Before you start assembling, you’ll need to get the right jars. Mason jars are affordable and easy to find. They come in all different sizes, but hearty salad-lovers will want to pick up several of the larger, quart-sized jars. You can order them online or grab some from home stores like Walmart, Target or Cost Plus/World Market (in the U.S.). You might even be able to find them at local grocery and hardware stores.
Start with the Dressing
The secret to great mason jar salads lies in the layering, so it’s best to start with the dressing. After all, the longer those ingredients mingle, the more flavor your dressing will have. If you’re short on time, bottled dressing will do in a pinch, but homemade salad dressings are quick and easy, and often more affordable and healthier than store-bought stuff. Many contain just a handful of ingredients, which you likely already have on hand. (If you don’t yet have a go-to vinaigrette, try one of these!)
If you’re planning to eat your salad within a day or two, the dressing can go straight into the bottom of the jar (about 2-3 tablespoons for a quart-sized salad; 1-2 tablespoons for pint-size). If you’ll be keeping it longer than that, consider storing the dressing separately in travel-friendly, 2-ounce containers.
Chop Your Resilient Veggies
Resilient veggies are those that can hold their own in the bottom of the jar–meaning they won’t get soggy, and can handle the pressure of having other, lighter ingredients layered on top. Some to consider: raw onion (letting these sit in the dressing will mellow them out a bit), bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, snap peas, grape tomatoes, olives and artichoke hearts. If you’re feeling a little fruity, grapes and diced apples hold up well, too–just sprinkle a little lemon juice onto the apples first to keep them from browning if you won’t be eating it right away.
Pack in Some Protein
For a more satisfying salad with staying power, layer some lean protein on top of your resilient veggies. Some to consider: chopped hard-boiled eggs, diced chicken breast (or deli meat), canned tuna or salmon, and cooked beans or chickpeas.
Grab Your Greens
Next, cover your resilient veggies and protein with a good handful (or two) of greens. Packing the greens tightly will help keep ingredients in place. Darker varieties pack more nutrients, so skip the iceberg and mix dark greens like kale, spinach or spring mix with chopped romaine.
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