Only a few years ago, mason jars were pretty much strictly for canning. Now, most likely thanks to social media, they’re as trendy as green juice and coconut oil. Sure, they can house wedding centerpieces and tiki torches, but even better: They make portable, portion-control meals a cinch—some don’t even need a second of cooking! Plus, hello food porn! Who knew salads looked even more appetizing stacked?
But don't worry if you don’t feel like you #nailedit on the presentation. Taste buds know that it’s what inside that counts, and these recipes are sure to please.
This beaut calls for grilled peaches to up the sweet ante, though fresh work just as well in a time-crunch. Layered with nutty quinoa, creamy Greek yogurt, crunchy pecans, and soft blueberries and drizzled with maple syrup, it’s a symphony of textures so delicious we’d make it for dessert too.
Mason jar breakfasts aren’t all layered parfaits, oats, and chia seeds. Hearty combinations like this one work just as well, making eggs portable without putting them on an English muffin or bagel. Instead, toss in a jar with bacon, spinach, and cheese, and nuke in the microwave for a speedy, healthy meal.
Turtle chocolate lovers, this one’s for you. If you’re not familiar with the sweet, it’s a delightful combo of chocolate, caramel, and pecans mixed together. This a.m. meal keeps it healthy with medjool dates as a surprisingly perfect stand-in for caramel, plus cocoa powder, unsweetened almond milk, oats, and of course the pecans. Decadent and delish!
Gotta love a recipe that doesn’t require cooking. Oats and chia seeds soak up milk, vanilla, and cinnamon overnight to make a thick pudding-like treat. Alternated with Greek yogurt, berries, and chia seeds and topped with granola come morning, this nutritious meal takes just minutes to put together and is perfectly portable. Take that, Mickey D’s.
Who says frittatas have to be fancy? This recipe takes a little longer to make, but it's worth it for the combination of eggs, kale, potatoes, sausage, and cheese in a cute mason jar. Kale is a superfood, too, so this one has some added nutritional bonuses.
Can’t go wrong with the classic: fruit, yogurt (try goat yogurt, which has less sugar than yogurt make from cow’s milk), granola (we recommend homemade to control the sugar), and bananas. Mix protein powder into the yogurt for extra flavor, and switch up the other ingredients based on what’s in season and what you want!
With this basic recipe, you can wake up to a delicious breakfast with a good amount of protein in a different flavor every day! This blog lists 20 flavors including cherry almond, papaya coconut cashew, and strawberry pumpkin seed!
Despite the slew of oat recipes out there, morning mason jar options for Paleo eaters do exist. This one takes an omelette of sausage, sweet peppers, cheddar cheese, and mushrooms scrambled with plain yogurt and bakes everything in the jars. Make a few and have breakfast set for the week.
Waking up with chocolate is approved when it’s this healthy and balanced. Yet it’s so creamy and rich thanks to chia seeds, yogurt, and soaked oats, it tastes like a treat. Top with extra bananas, walnuts, and honey, and it’s ready to go.
That’s right—flapjacks to go! Made with real ingredients (including almond butter, apple butter and whole wheat flour) rather than prepackaged mix, this version cooks in the microwave and is all the light, fluffy, fruity goodness you expect off the griddle. Plus the jar makes for easy portion control since a stack of pancakes can go down pretty easy.
Zucchini noodles with a Greek yogurt-avocado dressing—what’s not to like? Mixed with red bell pepper (which has more vitamin C than an orange), tomatoes (for lycopene), buttery edamame, crunchy celery, and salty feta and olives, if you’re not drooling yet, there’s something wrong with you!
With fewer calories, less fat, and the same amount of protein as ham, we’re not sure why we didn’t think to put shrimp in a cobb salad before. There’s still the cheese, egg, and bacon in this recipe, plus a variety of vegetables that can be adapted as you like.
The breakfast fave takes a walk on the savory side in this recipe that’s loaded with flavor, texture, and nutrients. We’re talking chickpeas, raisins, cucumbers, olives, tomatoes, walnuts, pistachios, and mint, with a Greek yogurt-based ranch dressing to bring everything together. Warning: This will inspire you to experiment with other fun ways to try savory yogurt!
There’s something about fruit in a salad that gives it an exotic feel, and this version is no exception. With avocados, black beans, corn, and cilantro, this colorful, fiber-packed salad has a Tex-Mex feel with a little added sweetness. You can add some of your favorite fruits (like mangoes!) or veggies to personalize your portable meal.
Rice-shaped orzo is actually pasta. This would make a nice picnic dish that’s lighter than traditional pasta salad yet hearty. The minty dressing goes beautifully with the veggies.
The trick to great mason jar salads: Add the dressing first so it sits on the bottom and doesn’t get the other ingredients soggy. The peanut dressing here adds a nice kick to soba noodles (which are often gluten free but not always, so read labels), edamame for protein, and crunchy veggies. Best of all, this salad will keep for up to five days in the refrigerator.
We’ve got a thing for zoodles, so naturally we fell for this portable recipe. The name seems long and intimidating, but it’s really not that many ingredients, and the Thai-inspired coconut-avocado-lime dressing is creamy, tangy, and addictive. Add quinoa, coconut, vegetables, and feta, and it’s a healthy dose of flava.
Rather than layering fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil on a plate, put it in a jar! Bocconcini—fresh balls of the cheese—are perfect here, but thinly sliced mozz works too. Pour phytochemical-rich olive oil and balsamic vinegar over top, and mangia!
What’s better than a Greek salad? An on-the-go Greek salad. Layer lettuce or another leafy green atop your favorite Greek dressing. Add chopped carrots, cukes, celery, and red onions. Top it all off with feta cheese, pine nuts, and olives and pretend you’re on the Mediterranean Sea.
Just when you thought mason jars couldn’t get better, here comes pumpkin mac and cheese. And if you love cheese as much as we do, you’ll appreciate how using a jar makes figuring out the proper serving size no worries! Feel free to sub gluten free or whole wheat noodles for a healthier option.
Why make a massive pot pie when you can make individual portions instead? Using store-bought pie crust and leftover chicken cuts down on prep time, plus these can be frozen to have on hand for nights when comfort food is all that will do. (Just be sure to let the jars come to room temp before placing them in the oven, otherwise the glass may break!)
Get the taste of an avocado roll without needing Japanese chef-level skills with this deconstructed sushi jar. Anyone can handle alternating sushi rice (flavor with soy sauce so you don’t have to tote a bottle with you) with all the fixings—carrot, cucumber, avocado, nori, and pickled ginger. Don’t forget the wasabi!
Who needs Ramen (which has 52 percent of daily recommended max for sodium, plus half of its fat is saturated) when you can make a homemade version just as quickly? Assemble seasonings, rice noodles, and veggies—cabbage, spinach, bean sprouts, and watercress all work well—in a jar, then add hot water when lunch time comes.
Eat your heart out, Chipotle, because now it’s easier than ever to make your own burrito bowl. Quinoa takes the place of rice and partners with chicken for a protein-filled meal, while Greek yogurt takes the spotlight from traditional sour cream. Add or subtract your favorite vegetables, though we love the unexpected addition of sweet potato.
Another classic, feed-the-soul recipe turned into a portable, portion-controlled meal. This cornbread chili recipe is full of beans, veggies, and corn and makes for the perfect crafty winter dinner.
Note: Use caution (and oven mitts!) when baking with mason jars. After removing them from the oven, let cool completely before screwing on the lid, and refrigerate immediately.
Originally published December 2014. Updated February 2016.