Put that canning on hold. Mason jars are becoming not only an interior accessory, but also a household necessity that stems far beyond pickling. Easy to store dry goods in, sip some iced tea out of, or use as a to-go container, these little glass jars are inexpensive and convenient. Mason jars are just the right size to pack an on-the-go lunch, like salad, in. Mason jar salads have gained much popularity these days, and for all great reasons! They are pretty, portable, and you can add any ingredients you like to make a satisfying midday meal. While salad can be naturally vegan without the cheese, dairy-based dressings, fish, chicken, eggs and meat, it’s crucial for plant-based eaters to add filling and hearty ingredients to turn that salad from “rabbit food” to super food.
Mason jar salads are all about proper layering so eating them is as simple as possible. Designed to be unloaded into a bowl or on a plate, or just eaten from the jar at your desk at work, they’re great for so many uses and the container is naturally environmentally-friendly too!
Here are some tips on making proper mason jar salads that are fun, filling and way more delicious than just a boring jar of spinach.
Layer 1: Dressing
Putting dressing in your jar first is crucial. This will guarantee that your salad does not get soggy and that when poured out onto a plate, the dressing is the last thing to get drizzled. Many store-bought dressings are already vegan, however nothing beats making it yourself. Some homemade dressings can be made oil-free , and you can even whip some up in less than five minutes. This Raw Vegan Caesar Salad Dressing is a classic, and this Creamy Balsamic Dressing pairs well with almost any salad. A light dressing such as this Carrot Ginger Dressing will taste refreshing on fluffy greens while a Homemade Tahini would work well with tougher greens like kale. Whether sweet, tangy, oily or creamy, add a couple spoonfuls of dressing to the bottom of your jar to assure tasty bites.
Layer 2: Grains and Protein
Grains and proteins come next in your mason jar layer. This layer is the “meat” of the salad. For proteins, try adding cubed tofu or tempeh. These soy-based proteins will absorb the taste of whatever dressing is underneath it. You could also add beans and legumes like black beans, lentils or chickpeas. Using black beans and simple ingredients, this Vegan BLT Salad can be transformed into a layered, mason jar classic. This Lentil Taco Salad can also easily be layered into a jar for a portable meal. All of these protein options will help the rest of your salad stay dry from the dressing. Grains such as quinoa, brown rice or barley are great for adding whole-grain heartiness to your lunch. Try this Protein-Packed Vegan Salad which uses chickpeas and quinoa. To layer this salad start with olive oil, add quinoa and chickpeas, then fresh vegetables, and finally end with cilantro and greens.
Layer 3: Veggies
The sky’s the limit with what vegetables you can add to your mason jar salad. Layering your vegetables after the protein, but before the greens, make it so the vegetables with be nicely mixed in once eating. Chopped up finely or slivered thin makes vegetables easy to layer. For those a bit more adventurous, try spiralizing your vegetables to make the most fun (and attractive!) looking salad jars. This Vegan Cobb Salad would make a great mason jar lunch and uses olives, avocado, tomato and peas for vegetables. For a salad using green leaf or romaine lettuce, shredded artichokes, green peas, avocados,opt for using raw vegetables such as cucumber, tomato, pepper and carrots for a lunch that is refreshing and crispy. For another raw twist, try this JumBowl Salad that uses beats, zucchini, squash and and onions.
Layer 4: Nuts, Seeds, Fruit
These are the fixings that you want to stay dry just before you eat your salad. Nuts, seeds and dried fruit can add crunchiness and more complex texture. They can also add saltiness, sweetness or zesty flavors. My favorite thing to add to salads are pumpkin seeds. These little seeds have extreme health benefits and are protein-packed to make for a more filling lunch. Nuts such as almonds, walnuts and peanuts also make for a protein punch. This Summer Watermelon Salad uses hemp seeds, chia seeds and walnuts for the ultimate healthy bite. Dried fruit such as cranberries or apricots add a nice sweetness to a salad, just make sure to add them sparingly as they can contain extra sugars and additives.
Layer 5: Greens
It wouldn’t be a true salad without greens, would it?! Putting your greens in last ensures your lettuce is dry until eaten, and when dumped out your lettuce is the bottom of your salad. Lettuce options for your salad can include butter, red leaf, arugula or endive- it’s up to you to decide which one is best! Romaine lettuce is similar to iceberg lettuce, however has more health benefits such as reducing bloating. Spinach and kale are nutrient powerhouses and can give your mason jar salad a little more heartiness than typical lettuce. For an innovative and energizing green, try using basil.