Do you want to make salads for the week without worrying about a soggy salad? Use these strategies and tips on how to meal prep salads and keep salad fresh for a week to make healthy salads for lunch this week!
If you are looking for meal prep recipes and ideas, check out the cookbook Prep-Ahead Breakfasts and Lunches.
Salads make a healthy lunch and make-ahead salads are a great way to ensure you get lunch each day. Unfortunately, traditional garden salads can get soggy. For many the thought of prepping them for an entire week, causes worry that those last few days might lead to a less than appetizing lunch. It doesn’t have to be that way, though! Here are some tips on how to make salads for the week without them getting soggy.
Pictured above: Chimichurri Steak Salad from Prep-Ahead Breakfasts and Lunches. Photo by Ken Goodman.
How to Meal Prep Salads for the Week
The first thing you need to do is wash all of the vegetables and fruits you plan on using in your salad, then let them dry completely.
Start with a Base Salad
If you want your salads to stay fresh all week in the refrigerator, you need to make your salad base with firm vegetables. I like to make my base salad with kale, swiss chard, cabbage, romaine lettuce or iceberg lettuce. Tear the greens into bite size pieces and add them to a large bowl.
Add Firm Vegetables
To prevent a soggy salad, I add firm vegetables such as carrots, celery, onion, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, artichoke hearts, or snow peas. Chop your vegetables and add them to your base salad. Toss to combine. If you are meal prepping individual salads for lunches, fill your lunch bowls with salad. Keep any of your unused base salad to use for dinners throughout the week.
Choose and Prep Your Proteins
Do you want to add some hearty proteins such as broiled chicken, quinoa, beans, lentils, or rice? All will make your salad more filling. Choose one or two proteins to cook and use in your salads for the week. Add 1/4 – 1/2 cup of our chosen protein to your individual salad containers.
Choose Your Salad Dressings
You can use the same basic ingredients, but completely change up the flavor just by using different salad dressing and unique toppings. My favorite dressings are Asian Salad Dressing, Greek Salad Dressing, and Honey Mustard Vinaigrette. You can also use salsa on a salad to give it a southwest twist. You can use one dressing for all of the salads or mix it up for variety. If you think your greens may get soggy, put salad dressing in small containers and then place them inside the individual salad containers, so if they leak, they just leak onto the salad.
Add Some Toppings
Often the toppings make the salad. For crunch, you can add nuts, bacon bits, or chips. Dried fruits such as cranberries or fresh berries can add a sweet touch. And cheese or olives add a savory touch. As with the salad dressing, you can use the same toppings on all of the salads or mix up your toppings to create a unique salad for each day of the week.
Pictured above: Chopped Barbecue Pork Salad from Prep-Ahead Breakfasts and Lunches. Photo by Ken Goodman.
How to Keep Salad Fresh All Week
Choose firm salad greens that won't wilt.
Those boxes of baby lettuces are sure easy to pick up at the grocery store, but those fine lettuce leaves wilt very easily. For my salad prep on the go, I have switched to using firmer greens such as kale or cabbage. Romaine lettuce and iceberg lettuce hold up better than the thinner leaved lettuces. Other great greens are swiss chard, radicchio and you can shred broccoli stems to make a salad, too.
Don’t add salad dressing when prepping lettuces.
Your dressing will definitely lead to soggy lettuces, so make sure to add it only as you are about to eat a salad that has lettuce in it. There are many great options for on-the-go salad containers that contain a little cup for salad dressing. This goes for adding anything, even a little vinegar to a lettuce-based salad.
Build an Upside-Down Salad
To prevent your dressing, from wilting your lettuce, place the dressing in the bowl first, then put a layer of firm vegetables, meat or cheese over the dressing, and then add your lettuce to the top. Toss your salad with a fork before eating.
Prep salad ingredients but store separately.
One way I keep my salads from getting soggy is to prep the ingredients and store them separately, but in one bin in my fridge for easy assembly. This means I can custom-make a salad each day in minutes. It keeps things interesting and it is a great way to make sure salads are an option for the whole family.
Use the right storage container.
Mason jar salads are still a thing, but they really don’t properly store a leafy salad and they can actually lead to sogginess because they tend to crush your greens. Instead, try getting a proper container that is more like a bowl to keep your leafy greens from getting completely smashed. I like using a glass container with a lid that will hold at least 4 cups of salad.
If your salad is a bean salad, quinoa salad, rice salad, or salad that doesn't use a lot of leafy greens, then go ahead and use a mason jar. Just realize that mason jars glass is more fragile than tempered glass, so pack it carefully so that you don't open up your lunch sack and find a broken jar.
Limit how much liquid comes from ingredients.
One of my favorite toppings on any salad is the tomatoes but they are really liquidy and add to the soggy salad issue. I like to use grape tomatoes because they don’t have to be cut. Add whole berries, whole grapes, dried fruit, and whole grape or cherry tomatoes to prevent soggy salads. There are many vegetables that will hold up well and don't release a lot of juices that you can add to your salad such as carrots, celery, onion, broccoli, cauliflower, radish, and snow peas.
Make sure anything cooked is cooled down before assembling.
I love adding meat, beans, lentils, rice, and quinoa to my salads. They make the salad more filling and they hold up well. However, all cooked ingredients should be completely cooled before adding them to the salads you are prepping. Otherwise, the steam will break down your fresh ingredients quickly.
Use these tips on How to Meal Prep Salads and Keep Salad Fresh all week to make prep-ahead salads for your lunches next week. In 20 – 30 minutes you can make salads for the weeks and save time and money by taking your pre-made salads to work each day instead of eating out.
For more, make-ahead salad recipes that will last all week without getting soggy, check out the cookbook Prep-Ahead Breakfasts and Lunches.