My Love Affair with Salads in a Jar

It’s been a couple of years now that I’ve been loving salads in a jar.

The premise is pretty simple: take a jar big enough to hold the size of salad you like to eat, and layer in all the ingredients, starting with the wettest ingredients at the bottom and ending with the lettuce as the top layer.

The beauty of this idea? You can make your salads a week ahead of time (time-saver!), and the crispy parts stay crisp. The flavors sometimes blend in wonderful ways. And the lunches you prepare are full of the good things you know you should be eating anyway.

I’ve got a handy little tool in the kitchen that helps pull air out of the jars and seal in the freshness…it works with a food vacuum sealer machine. But I’ve done salads both ways, and they always turn out great!

There’s really no limit to what kinds of salads you can put in a jar: I’ve done Caesar, Nicoise, Garden, Southwestern Chicken, Chef, Cobb, Summer Berry…you get the idea.

This week, I tried out a group of recipes to deliver a variety of flavors while also encouraging us to eat lots of veggies and protein. One was a more formal salad recipe that I adapted slightly for jars, and the others were made up based on what we like to eat. Here they are…

Left: Cafe Brenda salad. Middle: Chicken Mediterranean Salad. Right: Steak and Onion Salad

Café Brenda Salad

(Serves 8)

  • 1 head romaine lettuce, torn into bite size pieces
  • 4 Granny Smith apples, chopped
  • 8 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
  • Spicy Nuts (see recipe below)
  • Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette (see recipe below)

Combine lettuce, apples, spicy nuts, and cheese in a large bowl. Toss with Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette. (Add a little amount of salad dressing at a time – a little goes a long way!)

Spicy Nuts

  • 3 cups pecans
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

Spread the pecans on a cookie sheet, and toast in a preheated 350 often for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and crunchy. (Rely on your nose.) The nuts will begin to smell nutty and toasty.

Melt the butter. Turn the nuts into a large bowl and toss with the butter and remaining ingredients until the nuts are coated. (If you don’t like a lot of spice, sprinkle in the spices a little at a time to taste.) Spread coated nuts out on the cookie sheet to let them dry. Store in an airtight container until you’re ready to assemble the salad.

Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette

  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 shallots, peeled and diced
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon coarse mustard
  • 2/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup vegetable oil

Put all ingredients, except oil, into a blender. Blend on high, then pour oil in a slow, steady stream, until the mixture is thick and emulsified. Pour into a mason jar and store in the refrigerator.

 Adaptation for Serving in a Jar

I scaled back the quantities by 50% on both the nuts and the dressing. That gave me enough for approximately 4 jars. Then I layered the dressing, apples, nuts, cheese and lettuce.


Chicken Mediterranean Salad in a Jar

  • Balsamic vinaigrette dressing of your choice
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cucumbers, chopped
  • 1 8-oz. jar roasted red peppers
  • 1 5-oz. container feta cheese crumbles
  • 12 ounces chicken, cooked and shredded into bite-size pieces
  • 1 head red leaf lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 4 wide-mouth quart jars with lids and rings

Start by measuring 2 tablespoons of dressing into each jar. Moving from “wet” to “dry” ingredients, divide tomatoes, then red peppers, then cucumbers, then feta on top of the dressing. Place chicken on top of vegetable layer, then fill the remaining space of the jar with as much lettuce as you can fill in.


Steak and Onion Salad in a Jar

  • Red wine vinaigrette dressing of your choice
  • 1 red onion, sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • leftover steak or deli-sliced roast beef, cut into bite-size pieces
  • blue cheese crumbles
  • baby arugula, red leaf lettuce, or other lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 4 wide-mouth quart jars with lids and rings

Caramelize the onions by melting the butter in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and sautee until browned and soft in texture, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In the jars, pour 2 tablespoons salad dressing. Layer the cooled onions, steak, cheese and as much lettuce as you can fit into the jar.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Rebecca Hess says:

    Oooooooh my!! I can’t wait to try these out!! Thank you so much for sharing.

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