Cooking Ahead: Jar Salad Rules

There are so many benefits to jar salads. Off the top of my head…

  • They enable you to cook ahead one of the trickiest things to cook ahead – salad! Take care of all that chopping on the weekend, get the dishes done, and you’re good to go for the week to come. When you do the chopping/dishes just once a week, it won’t feel like very much work at all.
  • The only dishes you’ll be doing after you eat your jar salad are a jar, a bowl, and a fork!
  • There are few things worse than soggy lettuce. Jar salads, when made correctly, allow lettuce to stay crispy for several days!
  • Salads are loaded with nutrients. I won’t go into the details, but not only are salads typically full of some of the most nutrient dense foods out there, they are also (mostly) raw and full of fiber, too.
  • Because greens are low in calories, your salad bowl will be (sometimes literally) overflowing with deliciousness! If you’re a volume-eater like me, you’ll love it. (Make sure you’re loading up your salads to get enough calories if you’re doing this WFPB-style.)
  • Jar salads turn a complicated meal into an easy lunch or snack.

I call these “rules” instead of a “recipe” because there aren’t any specific ingredients. You can mix and match and improvise as much as you like! No matter what you put in there, if you follow these rules, your end product will be a salad in a jar that will be ready to eat. These rules will also help you evaluate salad recipes you find online so that any salad recipe can have the potential to become a jar salad!

Now for the rules of the game.

  1. Dressing first, in the bottom of the jar. 2-3 Tbsp is usually about right. Try not to get it on the sides of the jar. (If you do, just make a note on the jar to eat that one first! No worries.)
  2. Dressing-tolerant ingredients can marinate in the dressing (and act as a buffer for other ingredients). These can include sturdy ingredients like beans, ingredients that can marinate like tofu, onion, or cabbage, and any ingredients that could oxidize such as apple, pear, or avocado.
  3. Buffer ingredients should fill in about an inch of space to keep the greens from touching the dressing. These should be relatively dry and/or sturdy vegetables or fruits, such as carrots, cucumbers, and legumes. The buffer can also be a great spot for grains such as forbidden rice, quinoa, farro, or couscous.
  4. Now the greens of choice! Pack them in! At least three good handfuls, or 2-3 ounces if you have a kitchen scale. Romaine, spring greens, red leaf, arugula, spinach, baby kale, regular kale, Swiss chard, mustard greens, radish greens, beet greens… I could go on.
  5. Finally, crunchy things should go at the very top, perhaps separated by a small piece of wax paper or baking parchment. Nuts, seeds, croutons, dried fruit, sesame sticks, and other assorted crunchy things add delicious flair to any salad.

Now you’re in on the secret rules for the perfect jar salad. So what’s stopping you? Eat a salad every day! Better yet, tell your friends and start a salad swap. Coming soon, my next post in my “Cooking Ahead” series on how to set up a fantastically flexible salad swap with your friends or coworkers. That way, you get a different salad every day, and you only had to make one of them!


— Madison

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