Layered salads in jars are hot on Pinterest right now. I couldn’t figure out if they were a gimmick or not, so I decided to give one a try. When it comes to salads in general, I’m really lazy, so if I can somehow trick myself into making them ahead of time, it helps. Since I don’t eat nearly enough beans, and I’m guessing you don’t either, why not use all kinds of beans, and remake the old 7 bean salad? Having them all ready to go like this would be a big encouragement to me. I can see making up a bunch of these jars on the weekend and using them all through the week.
These could go from parties, to picnics, to a work-day brown bag. Using glass jars is eco-friendly, and you don’t have to worry about plastic leaching into your food. They’re vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, nut free, healthy, and pretty! I think I’m convincing myself.
The original layered salad concept, I think, was to layer a green salad in the jar with the dressing on the bottom so it won’t wilt the lettuce, etc. It supposedly lasts for days in the fridge that way. When you’re ready to eat, flip the jar upside down to let the dressing coat the salad.
My lemon vinaigrette has lots of bright citrus flavor to stand up to the beans. If you make it in a small food processor the oil and lemon will become emulsified and the dressing won’t separate over time. All olive oils will solidify in the refrigerator, so let the salad sit out a bit before you serve it. You could also use a different kind of oil, like walnut, or flaxseed if you want something that will stay liquid when chilled.
A couple of things to remember….you are going to need wide mouth jars for making layered salads-in-a-jar. Mason jars are cute, but not practical for this. I used wide mouth pint canning jars, that way they’re easy to layer and easy to get your fork into. Mine are Kerr, but Ball makes them, too. These jars are also perfect for jam making later this summer.
I put the onions in first, and then the dressing, so the onions can mellow out a bit, and the dressing stays separate from the rest of the salad. That isn’t so important with a bean salad, which is pretty sturdy, but if you were layering a classic lettuce salad, putting the dressing in first is crucial so it doesn’t touch the rest of the salad and make it limp and soggy.
I used a mix of canned, frozen, dried and fresh beans. I used frozen baby limas and edamames, dried red beans and chickpeas, canned black beans, and fresh green beans. I also had dried French lentils waiting, but couldn’t fit them since I also wanted to include a couple of veggies in there, too, like yellow bell pepper and cucumber. I layered in fresh thyme leaves, but you can use any herb you want.
What You Will Need
- assorted beans, either canned, dried, fresh or frozen (see above for the exact beans I used)
- colorful bell pepper, finely chopped
- red onion, minced
- English cucumber (the kind that comes wrapped in plastic) finely diced. Don't peel!
- several sprigs of fresh thyme
- juice and zest of 1 lemon
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- Make the dressing: Put the lemon juice and zest in a small food processor. With the motor going, slowly drizzle in the olive oil (there is a small hole in the top to allow you to do this.) The dressing will emulsify. Stop the machine and taste periodically so you get it the way you like it. Add salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste. Do this with a whisk, if you like.
- Put a layer of red onion in the bottom of your clean jar.
- Add the dressing on top. Be careful not to splatter, I used a funnel.
- Begin layering your beans and veggies, pressing down slightly as you go. Keep the layers level, and try to use contrasting colors so it will look appealing. Add in the thyme leaves or sprigs as you go for flavor.
- Layer all the way to the top and then cap the salad and refrigerate until ready to eat.
- Flip the jar over before eating to let the dressing percolate down over the salad.
What do you think, are these worth bothering with? My final thought is that you might as well mix the salad together and then fill the jars. Not as cute, but more practical :)