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Packing a salad in a jar is a great way to have a quick, but healthy, lunch or dinner that’s ready in seconds when you need it. And it’s easy to make an “assembly line” at home to prepare several jars at once, quickly making a week’s worth of salads. (They last about five days after being prepared.) Because they’re so portable, salad jars are particularly useful if you have a job where you need to bring a lunch with you. When meal time arrives, all you have to do is shake up the jar (mixing together all of the salad ingredients that had been strategically separated) and serve it up in a bowl. So if you’d like to organize your meal schedule with some healthy and varied salad options, then this Instructables project is for you!

This Instructables project gives three different vegetable-packed salad recipes for some variety to your salad jar options:
  1. A bean salad with homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing
  2. A broccoli pasta salad with a homemade avocado-mustard dressing
  3. A crouton-rich garden salad with sprouts and a homemade, Ranch-like dressing that uses buttermilk, avocado, vinegar, and herbs

Step 1: Picking Good Salad Ingredients

Each of the three salad recipes here are relatively low in fat and high in fiber. To make these super salad recipes, I selected the most low-fat/high-fiber ingredients to make each salad recipe revolve around. This was done by first making a long list of common salad ingredients (from looking through lots of recipes online), then writing down the nutritional information for each ingredient (mostly taken from MyFitnessPal.com), and then sorting them all according to total fat or fiber content (as well as other factors, such as sugar content).

Take a look at the images in this step to see how different ingredients commonly found in salad recipes compare to each other. The amounts given for each ingredient are for 1 calorie so that they can be compared them on a per calorie basis. Numbers highlighted in blue are in the lowest 25%, numbers not highlighted (remaining white) are in the middle 25% to 75% range, and numbers highlighted in red are in the top 25%. Ingredients with bolded names are in the lowest 25% for fat and the top 25% for fiber – these were the ingredients I picked to make my salad recipes revolve around.


Step 2: Bean Salad Recipe – Gathering Ingredients

Each salad recipe gives amounts for filling a 32 ounce jar with two servings. If you’re interested, check out the “Nutrition Facts” label I created for this salad in the images above. Since one serving is 354 calories, if you’re consuming 2,000 calories a day, then this would be 17.7% of your calories for the day, so this recipe is relatively low in fat (14% of the daily value) and high in fiber (56% of the daily value).

Here’s what you’ll need to make this salad and pack it in a 32-oz jar for later:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 1/3 cup roasted garlic
  • 1/2 cup green beans
  • 1 ½ cups red kidney beans
  • 1/2 cup garbanzo beans
  • 3 tablespoons bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/3 cup celery, chopped
  • One 32-oz jar. Canning jars work well for this. (Alternatively, you could half this recipe to make one serving in a 16-oz jar.)

Step 3: Bean Salad Recipe – Preparing Ingredients

Green beans
You could use (drained) green beans from a can, or cook them yourself from fresh ones (which is what I prefer). To cook them, cut them into short segments (about 1 inch long, removing the ends), boil them on medium-high for 3 to 4 minutes, strain them, and (ideally) put them on ice water to stop them from cooking. If you make a large batch, you can freeze the extras in zip-lock bags in ½ cup (or larger) amounts so they’re easy to quickly add to the salad jars later.

Red kidney beans and garbanzo beans
Again, you can use (drained) red kidney beans and garbanzo beans from a can, or cook them yourself – I cooked them from dried beans. To cook the dry beans, let them soak in water overnight (or for 4+ hours), then simmer them for 60 minutes and drain. Again, if you make a large batch, freeze extras in zip-locks in ½ cup (or larger) amounts.

Bell pepper
De-seed the bell pepper and chop the rest of it into small pieces, ½ inch squared. One pepper is about 1 ½ cups chopped.

Celery
Cut the ends off (if damaged) and then cut the rest of the stalk into small pieces, about ½ inch by ¼ inch. One stick is about 1/3 cup chopped.

Step 4: Bean Salad Recipe – Assembling the Salad Jar

To make a good salad jar, you want to add the dressing first, followed by the heavier pieces, and then the lighter pieces, topping it off with any leafy greens. Here’s how I recommend adding the ingredients for this bean salad recipe:

Add these first: Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, and mustard

Add these next: Roasted garlic, green beans, red kidney beans, garbanzo beans, bell pepper

Add this last: Celery

When you’re done, tighten on the lid. You can use a permanent marker to label the jar with the date so you know how long it’s good for (they last about five days in the refrigerator). When you’re ready to eat it, shake it up real good, dish it out into two bowls, and enjoy!

(To see more on what order to put ingredients in a salad jar in general, check out this webpage on How To Make Salad in A Jar -- it helped me design my jars.)

Step 5: Broccoli Pasta Salad Recipe – Gathering Ingredients

Each salad recipe gives amounts for filling a 32 ounce jar with two servings. If you’re interested, check out the “Nutrition Facts” label I created for this salad in the images above. Since one serving is 361 calories, if you’re consuming 2,000 calories a day, then this would be 18.1% of your calories for the day, so this recipe is relatively low in fat (12% of the daily value) and high in fiber (24% of the daily value).

Here’s what you’ll need to make this salad and pack it in a 32-oz jar for later:
  • 1 ¼ tablespoons vinegar, white distilled
  • 1/4 cup mustard
  • 1/2 cup avocado (one avocado may make about 2/3 to ¾ cup)
  • 2 cups pasta
  • 1 tablespoon bacon bits
  • 2/3 cup broccoli
  • 1 tablespoon celery, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon craisins
  • 1 tablespoon cashews
  • One 32-oz jar. Canning jars work well for this. (Alternatively, you could half this recipe to make one serving in a 16-oz jar.)

Step 6: Broccoli Pasta Salad Recipe – Preparing Ingredients

Pasta
Any typical, plain pasta should work, although corkscrew pasta looks particularly nice (I did not have this available, unfortunately). Cook the pasta as described on the packaging and then drain the pasta.

Bacon bits
I’ve been very disappointed by the quality of bacon bits available in grocery stores, so I made my own from uncured bacon. To make your own bacon bits, partially freeze the bacon so it’s easier to cut, and then cut it into ½ inch to ¼ inch pieces. Sprinkle the pieces with pepper (if desired), then cook them on medium high heat until they're crisp – watch carefully because it’s easy to burn them! They can then be removed using a slotted spoon and drained on some paper towels. Refrigerate or freeze in zip-lock bags, as desired. (These instructions are based off of this homemade bacon bits recipe.)

Broccoli
Cut these into small heads of broccoli – they shouldn’t be too large or they will make mixing (via shaking) more difficult later.

Celery
Cut the ends off (if damaged) and then cut the rest of the stalk into small pieces, about ½ inch by ¼ inch. One stick is about 1/3 cup chopped.

Step 7: Broccoli Pasta Salad Recipe – Assembling the Salad Jar

To make a good salad jar, you want to add the dressing first, followed by the heavier pieces, and then the lighter pieces, topping it off with any leafy greens. Here’s how I recommend adding the ingredients for this broccoli pasta salad recipe:

Add these first: Vinegar, mustard, and avocado. After adding these, mix them together in the jar until they make a salad dressing-like substance. (I forgot to do this in the pictures, but it still turned out OK – it just required more shaking later!)

Add these next: Pasta and bacon bits.

Add these last: Broccoli, celery, craisins, and cashews.

When you’re done, tighten on the lid. You can use a permanent marker to label the jar with the date so you know how long it’s good for (they last about five days in the refrigerator). When you’re ready to eat it, shake it up real good, dish it out into two bowls, and enjoy!

Step 8: The Crouton and Sprouts Garden Salad Recipe – Gathering Ingredients

Each salad recipe gives amounts for filling a 32 ounce jar with two servings. If you’re interested, check out the “Nutrition Facts” label I created for this salad in the images above. Since one serving is 179 calories, if you’re consuming 2,000 calories a day, then this would be 9.0% of your calories for the day, so this recipe is relatively low in fat (8% of the daily value) and high in fiber (28% of the daily value).

Here’s what you’ll need to make this salad and pack it in a 32-oz jar for later:
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons buttermilk, low-fat or fat-free
  • 2/3 cup avocado
  • 2 tablespoons of herbs (I used 1 tablespoon tarragon and 1 tablespoon parsley)
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • Dash of salt
  • 2 tablespoons bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cucumber, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon carrot, chopped
  • 3/4 cup peas
  • 1/2 tablespoon radishes
  • 1/3 cup sprouts, e.g. clover or alfalfa
  • 1 tablespoon tomatoes. I used cherry tomatoes.
  • 2 tablespoons mushrooms, plain white
  • 1/3 cup lettuce, shredded
  • 1 cup plain croutons
  • One 32-oz jar. Canning jars work well for this. (Alternatively, you could half this recipe to make one serving in a 16-oz jar.)

Step 9: The Crouton and Sprouts Garden Salad Recipe – Preparing Ingredients

Mint
Chop the mint up into small, fine pieces. (It will be incorporated into the dressing.)

Bell pepper
De-seed the bell pepper and chop the rest of it into small pieces, ½ inch squared. One pepper is about 1 ½ cups chopped.

Cucumber
Chop the cucumber into small pieces (about ¼ inch dimensions at most).

Carrot
Like the cucumber, chop this into small pieces (about ¼ inch dimensions at most).

Radishes
Like the cucumber and carrot, chop the radish into small pieces (about ¼ inch dimensions at most).

Croutons
Making homemade croutons is really not that difficult – I went this route after being really disappointed by what’s in most croutons you buy at the store. To make 2 1/2 cups of homemade croutons, take 6 slices of bread, remove the crusts, melt 1 ½ tablespoons of butter (or butter substitute), brush both sides of the de-crusted bread with the melted butter, cut the bread into small cubes (about ½ inch to 1 inch long), sprinkle them with garlic salt (if desired), and bake them on an ungreased cookie sheet at 350 F for 15 – 20 minutes (until browned). Once they’ve baked, let them cool and you can store them in a Tupperware container or sealed bag. (These instructions are based off of this crouton recipe.)

Step 10: The Crouton and Sprouts Garden Salad Recipe – Assembling the Salad Jar

To make a good salad jar, you want to add the dressing first, followed by the heavier pieces, and then the lighter pieces, topping it off with any leafy greens. Here’s how I recommend adding the ingredients for this crouton and sprouts garden salad:

Add these first: Buttermilk, avocado, chopped herbs, rice vinegar, and salt. After adding these, mix them together in the jar until they make a salad dressing-like substance.

Add these next: Bell pepper, cucumber, carrots, peas, and radishes.

Add these next: Sprouts, tomatoes, and mushrooms.

Add these last: Lettuce and croutons.

When you’re done, tighten on the lid. You can use a permanent marker to label the jar with the date so you know how long it’s good for. Because of the sprouts, this salad might not last quite as long as the others – maybe four days in the refrigerator at best. When you’re ready to eat it, shake it up real good, dish it out into two bowls, and enjoy!
wow! my mouth is watering, reading about these! I'm looking forward to trying them. Nicely done presentation, too, and nicely organized!
<p>Thanks, jojo5353! I hope you enjoy trying them out sometime! I've really been enjoying them -- great way to make a healthy meal for later when you have a few spare minutes during the day.</p>
<p>A very tasty idea :D</p>
<p>Thanks, Penolopy! I'm glad you like it. My husband and I have really been enjoying trying out these salad jars.</p>
if packing your salads in jars works for you, you might consider investing in a vacuum sealer and vacuum lids for your jars. salads (even field greens) last waaaaaayyy longer in a vacuum jar.
guess I should have read further down the comments before paying that...
<p>Fabulous idea!!!</p>
<p>Thanks, bajablue! And thanks for checking out the project! :)</p>
<p>I am going to make those..... will tell you how they turn out. I LOVE salads</p>
<p>Awesome.Just had the time to go through while doing the judging.</p>
<p>Thanks for checking it out, 786Ayesha!</p>
<p>Seeing this instructable makes my mouth water and reminds me that I wanted to do some testing using a wide-mouth jar sealer with vacuum-sealing attachment to see if it would keep them fresher longer. Has anyone here tried to do this? I read somewhere, however, that cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage should not be vac-sealed.</p>
<p>That's a great idea. I haven't tried it, but somebody in a different comment here posted links to vacuum-sealing devices and suggested that it would probably work with this. I'll need to try it out myself sometime.</p>
<p>Super great idea and great instructable!</p>
<p>Thanks for checking it out, RDeUslar! Glad you enjoyed it!</p>
<p>I like this idea for taking a salad to work. Don't the croutons get soft?</p>
<p>I've had the crouton salad one to three days after preparing it and the croutons were still crisp. I think it's because they're so separated from the moist parts of the salad.</p>
<p>An extremely well done instructable.</p>
<p>Thanks for checking it out, Stevenrterry! I'm glad you enjoyed it!</p>
<p>If you vacuum seal the jars, they will last longer than 5 days.</p><p>Can be accomplished with the following:</p><p>http://www.amazon.com/FoodSaver-T03-0023-01-Wide-Mouth-Jar-Sealer/dp/B00005TN7H/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1391004226&amp;sr=8-10&amp;keywords=hand+vacuum+sealer</p><p>http://www.amazon.com/FoodSaver-FSFRSH0051-FreshSaver-Handheld-Sealing/dp/B002FWIVCA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1391004226&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=hand+vacuum+sealer</p><p>or</p><p>http://www.amazon.com/Ziploc-Vacuum-Starter-3-Quart-1-Pump/dp/B003UEMFUG/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1391004226&amp;sr=8-2&amp;keywords=hand+vacuum+sealer</p>
<p>Thanks, At Liberty! That's great to know -- I'll have to try it out.</p>
<p>I am so trying these.. they look great!</p>
<p>Thanks, fluffydragon! I've really been enjoying them -- my favorite is the bean salad, and my husband's is the broccoli pasta one.</p>
Do these need to be refrigerated or shelved after assembly? I know most canning is shelved but since this is salad I wasn't quite sure.
<p>They need to be refrigerated, just like you would with a salad in an ordinary container. I used canning jars because that's what I had around, but they're not actually preserved (they haven't been pickled or sterilized with heat) so they've still got happy bacteria living on them :) The bean salad and pasta salad should be good for about 5 days in the refrigerator, and the sprouts salad is good for about 4 days in the refrigerator (the sprouts are the first thing to go).</p>
I see the mason jar. I am just now getting into canning at home would this be something you could preserve? Or are the mechanics if that way to crazy to even consider?
<p>That's a really interesting thought. I do some canning (pickles and apple butter mostly), so I just used the jars I had laying around, but I hadn't thought about preserving the salads. I bet you could probably make a pickled version out of the bean salad and it would work pretty well (but I can't imagine pickling the other two salads -- don't think that'd be too tasty!). I'm not sure how well it'd work to preserve the other salads though, because if you're not pickling them it usually requires a lot of heat and this might turn them into mush. But I'm not a canning expert -- it'd be interesting to look into more, for sure!</p>

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Bio: I am a scientist, professional science writer, and science educator. I'm also author of the Biology Bytes books: http://www.biology-bytes.com/book/.
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