For a perfect salad on the go, it’s all about the “jar-chitecture.”
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In 1 pint-size jar, combine oil, lemon zest and juice, mustard, salt, and pepper. Cover jar tightly with lid and shake until mixture is well combined, about 30 seconds.
You can mix and match your favorite vegetables, proteins, dressings, and toppings to make a tasty salad, but for a perfect salad in a jar, the architecture matters. Here’s how to build a perfect picnic salad from bottom to top.
Bottom layer: 1 Tablespoon Dressing
We like tangy vinaigrettes for salads in a jar. Leaving the dressing on the bottom of the jar until you’re ready to eat makes sure that your veggies and toppings don’t get soggy.
Layer 2: ⅓ Cup Protein
Drained and rinsed canned beans, like chickpeas, black beans, or lentils, pack your salad with protein. Or use cooked chicken, canned tuna, or chopped hard-cooked eggs. Bonus: Putting the protein layer on the bottom lets it soak up extra flavor from the dressing.
Layer 3: ½ Cup Vegetables or Sturdy Fillings
Add your favorite raw or cooked vegetables, such as chopped cucumbers or bell peppers, halved cherry tomatoes or sugar snap peas, shredded carrots, or cooked corn. You can also add sturdy fillings like fresh mozzarella cheese or olives to this layer.
Layer 4: ½ Cup Greens or Grains
Keep leafy greens near the top of your salad so that they don’t get soggy from the dressing or squashed by heavier ingredients. Romaine lettuce, baby spinach, or spring mix work well. Be sure to chop them first for easier eating! Not feeling greens? Use cooked, cooled grains, such as quinoa, rice, pasta, or couscous.
Top Layer: 1 to 2 Tablespoons Toppings
Add flavor and texture to your salad with 1 to 2 tablespoons of crumbled or shredded cheese (like Parmesan, feta, or cheddar), nuts or seeds (like pecans, pepitas, or sunfl ower seeds), croutons, or dried fruit (like raisins or dried cranberries). Putting them on top keeps them fresh and crunchy.
White Bean, Mozzarella, and Spinach Salad in a Jar
Use 4 teaspoons red wine vinegar instead of the lemon zest and juice. Use 1(15-ounce) can cannellini beans instead of the chickpeas. Use 1 cup baby mozzarella balls, halved, instead of the cucumbers. Use 1 stemmed, seeded, and chopped red bell pepper instead of the tomatoes. Use 2 cups chopped baby spinach instead of the romaine lettuce. Use ½ cup croutons instead of the feta.
Place the jars in a cooler to keep them cold on the way to your picnic. When it’s almost time to eat, take the jars out of the cooler and let them sit for 10 to 15 minutes. This lets the olive oil, which is a solid when it’s cold, turn back into a liquid. Then, tip the jars upside down and shake gently to distribute the dressing over the vegetables and chickpeas. Serve. (Don’t forget to pack forks!)