar.

four mason jar salad recipes in a row.

The Best Salad In A Jar Recipes

Here are some of my favorite mason jar salad recipes to add to your meal plans.

California Salad in a Jar

This delicious California Salad in Jar starts with a homemade balsamic dressing and then layered with crisp vegetables, chickpeas, sundried tomatoes, goat cheese, and arugula. You can make this flavorful, healthy salad on Sunday to enjoy for lunch all week. 

Check out this recipe

California Salad in a Jar
Steak Salad in a Jar

Everything you love about a hearty steakhouse salad layered into a scrumptious portion-controlled salad in a jar! This delicious Steak Salad recipe is full of protein and drizzled with tart balsamic vinegar dressing. Bonus – this meal prepped salad is excellent for someone on a low-carb meal plan. 

Check out this recipe

steak salad in a jar
Spinach Pasta Salad

This Spinach Pasta Salad in Jar is layered with whole grain pasta, fresh mozzarella, tender baby spinach, and a delicious tangy balsamic vinaigrette. Make this spinach salad with pasta on Sunday to enjoy all week for a healthy lunch!

Check out this recipe

spinach pasta salad in a jar
Spicy Thai Salad in a Jar

This Spicy Thai salad includes crunchy purple cabbage and cucumber, chili roasted sweet potatoes, edamame, quinoa, greens, and dressed with the most delicious homemade Spicy Thai peanut dressing.

Check out this recipe

Spicy Thai Salad in a Jar. In a bowl with layered salads in the back
Healthy Taco Salad in a Jar

This Healthy Taco Salad is made with perfectly seasoned ground turkey, black beans, veggies, and all of your favorite taco toppings. This delicious salad is easy enough to make for dinner on taco Tuesday or to meal prep into a mason jar salad for lunches all week. You can even serve it at your next taco bar party.

Check out this recipe

healthy taco salad in a jar recipe
Southwest Chicken Salad in a Jar

This southwest chicken salad uses spicy chicken breast, corn, black beans, avocado, red onion, pepper jack cheese, and a southwest ranch dressing. You can enjoy this healthy salad for a quick dinner or layer it into a mason jar salad to enjoy all week.

Check out this recipe

healthy southwest chicken salad in a jar recipe

See all of my mason jar salad recipes.

FAQs

I want to go over some common questions I get every time I post a new mason jar salad recipe. Hopefully, I get them all, but if you have a question you don’t see answered here, leave a comment below, and I will answer!

What is the best size jar for mason jar salads?

I use a wide mouth quart jar (32-ounce) for my mason jar salad recipes. These make for a lot of salad, so if you wanted to use a smaller size (16-ounce), you certainly could, but the 32-ounce is the size I most often use.

Whatever size you use, I recommend getting the wide-mouth mason jars. Using a wide mouth makes filling up and dumping out the mason jar salad ingredients is much easier.

No matter what size you use, always follow the same steps for layering the ingredients.

Where can I buy mason jars?

You can purchase mason jars from any grocery store! I’ve seen them at Target, Walmart, Wegmans, Whole Foods, and even Rite-aid. Of course, Amazon also sells mason jars.

Also, I recommend picking up a package of plastic mason jar lids. Again, you can purchase these on Amazon. Mason jars come with metal lids, but those will eventually rust, and the plastic lids work great!

Why do you use mason jars and not plastic containers?

I’ve used plastic and glass jars to store salads in, and I prefer mason jars for several reasons.

  1. First, in my experience, I feel the mason jars keep my salad fresh for much longer. I ate a mason jar salad seven days after making it, and it was just as fresh as the first day. I can’t say the same for plastic containers. A mason jar keeps out more air than a plastic container, which helps keep food fresh longer.
  2. The whole appeal (at least to me) behind a mason jar salad is that you can store the salad dressing in the same container. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about remembering to bring salad dressing with you. 

How do you eat the mason jar salads? Do you eat them straight from the jar?

No, I don’t eat straight from the jar. I shake the salads in the jar and then dump the salad into another bowl or large dish I bring with me.

When I first started to eat these, I tried eating them from the jar, but it was awkward. I prefer putting the mason jar salad into a bowl.

Some people think that is too much work or too many bowls to bring to work, but it doesn’t bother me. 

I find the benefits of eating a fresh, healthy, delicious salad every day outweigh the annoyance of bringing an extra bowl with me.

Doesn’t the lettuce get soggy?

I can honestly say that in the decade I’ve been making mason jar salads, I never had soggy lettuce – not one time. Even when my jar tips over in my bag, everything’s still okay.

The key to non-soggy lettuce is to layer ingredients correctly and keep the dressing at the bottom away from the lettuce.

No worries, though- I will go over all that below.

Do the ingredients layered in the dressing get soggy?

For a mason jar salad to work, you need to have hearty vegetables as a barricade between the dressing and lettuce. I typically use:

  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Peppers
  • Onions

These vegetables pickle in the dressing, so any vegetable you think would taste good if pickled would be okay in the barricade layer. By the end of the week, these are delicious!

The tomatoes pickle the best and are my favorite part of the salad.

For a mason jar salad to work, you need to have hearty vegetables as a barricade between the dressing and lettuce. I typically use:

  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Peppers
  • Onions

These vegetables pickle in the dressing, so any vegetable you think would taste good if pickled would be okay in the barricade layer. By the end of the week, these are delicious!

The tomatoes pickle the best and are my favorite part of the salad.

I don’t like tomatoes. What other vegetables can I use?

Like I said above, any hearty vegetables you can pickle would do fine in the dressing. I’m shared some of my favorites in the how-to instructions.

How long do mason jar salads last?

I make these salads for work, so I always eat them within five days. So at a minimum, they will last at least five days.

Doesn’t the avocado turn brown?

I sometimes use avocado in my mason jar salads, especially when making a cobb salad or taco salad.

Whenever I do, I always squirt lime or lemon juice on it before I layer it into the mason jar salad. 

That, combined with being in the mason jar, seems to do the trick with keeping the avocado green.

I think the mason jar does a great job of keeping air out, which helps keep the avocado fresh.

But you can also cut the avocado fresh when you’re ready to eat the salad or consider chopping and freezing avocados to have prepared to eat.

Do you vacuum seal your mason jars?

No, I do not. I fill the mason jars with ingredients (using my layering method), put the top on, and twist it closed. I have never had an issue with freshness doing it this way, so I do not see a need to use a vacuum seal.

Do you have to use a mason jar, or can you use any glass jar?

I have personally only used mason jars. But, as long as the jar has a tight-fitting lid, I am sure any glass container would do!

Are these salads challenging to transport? They seem heavy.

Glass is undoubtedly heavier than plastic, but I would not consider these heavy enough to become a burden to transport. Again, it is a small price to pay for eating a healthy lunch every day.

Which are the best salad dressings to use?

I think it entirely depends on your taste. I have used both vinaigrettes and creamy dressings for my salad in a jar recipes.

My personal favorites are the vinaigrettes because I love how the tomatoes and other vegetables taste after they have been marinating all week. But the creamy dressings are good too!

Keeping in mind with the creamier dressing, you have to shake the jar a bit more to get it all out. Not a biggie but one difference between the creamy and vinaigrette dressings when making mason jar salads.

I love salad in a jar recipes, and I hope you found the information in this tutorial helpful so you can also start to enjoy them as much as I do. Share a picture and tag me on Instagram or Facebook if you decide to try any of these salad recipes!


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About Tammy Overhoff

Hi, I’m Tammy Overhoff, a busy mom, wife, and entrepreneur. I am the owner, author, and recipe developer here at Organize Yourself Skinny. Since 2011 Organize Yourself Skinny has become a trusted resource for clean eating recipes to meal prep, reviews, and lifestyle hacks to help you fit healthy habits and routines into your busy schedule. I’m the author of the Organize Yourself Skinny eBook & 30-day Workbook Bundle.