Taco Salad in a Jar / by Anne Livingston


I'm such a fan of the "Salad in a Jar" trick. Get all the prep completed at once, layer in some delectable ingredients, and there's a week's worth of self-pampering waiting in the fridge. Pure brilliance! Who first thought of this? Well, thank you, good person. There are many great blogs out there with salad layering ideas. If I find some especially good ones, I'll share with you. If you find ones that you like, please let me know, also! I'm all over it.

If you are unfamiliar with the whole salad in a jar phenomenon/technique, I'll break it down for you briefly here. The salad is layered according to ingredients' varying degrees of density/durability (with the dressing, dense, and durable on bottom) to keep the ingredients at optimal freshness for as long as possible, up to about five days.

Putting ingredients in the jar might go in this order:

  • Layer 1 - dressing.
  • Layer 2 - heavy/dense ingredients, such as meat, beans, carrot. Shredded carrot or chopped celery can be nice at or near the bottom because they soak up dressing in a pleasant way once the salad is tossed. It just depends on what you like. Same goes for onion. If raw onion can be too intense for you, layer it in the bottom with the dressing, where the acid can mellow it out a bit. I also like cherry tomatoes near the bottom because they give off so much juice, they can add to the dressing.
  • Layer 3 - medium-dense vegetables, such as peppers, fruit, corn, cucumber.
  • Layer 4 - Cheese or nuts, if used.  This best separates these ingredients from the liquid of the dressing. However, if you are hoping to make salad with, say, blue cheese and you want the blue cheese to distribute nicely throughout the salad, it might be fun to experiment with adding blue cheese next to the dressing.
  • Layer 5 - The top layer consists of the lightest ingredients: tender greens, herbs, and sprouts. These are also the ingredients most likely to go bad. On the off chance the greens/herbs become too tired to go on anymore, you can put them out of their misery (pull them out and compost them), and replace them with fresh greens, if need be.

Other Salad-in-a-Jar Layering Tips:

  • Keep the jar upright to keep the ingredients separated and ensure the lasting freshness of the salad.
  • When it's time to eat the salad, turn the jar upside-down. Shake gently, if desired, or pour it directly into a large bowl or plate. The dressing that had been on bottom is now poured out over the salad.
  • Don't make more than 5 days' worth of salads. After that, the pre-cut greens can start to get a bit too wilt-y or browned.

Pictured above is a Taco Salad in a Jar. I loved the dressing I made for it--it was inspired by a cilantro aioli served on some huevos rancheros we had the other day at First Street Haven in Port Angeles. I'll share with you my dressing recipe below. Actually, the whole salad was a major winner. Even my 6 year old was chowing down on it tonight, and we are looking forward to lunch tomorrow! Good sign.

Is it the magic of the jar? The dressing? Who knows? Who cares? I just plan to keep that magic alive by recording what happened.

Taco Salad in a Jar

For each jar, add the ingredients in the following order:

  • 3 tablespoons Creamy Garlic Cilantro Dressing (recipe below)
  • 2 ounces poached, shredded chicken (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons cooked or roasted(!) corn
  • 1/4 cup cherry tomatoes (sungold pictured here)
  • 1/4 cup black beans (these could have been in the bottom layer)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon red onion
  • a handful of tender greens, to fill the rest of the jar
  • a few sprigs of cilantro

Close jar lid tightly and refrigerate until ready for use.

I forgot to add shredded cheese and chopped avocado to this salad as it is pictured, so I sprinkled those on at the end. Next time I will put the avocado in the bottom with the dressing (so that the acid of the dressing would keep it from browning, even though the avocado is delicate) and the cheese right below the greens.

Enjoy this salad with a few tortilla chips and hot sauce, if desired.

Creamy Garlic Cilantro Dressing


  • 1/4 cup yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, minced finely
  • 1 clove garlic, minced finely or pressed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Juice of 2 small limes
  • Salt, to taste


Whisk all the ingredients together or blend in a blender.