Assembly Line Jar Salad w/Garlicky-Balsamic Vinaigrette

Yes, I got into the whole ‘salad-in-a-jar’ thing. You know why? It works! It keeps the lettuce and other greens crisp and yummy for a very long time. I wouldn’t dare make this stuff up. And though many others have different recipes you can follow, some rules apply to all:

  1. Fresh ingredients only (no week-old stuff)
  2. Salad dressing goes in first
  3. Greens (lettuce, spinach, etc) go in last and cannot touch the dressing
  4. That’s it! Were you expecting more? 🙂

What I did below makes 8 quart-sized jars. Each jar makes a very large salad that will fill your plate. I suppose it could be for 2-3 people as a side dinner salad, but I’m not on a diet and really only care about getting full, so I just go for it. Okie dokie, let’s start with a yummy homemade dressing…

Garlicky Goodness Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 – 1 1/2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1-3 cloves garlic (finely minced)
assorted dried Italian herbs to equal 2 teaspoons (I like any combination of basil, oregano, rosemary and/or Italian parsley)
salt to taste

minced, not chopped

We like garlic. Lots of it. Even on our salad! If you don’t, then leave it out or don’t use as much. This dressing is garlicky. Give it a super-duper fine mince.

you're soaking in it!

Pour the oil into a quart size mason jar and toss in the minced garlic. Let it sit for a few minutes to infuse the oil.

black gold

I mixed the vinegars I had on hand because one is too strong and one is too sweet, but together they’re a dynamic duo. In my opinion, a good vinaigrette starts with a deep, complex-flavored vinegar… so I made one up!


Add to the jar 3/4 cup vinegar.

mixed, not blended

To make blending the dressing easier, mix the rest of the ingredients with a dash of vinegar or olive oil separately; then add the mixture to the jar. Put the lid on and shake it well. Shake it again. And maybe one more time. Taste it and add salt if you like… I always do. Shake and taste…and so on. Is it perfect yet? Good. Yum. Let’s move on…

Make ahead salad in a jar

I divide the dressing* between 8 quart jars; looks like a little assembly line of sorts. It’ll work out to be about 1/4 cup each, maybe a splash or two more, just try to divide it evenly.

first in line

Start layering your veggies**. Anything goes. Here I’m using two large carrots however, I will only use the small half of each carrot and save the large end for snacks. (Have you ever had carrot sticks dipped in pecan butter? Yum!) The veggie layers should fill the jar to about halfway.

a little wet behind the ears

Fill the rest of the jar with your greens. Make sure to dry the lettuce (or spinach, etc) really well (it could water the dressing down). Pack it in well. One (small) loose leaf head will do about four jars. For this salad I had a mondo-sized head which (along with a big bunch of spinach) was enough for all eight jars.

i'm a salad with many layers

Close it up, refrigerate and enjoy! How long will it last? It depends on how fresh the ingredients are, but I’d say up to two weeks. Really! Don’t tuck that head of lettuce away in the fridge drawer. Make yourself a salad in a jar so it doesn’t go to waste.

i'm going in...

Creamier dressings will have you scraping the jar to get it all out. (Too bad you can’t just stick your head inside!)

This is a great way to fill up at lunchtime without guilt. 🙂

*Tip: Vinaigrette will separate a bit and then the oil will harden in the fridge. Let the jar sit out for a few minutes and then give it a good shake before dumping it onto your plate.

**Tip: When you start layering, keep in mind that some foods might soak up the dressing more than others. Put the hard stuff in first and all will be good.

Tip: Like cheese? Croutons? Chopped chicken or shrimp? Keep ingredients like these ready-to-go, but separate from your jar salad. Only fresh produce will stay, well, fresh.