If your goal is to eat more salads, a plate full of lettuce, cukes and tomatoes can get old. But with layers of fruit, veggies, grains and proteins, salad-in-a-jar recipes are the perfect option for quick and easy packed lunches (or make-ahead dinners!). All you need is a jar, some basic knife skills and a few creative homemade dressings for a clever and sophisticated salad you can actually look forward to.
Healthy Lunch Ideas: 10 Mason Jar Salads
Made from pantry staples such as farro, chickpeas, pepitas, Kalamata olives and dried cherries, this salad-in-a-jar can be enjoyed all year round. While the beans in this recipe act as a barrier to the dressing (which prevents the greens from wilting by lunchtime), you can also store a healthy homemade dressing in the office refrigerator to ensure fresh, crunchy salads every time. The Greek dressing featured here keeps well for a few weeks. Photo and recipe: Kate Taylor / Cookie and Kate
For a tasty change from the plain old chopped lettuce salad, this recipe draws its inspiration from Asian cuisine. Soba noodles, also known as buckwheat noodles, are a great gluten-free option (though make sure to use gluten-free soy sauce and skip the crunchy rice noodle topping if gluten is a no-no in your diet). The homemade dressing uses peanut butter as an emulsifier, which allows the oil and vinegar to come together more harmoniously. That also means you won’t need to shake or mix it. Photo and recipe: Lori Yates / Foxes Love Lemons
This bright and beautiful take on the traditional Cobb ditches greens in favor of as many fruits and veggies you can fit in the jar. Miso-marinated tofu and tempeh bacon sit atop layers of carrots, onion, tomato, Naval orange and avocado. While it’s not quite like the real thing, tempeh bacon — either homemade or store-bought — adds a satisfying, savory crunch. Enjoy this jarred salad as is, or give it a shake and serve in a bowl for easier eating. Photo and recipe: Kathy Patalsky / Lunch Box Bunch
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This beauty of a lunch features a relatively short ingredients list — just cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls, basil leaves, olive oil and a pinch of salt. But it by no means lacks flavor. Add more substance and nutrients (namely vitamin A and potassium) to this lunch with two to three cups of lettuce, kale or other mixed greens. Photo and recipe: Rowena Dumlao-Giardina / Skinny Ms.
The ingredients for this salad reflect a farmers market in July, but it’s easy to create a colder-weather variation with sliced apple or pear instead of nectarine. The protein in this salad comes from pistachios and fava beans, which have 13 grams of protein per cup. Though many recipes call for peeled fava beans, it’s OK to keep the light skin in tact (or just pop on a good song, have some patience, and peel away). Photo and recipe: Elenore / Earthsprout
This pretty, make-ahead, layered salad includes nutrient-dense grains, wheatberries and quinoa. Bump up the serving of edamame in each jar to a half-cup for 8.5 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber. The dressing for this recipe is a tad lighter than most since it ditches oil and focuses on lots of flavor from orange, lime and apple juice, minced ginger and apple cider vinegar. Photo and recipe: Angela Liddon / Oh She Glows
Simplicity is key for this spinach-based salad. Sweet strawberries balance out the tangy feta, while sunflower seeds add a nutty crunch. Cooked quinoa serves as the main protein, though don’t forget about the feta: A quarter-cup serving adds an extra five grams of protein. If your strawberries are on the juicy side, place them in the jar first to keep the spinach dry and crisp. Photo and recipe: Cassie / Back to Her Roots
Instead of salad greens, this jar salad uses raw zucchini “noodles” (aka zoodles!) for a crunchy, fresh, potassium- and vitamin C-rich base. Don’t have a fancy spiral kitchen tool to make the faux noodles? A serrated peeler will do the job. And skip the calorie-laden creamy dressing — this recipe uses avocado and Greek yogurt to create a rich and comforting dish. Photo and recipe: Brenda Bennett / Sugar-Free Mom
Pears, pecans and roasted sweet potatoes, plus a hearty helping of wild rice, create a satisfying fall-inspired salad. Topping it off with cooked grains adds bonus vitamins and minerals, including phosphorous, zinc, magnesium, iron and vitamin B. Plus, the sweet and tangy dressing, made with yogurt, honey, lemon juice and chives, trumps any store-bought favorite. Photo and recipe: Amber / Loves Food Loves to Eat
You’ll have no problem eating a rainbow of vegetables with this flavorful Asian-inspired salad. Red cabbage, cucumber, carrots and red and yellow bell peppers are dressed with a creamy peanut and ginger dressing. Meanwhile, edamame and quinoa add filling protein and more fiber to the mix. Pour the dressing into the jar first before layering the veggies, and when you’re ready to eat, just shake the jar. Photo and recipe: Carmen Sturdy / Life By Daily Burn
Originally published January 2015. Updated April 2017.