How to Build a Salad in a Jar (Without It Turning into a Soggy Mess!)

Desk lunches don't have to be soggy and boring. We'll show you all the tips and tricks for crisp, flavorful salads in a jar.

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When it comes to simple, economical desk lunches, nothing beats a salad. (Especially if it’s one of these top-rated salad recipes from our readers!) Building a salad in a jar the best way to ensure that your leafy greens, zesty homemade dressing and crunchy croutons reach your office fridge safe and sound. However there’s a trick for how to avoid a forkful of soggy greens by 1PM. The answer is layering. Layer your ingredients the right way and those veggies and greens will stay crisp all day long.

How to Build a Salad in a Jar

Step 1: Choose the Right Jar

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Rummage around the kitchen for a clean jar with a wide-mouth opening for easy filling. While working on this recipe for overnight oatmeal, we fell in love with a set of wide-mouth jars from Weck. (Purchase them here!) But really, any jar will work. Having tested a number of them, we discovered the 1-quart jar is ideal for a nice-sized lunch.

Step 2: Know the Right Order

We know it’s a little geeky, but we’ve found the perfect hierarchy of salad ingredients for when they’re being crammed into a jar. Here’s an idea of how to separate your goodies, starting from bottom to top.

The Dressing

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It’s important to add the dressing to the bottom of the jar. This helps keep it in place so it doesn’t come in contact with delicate vegetables and fruits before its time. Your favorite bottled dressing is a good place to start, but why not switch things up a bit and try a homemade dressing or vinaigrette.

The Crunch

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Now is the time to add crisp, crunchy veggies, like carrots, beets and radishes since they hold up well to an acidic dressing. You can also add firm beans, like chickpeas or kidney beans. If you like onions, place them in first, directly on top of the dressing. This helps reduce the robust onion flavor and helps stop nasty onion breath. Your coworkers will thank you for it.

Psst! These are the best salad toppers for your diet.

The Protein

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What goes next really depends on when you’re plan to eat your delicious creation. If you’re making it ahead for a day or two, go ahead and add any meat you may want. If you’re meal prepping for the entire week ahead, it’s best to wait and add these items the day you’re going to enjoy them. I really like tender, juicy chicken breast (learn how to make it!) but cooked, cubed ham is right up there, too. Fancy some cheese? Go ahead and add a little of that in this layer.

The Delicates

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Now it’s time for the softer veggies and fruits. It’s important to have a few layers to separate these ingredients from the dressing, or else you risk them getting soggy. Halved cherry tomatoes, corn and blanched asparagus are great options. Don’t forget those seasonal fruits. Strawberries are always great but apples, pears and apricots are all delicious. I haven’t found many fruits that don’t taste amazing in salads.

Love a good fruit-forward salad? Check out this sweet berry-beet salad that’s fit to feed a crowd.

The Greens

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Lettuce is the last fresh ingredient you want to add. By saving it until the end, it stays the farthest away from the dressing. Think of those middle layers as insurance for it to remain nice and crisp. Pack the rest of the jar with any kind of greens; Boston (bibb) lettuce is one of my favorites. I’ve even thrown in some shredded Brussels sprouts.

Any Extras

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It’s always nice to leave a little room at the top for those crunchy things, like toasted nuts or croutons. I like to wrap them up in a little piece of plastic wrap and tuck them on top of the greens before I seal the jar.

Step 3: Enjoy!

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Now many folks will tell you to eat it right out of the jar but I’ve found it rather challenging to get it all mixed up nicely. Instead, when you’re ready to eat, give then salad a shake to distribute the dressing. Then, pour the salad into a bowl or large plate to more thoroughly combine.

Experiment with all those great seasonal fruits and veggies to create your own unique jarred salads. Or, try any of our leafy green salads, hearty main course salads or any of our Cobb salads, layering in the correct order, of course.

Get started with these super-satisfying salads.
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James Schend
Formerly Taste of Home’s Deputy Editor, Culinary, James oversaw the Food Editor team, recipe contests and Bakeable, and managed all food content for Trusted Media Brands. He has also worked in the kitchen of Williams-Sonoma and at Southern Living. An honor graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, James has traveled the world searching for great food in all corners of life.