Mason Jar Meals
Mason jars are having a major moment. While they’re great for decorating, displaying, storing, organizing, crafting, and gift giving, the most ingeniously utilitarian use for them that I have seen is transporting a ready-to-eat meal.
Not only is the mason jar a perfect sized container, it also provides an opportunity for you to showcase your food styling skills by creatively stacking the ingredients, giving the jar a striped appearance when finished. The screw-on lids are more secure than a plastic container, especially for liquid lunches, and they’re eco-friendly, which is equally awesome.
Perhaps my favorite perk of the mason jar meals-to-go movement is that it makes the previously impossible possible—meal prepping potentially soggy foods for the work week. The trick is all in the layering: taking care to put the wettest ingredients at the bottom.
Here are a few of my favorite mason jar meals:
Breakfast time is always hectic in our house. By prepping this hearty and healthy breakfast the night before, our mornings are much more streamlined. All you need is 1/4 cup uncooked oats, 1/3 almond milk, 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, and a few fun toppings. I like flaxseeds and sliced almonds. My husband prefers chia seeds and banana slices. Add a dash of cinnamon and a teaspoon of honey or maple syrup if you want it sweetened. Almond butter and peanut butter are also a delicious addition. Store it in the fridge the night before you want to eat it. In the morning you will awaken to find a deliciously simple meal ready to enjoy.
Build this mason jar meal the same as you would any yogurt parfait. Layer the yogurt and any wet ingredients (honey, frozen berries), first alternating between yogurt and fruit. Once you are close to the top, finish it off with something crunchy like granola, whole grain cereal, or chopped nuts.
Mason Jar Salads
Say goodbye to soggy salads! The great thing is you can prep a mason jar salad 4–5 days in advance without worrying about it being ruined at the end of the week. Start by putting your dressing in the bottom and stack ingredients carefully, choosing the sturdiest ones first and finishing with the delicate lettuce. Good choices include cucumbers, beans, chickpeas, snap peas, edamame, and onions. If you are having a really decadent salad—lots of legumes, quinoa, veggies, grilled chicken, deli meat, feta, etc.—you can always leave the greens out and bring a bag of spinach and other lettuces to keep in the fridge at work. At lunchtime, take your greens and dump on the toppings. Seriously simple salad eating!
Nachos in a Jar
My husband loves this one and it is a great way to use any leftovers from Taco Night. Again, layer carefully. Start with beans—black, pinto, refried—and then add the rice and any meat proteins. Next, layer a heaping spoonful or two of a good, sturdy salsa like pico de gallo, corn, or pineapple mango. Squirt a little hot sauce on top of the salsa layer before adding guacomole (make sure it has plenty of lime to prevent browning), followed by shredded cheese and a dollop of sour cream. Toss some baked blue corn chips in a bag and you have everything you need for an amazing Mexican meal.
Soup and Cornbread
Obviously a mason jar would be an ideal container for soup, but have you ever thought to put a slab of cornbread on top? AHmazing. It works especially well with heartier soups like roasted vegetable stew or chili.
Asian Noodle Jar Salad
This one stays really fresh even after four days. Cook a big batch of brown rice noodles. Let them cool and place them in the bottom of the jar. Add whatever sauce or dressing you want on top of the noodles. Next put in shredded carrots, edamame, diced bell peppers, broccoli, green onions, mandarin oranges, cooked chicken or pork—whatever you normally like in cold Asian-style noodle salad. Top with crispy fried noodles and put a lid on it.
Pesto Pasta Parfait
A totally different take on a parfait is to layer it with pasta, pesto, fresh mozzarella cheese balls, sundried tomatoes, and olives. Your jar will be the center of attention at lunchtime—guaranteed.
Birthday Cake in a Jar
This is by far the sweetest use for a mason jar—literally! I love this idea both for a party favor and as a unique way to serve birthday cake. Start with a good size chunk of cake, then add a hefty dollop of icing. Repeat with more cake and more icing and top with sprinkles or any sweet sauces like caramel or chocolate. These little darlings can even be shipped to a deserving recipient as long as they’ll get it within three days. I can’t think of a better surprise on my doorstep.
Have you tried making mason jar meals? Which is your favorite?