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3 lunch prep ideas with mason jar salads

Want to get more plant foods into your day but don't know how? Executive Chef Kim Vu of Vucacious Catering in Santa Monica demonstrated how easy it is to prepare plant-based lunches. By building mason jar salads, you can prepare five lunches at once, and say bye-bye to the vending machine in the office.

3 mason jar salads

Why mason jar salads? Honestly, I never understood the reasoning behind mason jar salads. How much salad can you actually fit in these 2-cup jars to meet the recommended 2.5 cups or more of vegetables a day? Am I going to be hungry immediately after washing out the mason jar, or an hour later? However, I do like the idea of using glass jars instead of plasticware.

Chef Kim has the answers to these questions and more, including meal prep tips to reduce food waste, so read on. Then view my video of her entertaining and practical tips on the Nutrition Nom Nom video channel. Chef Kim demonstrated the mason jar salads at the Santa Monica Main Street Farmers Market, where she is Chef-in-Residence.

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Chef Kim has a degree in molecular biology from Caltech and is owner of Vucacious Catering. She uses locally grown and fresh ingredients from the farmers markets as much as possible. Mason jar salads are a time-saving way to use more fruits and vegetables, including last night's leftovers, for your week's lunches. Don't be afraid to experiment and be creative with ingredients such as roasted sweet potatoes, toasted nuts, whole grains such as farro and quinoa, raw cauliflower, and even citrus fruits.

Chef Kim Vu

To build your mason jar salads, first make sure you have a sharp knife. A dull knife is more likely to result in more accidents and cuts, Chef Kim advises. But you don't need any special knife skills to layer these salads. Assemble your ingredients, and then layer them according to their ability to withstand moisture. You can assemble five jars on Sunday, and refrigerate them for an entire week's worth of lunches.

The secret to building the mason jar lunches is how you layer the ingredients. Before we get into the actual steps to building the salad, here are Chef Kim's additional tips:

  • Don't bother peeling carrots. Simply use a good vegetable brush and rinse.

  • Peel and section citrus fruit into a bowl for easy clean up, then use the juice for dressing.

  • To avoid hunger, Chef Kim says she makes it to the end of her workday by layering into the salad protein and starch, such as beans, grains, and pasta.

  • Rough chop lettuce and place it in the refrigerator bin lined with paper towels. They won't brown for a week.

Chef Kim adds pomegrate to mason jar salads

Here are the steps to building a great mason jar salad, so you can stop reaching for an energy bar at lunchtime:

  1. Layer dressing on the bottom of the jar.

  2. For the next layer, use ingredients you might pickle. These foods can withstand moisture. They include the crisp vegetables such as cucumbers, tomatoes, and carrots.

  3. For the next layer, use ingredients that "survive if they get wet," Chef Kim says. These include beans, mushrooms, broccoli, and zucchini.

  4. Seal the ingredients with a layer of pasta, whole grains, or rice.

  5. For the final layer, add ingredients that should be far from the dressing and any moisture. These are delicate ingredients such as herbs and lettuce. Look for interesting textures, such as pomegranate arils or toasted hazelnuts

Seal the mason jar tight. Right before serving, shake well, and pour into a bowl. If you want to use avocado (don't we all?), she suggests soaking an avocado half in lime juice or a citrus dressing so it doesn't brown, then place the half with its pit face up against the lid and seal.

Preparing mason jar salads

Chef Kim's dressings include maple mustard dressing, curry shallot dressing, and simple sesame soy dressing. Her creative salad jars are layered with black beans, roasted potatoes, shredded napa cabbage, sliced oranges, and chickpeas.

For a complete list of salad ingredients and dressings for three mason jar salads, including shopping lists, see Chef Kim's Mason Jar Salads. You won't be skipping lunches anymore with these eye-catching and delicious salads.

Three mason jar salads

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