The very popular mason jar salad is not just any old salad. You may say, “Well, a salad is a salad is a salad!” Well, not really. The mason jar salad has evolved from a food fad to a smart practicality for many people who pack their lunches for work or recreation.
There are a gazillion recipes for mason jar salads that are tantalizing and delicious. But, the ingredients are NOT the secret to a really delicious, well prepared salad in a jar.
So, What IS the Secret to a Great Mason Jar Salad?
The real secret in making the perfect mason jar salad is using the proper packing technique. You may think that all you have to do is dump all your salad ingredients into a jar and you’re good to go.
You’ll only end up with a tossed to death, soggy mess for lunch. But, if it’s packed and layered correctly, you can enjoy a fresh, crisp jar salad anytime, anywhere.
Here’s how to pack your perfect salad:
1. Always use a wide mouthed mason jar. This allows for easy layering of ingredients and light packing that is critically necessary for a great tasting salad.
2. Choose your ingredients and cut, slice or dice to the size you prefer for packing. (Make sure all ingredients are drained well before packing to avoid any excess moisture.) Typically, the basics you’ll need are lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, chick peas, cabbage, cheese, nuts, and protein such as chicken.
You can also find great recipes specifically for salads in a jar. Just do a little research and you’ll find exactly what you need. Better yet, invent your own!
3. Keep in mind that when you begin layering your salad, you must pack it lightly and tightly. This will keep the food in place and the dressing trapped on the bottom with toppings in place under the lid. Tight packing also keeps the ingredients fresh until ready to eat.
4. Layering properly is also critical in creating a great salad. The rule of thumb for a mason jar salad is to layer in the exact opposite direction you would a bowl salad.
Bottom layer: Always put your salad dressing on the bottom of the mason jar. Add however amount you prefer just like you would in a bowl salad.
2nd layer: On top of the dressing, you should use firm ingredients such as carrots, chick peas, celery, radishes or other foods that do not easily absorb the dressing. Be sure to pack tightly. This will keep the dressing in place.
3rd layer: Add another layer of rather firm ingredients such as chopped cabbage, cucumbers or anything else you want. This will provide support to the first layer and keep everything in place.
4th layer: Time to add slightly softer foods such as sliced tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, peas or other interesting ingredients. You can also add protein here is you prefer such as chicken chunks, well drained tuna or other meat, depending on the type of recipe.
5th layer: This is where you add lots of lettuce and greens. You should typically fill the jar about a 1/4 to a 1/3 with fresh lettuce at the top. (Think about how much lettuce you use in a bowl salad.)
Topping: Here’s where you can add toppings to your salad such as cheese or nuts…whatever appeals to your appetite.
5. After completing your final layer and tamping everything down a bit, tightly screw on your wide mouth lid. Then, refrigerate until ready to eat or until time to take to work or play. If you’re going on a picnic or camping trip, you can keep your salad(s) in a cooler with ice to keep fresh.
TIP: Always, always, always keep the mason jar upright. If you don’t, your dressing will begin to ooze into the body of the salad before time to eat and you will end up with a soggy, unappealing salad.
Time to Eat Your Perfect Mason Jar Salad
When you’re ready to eat your homemade gourmet salad, just unscrew the lid and dump it into a bowl, tossing lightly before eating. As you will notice, it’s in the correct order of a typical bowl salad. Cool!
Be creative and discover your own great recipes for jar salads for on the go or at home. They are a great way to eat healthy, save money and have fun with gourmet food in style. Enjoy!