Five Salad Jar Ideas That Make Great Pack Lunches

Salad Jar
(Image credit: Unknown)

Photography: William and Susan Brinson

Mason jar salads are pretty much the perfect food. They’re simple to make, carry and store; you can use delicious flavours from all over the world, from Mexico to Thailand via Italy; and they’re easy to pack with nutrition.

The basic formula is “wet foods first, dry foods last” so the salad’s not soggy when you eat it. Start with two wide-mouth, litre-size mason jars, pour in some (preferably fresh) dressing, then layer on the salad ingredients. Then close it and pop it into the fridge (it’ll stay fresh for up to a week), or take it with you to work – just turn it over into a bowl and it’s ready to go. You’re about to open up a world of possibilities.

The Salad Jar Method

You’re welcome to get as creative with your own mason jar salads as you like – just follow these guidelines on how to layer your ingredients

Layer 1: Salad dressing, fresh fruit and watery vegetables

This is key to keeping the greens fresh and crisp. By adding the dressing to the bottom of the jar, along with any other wet ingredients like strawberries or chopped cucumber, you prevent everything else from getting soggy.

Layer 2: Hearty, dry vegetables

This layer acts as a bridge. Broccoli, carrots and beans act as a sturdy buffer between the rest of the salad and the dressing.

Layer 3: Grains and more porous vegetables

Quinoa, pasta and veggies like mushrooms and aubergine that can absorb moisture go here, protected by the dryer ingredients that preceded them.

Layer 4: Proteins

Here’s where meat, cheese and fish go.

Layer 5: Lettuce, nuts, seeds, herbs and dried fruit

These go on top to stay as dry and fresh as possible. The goal is crisp and crunchy, not slimy, soggy and wilted.

Expert tip: As long as you keep the jars upright, your salad will stay preserved for days. When you’re ready to eat, shake the jar over a plate or bowl. The dressing will start to coat the salad as you empty it out – toss with a fork to ensure an even mix before eating.

Salad Jar Recipes

Prepare two mason jars. Divide all the ingredients into two portions, and layer them in the jars in the order shown. Seal and refrigerate.

Pad Thai prawn (serves two)

Pad Thai prawn

(Image credit: William and Susan Brinson)


  • 2tbsp powdered peanut butter mixed with 2tbsp water, 2tsp sriracha and 4tbsp ginger dressing
  • 20g chopped broccoli
  • 40g shredded carrots
  • 2-3 sprouts, sliced
  • 75g edamame
  • 250g cooked brown rice noodles
  • Prawn mixture: in a sauté pan, lay 320g peeled raw prawns flat. Add 1tbsp olive oil and a dash of Himalayan salt, red pepper flakes and garlic powder. Cook over medium heat until pink. Allow to cool, then add to jar.
  • 100g chopped cabbage
  • 3tbsp crushed peanuts

Nutrition (per serving): 837 calories, 61g protein, 82g carbs, 30g fat

Tuna tropical paradise (serves two)

Tuna tropical paradise

(Image credit: William and Susan Brinson)


  • 90g strawberries, sliced in quarters
  • 4tbsp pomegranate seeds
  • ½ avocado, sliced
  • Squeeze of lemon juice (to keep fruit fresh)
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 185g cooked quinoa
  • 100g chickpeas
  • 140g canned tuna, drained and mixed with 3tbsp fresh lemon juice and a dash of garlic powder and salt
  • 60g goat’s cheese
  • 2 large handfuls of rocket
  • 4tbsp pumpkin seeds

Nutrition (per serving): 599 calories, 35g protein, 45g carbs, 32g fat

Greek god salad (serves two)


  • 85ml vinaigrette
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 50g diced cucumber
  • 4tbsp pitted, sliced Kalamata olives
  • 225g cooked bulgur wheat
  • 4tbsp crumbled feta cheese
  • 225g diced cooked chicken breast
  • 75g chopped romaine lettuce

Nutrition (per serving): 447 calories, 44g protein, 31g carbs, 16g fat

Latin burrito bowl (serves two)


  • 2tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • 120g salsa
  • ¾ ripe avocado, cut into cubes
  • 1tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 195g cooked brown rice
  • 100g black beans
  • Meat mixture: sauté 4tbsp diced white onion with ½tbsp olive oil until soft in a skillet over medium heat. Add 280g minced beef and cook for eight minutes. Add a dash of cayenne, smoked paprika, garlic powder and chilli powder.
  • 4tbsp crumbled cotija or feta cheese
  • 75g shredded iceberg lettuce
  • Chopped coriander

Nutrition (per serving): 707 calories, 56g protein, 45g carbs, 33g fat

Chicken caprese salad (serves two)

Chicken caprese salad

(Image credit: William and Susan Brinson)


  • 120ml balsamic vinaigrette
  • 150g grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 4 large basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • Pinch of Himalayan salt and black pepper
  • 150g cooked pasta (gluten-free if preferred)
  • 170g cooked chicken breast, diced
  • 2 slices prosciutto
  • 85g fresh mozzarella, cubed
  • 400g baby spinach

Nutrition (per serving): 593 calories, 62g protein, 47g carbs, 17g fat

A version of this article first appeared in the US version of Men’s Fitness