To say I am a salad bar expert may be an understatement. Working as Vega’s Chef gave me the opportunity to master the salad bar. I have made a salad bar 5 days a week for the last 3 and half years (that’s over 900 salad bars) and somehow I have kept it fresh and exciting.
Making a salad bar in your fridge is easy and will save you lots of time and avoid the risk of ordering take-out or scrambling to put together lunch during the week. If you prep and pack everything on Sunday, mid-week you just have to mix and match the ingredients you want. You can choose a different adventure for every salad you make.
Salad Bar Storage and Safety Tips
- Always use airtight containers when storing food and follow shelf life suggestions for ideal freshness.
- Store vegetables on the main shelves in the fridge and avoid storing on the door. The fridge doors temperature fluctuates when opened which as make food spoil quicker.
- Try to avoid keeping leafy greens and herbs near the back of the fridge as the temperature is often too cold.
- Spring mix: I like buying a container of spring mix for my salad bar or if you are lucky enough to live near a farmer’s market, lots of farmstands sell greens you can mix and match yourself.
- Spinach: A re-sealable bag of spinach is great for salad bars and any extra left at the end of the week can be used in cooking or frozen for smoothies.
- Arugula, kale, Swiss chard and other hearty greens: Wash and chop these up into small shreds at the beginning of the week to supplement other greens in your salad.
- Heads of lettuce, like romaine, unless you want to chop them fresh each time you have a salad, as they brown easily.
Store your spring mix and spinach with a paper towel on the top and bottom of the container or on each side of the bag. The paper towel will absorb the excess moisture that makes greens go off fast. If you’re buying a container of greens, stab a few breathing holes in the containers lid to avoid condensation. Some storage containers have special lids that also let out excess condensation and are a great purchase if you are investing your time in a weekly salad bar.
Vegetables and Fruits
There are hundreds of options for vegetables and fruits to add to your salad, but here are a few of my favorites:
- Pomegranate: De-seed a pomegranate by cutting it in half and knocking it with a wooden spoon over your storage container. Pomegranate seeds can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
- Orange slices: Peel the skin of small oranges off and peel the pieces apart. Store in a small container for up to a week.
Fruit to Avoid
- Pears and apples as they will brown easily when prepped ahead of time.
- Beets and carrots: Shred beets and carrots and store separately in small containers for up to 5 days
- Broccoli and cauliflower: Cut into bite-sized pieces and blanch or store raw in a small container. Raw will last up to 7 days in the fridge and 5 days cooked.
- Fingerling potatoes: Cut the potatoes into halves and boil until soft. Rinse, dry well and store for up to 5 days.
- Peppers: Slice peppers and roast or store raw. Roasted will last up to 3 days and raw up to 5 days in the fridges.
- Cabbage: Slice thinly, store in a container for up to 7 days.
- Herbs: Wash and dry herbs thoroughly. Roughly chop. Wrap herbs in a paper towel and store in a sealable bag with no excess air in the refrigerator for up 3 days.
Grains and Beans
- Grains: Precook grains such as quinoa and brown rice on Sunday and store them refrigerated in a container for up to a week.
- Beans: Rinse and drain canned beans well and store in an airtight container. Beans will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge.
Grains and Beans can also be frozen for up to 2 months. Make large batches once a month and portion them into containers with enough for a week.
No or Little Prep Additions
- Pickled veggies are great for a treat in your salad. Try brined artichokes, capers, pickled beets, sauerkraut or olives. Just be careful not to overload your salad as these can be quite salty. Keep these in their reseal able containers.
- Smoked or seasoned tofu is a great protein boost for salads. Chop into 1 inch squares and store in a container for up to 5 days.
- Dried fruits are nice additions in salads and will keep for a long time at room temperature. Avoid buying sweetened dried fruit as dried fruit is already high in sugar.
- Croutons are my favorite crunchy topping for salads. They are very versatile and 1000× better if you make them homemade. Toss 2 cups of day-old bread cubes with olive oil and seasoning. Bake at 350F for 15 to 25 minute or until browned and crisp. Use any spices or dried herbs for seasoning and a little salt. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days at room temperature.
- Roasted or raw nuts and seeds are a great addition. To roast, toss nuts with maple syrup and seasoning of your choice. Roast them on a lined sheet pan at 350 F for 15 to 20 minutes. You’ll need to stir every few minutes and watch closely for burning. Store at room temperature in an air tight container or bag for up to 2 weeks.
These are some of my favorite Salad Dressing Recipes to add to your salad after you’ve assembled it.
By pre-prepping your salad bar in the fridge on Sunday, you’ll be set for Monday through Friday. Don’t forget to try new ingredients and be adventurous. Nobody likes getting into a salad rut!