Southwest BBQ Mason Jar Salads: smoky, marinated chicken breast, sweet roasted corn kernels and red onion slices, spiced black beans. There are layers of flavor and texture in this salad; factor in a convenient mason jar for storage, and meal prepping salads has never been easier.
So… why mason jars?
Aside from being aesthetically pleasing and convenient for grab-and-go, prepping salads in mason jars keeps them super fresh all week. I love being able to throw a mason jar (with everything I need right inside) into my lunch bag for work. It’s a plus that nothing needs to be heated up for this lunch, and you can either eat it right pout of the mason jar, or pour the contents into a large bowl.
The key to keeping a mason jar salad fresh is all about how you layer the ingredients. After much trial and error, I have found that layering the ingredients in order from the most dense and wet ingredients up to the lightest, freshest ingredients is key. For this particular salad, the chicken is the anchor at the bottom, and the ingredients are layered all the way up to the mixed greens at the top.
This method results in the greens staying crisp all week. I always get asked “but does it stay fresh all week?” Yes! It truly does.
For my mason jar salads, I used 32 oz wide mouth canning mason jars. I like the wide mouth jars for this type of recipe because it is easy to get the ingredients in and out.
All about the southwest BBQ chicken
How do you make flavorful, not-so-boring chicken breast for meal prep?
You marinate it!
Now, you can always make your own marinade. You can combine your favorite herbs and spices and go to town. You can also make a dry rub for your chicken.
For this particular recipe, I use an ultimate shortcut: marinade packets.
My favorite marinade packets are from McCormick. I love using them because of how convenient they are; plus they are SO flavorful. You can find these marinade packets in the aisle of the supermarket where they sell the gravy packets, chicken broth, and soup.
Now, the ingredients for these particular packets call for oil, vinegar and water to be mixed with the spices. I have learned over the years that the oil is really unnecessary… so I omit it altogether. Instead, I combine the seasoning packet with a splash of vinegar (any type of vinegar will do) and a splash of water. I have used red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and balsamic vinegar with these marinade packets and they all work well.
I use one marinade packet for every package of chicken I cook. For this recipe, I used 2 packages of chicken (3 lbs total), and 2 packets of marinade. I used the Smoky Applewood marinade for this recipe.
The night before you want to make your chicken, prepare your marinade. You can also do this half an hour before cooking, but the longer it sits, the more flavorful it becomes. Dump the contents of the spice packets into a large freezer bag, and add a splash of vinegar and a splash of water (unmeasured). Add enough liquid so that the spices come together enough to coat the chicken breast.
I purchased full chicken breasts this week because they were on sale as manager’s special. Once trimmed, each package of chicken was approximately 1.5 lbs. and included 2 large chicken breasts. I sliced each chicken breast into 3 thinner slices, for a total of 12 thin sliced chicken breasts for this recipe.
I placed the chicken in the freezer bag with the marinade and let it sit in the fridge over night.
You can cook this chicken any number of ways; typically I would grill it, but my grill pan is on the small side. So grilling this amount of chicken would probably take 3 batches and close to an hour’s worth of time. Instead, I chose to cook the chicken on a double griddle, and I was able to cook it in one shot.
I cook the chicken for about five minutes per side over medium high heat. Since the pieces are relatively thin, it doesn’t take long to cook. I always use my meat thermometer to determine when my chicken is fully cooked; you’re looking for an internal temperature of 165F.
When the chicken is cooked, place it on a cutting board to cool, and then chop into bite-sized pieces.
Other southwest BBQ mason jar salad components
The other components of this salad are:
- roasted corn
- roasted red onion
- seasoned black beans
- mixed greens
- this BBQ ranch salad dressing
- optional: tortilla strips and scallions for garnish
While the chicken is cooking, preheat your oven to 400F. Grab a sheet pan, and add your sliced red onion and corn kernels.
Spray the onion and corn with some cooking spray, and season with kosher salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 15 minutes. The end result will be deliciously flavorful vegetables to add to your salad. When red onion is roasted, it becomes sweet. It is such a unique and delicious element to this salad.
For the black beans, we are simply dressing up some canned black beans with a few spices. Drain and rinse your canned black beans, and then add paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and kosher salt.
How to assemble southwest BBQ mason jar salads
This salad couldn’t be easier to assemble once all of your ingredients are prepped. Layer your ingredients as follows:
- chopped chicken breast
- cooked onions and corn
- black beans
- mixed greens
- tortilla strips, if desired
- dressing: I used this one from Bolthouse Farms
I also pre-portioned my dressing into these disposable condiment cups, and they fit right on top of the mason jars. It’s the perfect way to separate the dressing from the salad, but also keep them together for easy storage and transport.
Whenever I meal prep, I also make one serving to eat that day. This is what the salad looks like when plated:
Southwest BBQ Mason Jar Salads
- sheet pan
- griddle or grill pan
- 32 oz mason jars
- 3 lbs chicken breast, raw, thin sliced
- 2 packets McCormick Applewood Grillmates Marinade
- splash vinegar , red wine or apple cider preferred
- 1.5 cups black beans, drained, rinsed
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- 1.5 cups corn, frozen or canned, defrosted and drained
- 3 medium red onions, sliced
- 10 oz mixed greens
- 12 tablespoons Bolthouse Farms Honey BBQ Ranch dressing, or dressing of choice, 2 tablespoons per serving
- The night before (or several hours before) cooking the chicken, prepare the marinade.
- Add the contents of the marinade packets to a large freezer bag or bowl.
- Add a splash of water and a splash of vinegar to bring the marinade together.
- Submerge the chicken pieces and toss to coat. Let the chicken marinate in the fridge for several hours, or overnight.
- When ready to cook the chicken, preheat a large griddle or grill pan over medium high heat.
- Cook the chicken for approximately 5 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165F. This may have to be done in batches.
- Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside on a cutting board to cool. Chop into bite sized pieces.
- Combine the beans with the spices and set aside in a bowl.
The Corn and Onions
- Preheat the oven to 400F.
- Arrange the corn kernels and sliced red onion on a sheet pan. Spray with cooking spray and season with kosher salt and pepper.
- Roast for 15 minutes. Remove from oven to cool.
- Place an equal layer of chicken on the bottom of each mason jar.
- Top with the roasted onions and roasted corn.
- Top with the seasoned black beans.
- Top with the mixed greens.
- 6 WW points (green plan)
- 2 WW points (blue and purple plans)
This salad will last for a week in the fridge. When stored in glass like these mason jars, salads remain crisp and fresh. Of course, you can always adjust this recipe down in servings if that suits you better; simply adjust the serving size on the recipe card.
Looking for other mason jar salads to meal prep? Try these autumn harvest mason jar salads.