Rotini pasta, mozzarella pearls, and crispy chickpeas are tied together with veggies and a balsamic vinaigrette in this vegetarian pasta salad in a jar. This salad is so easy to throw together and works perfectly for meal prep lunches!
- Healthy & balanced: Made with nutritious whole food ingredients
- Easy to customize and can be doubled or cut in half
- Ready in under an hour with only 10 minutes active time
- Great for meal prep lunches
This recipe makes four servings that can be enjoyed for lunch the entire week. Like my chickpea salad sandwiches, this recipe is perfect for those who are new to meal prep.
As trendy as it might seem, meal prepping salads in mason jars is actually very convenient! It makes the jars easy to transport and the salads can easily be shaken up without a mess.
What you'll need
- Cooked pasta: I use rotini pasta. You can use whole wheat pasta, protein pasta, or gluten-free pasta.
- Mozzarella pearls add a pop of salty, cheesy goodness. You can also buy a large ball of mozzarella and slice it up (similar to this peach Caprese salad).
- Diced red onion adds a pop of flavor. Shallots would also work well.
- Crispy chickpeas are the main source of protein. Save on prep time by purchasing a package of crispy chickpeas (you can usually find these in the snack aisle at the grocery store).
- Romaine lettuce: Slice up a head of romaine lettuce or save prep time by buying pre-sliced romaine.
- Cherry tomatoes: Grape tomatoes also work.
A good salad in a jar recipe is all about the layers. Since these jars make four servings of meal prep, that's four days that they'll be hanging out in the fridge.
We want to layer ingredients so that they avoid sogginess and stay crisp. Put the ingredients in the jar in this order for the best salad quality:
- Bottom layer: Balsamic vinaigrette
- Rotini pasta (it soaks up some of that good balsamic flavor!)
- Sliced cherry tomatoes
- Diced red onion
- Mozzarella pearls
- Romaine lettuce
- Top layer: Crispy chickpeas
Shake the jar together just before eating to distribute the balsamic vinaigrette.
The combination of balsamic vinegar and olive oil is simple but delightful. If possible, use higher quality balsamic and olive oil. Just spending a few extra dollars on these ingredients can really improve flavor.
We will also add pepper, Italian seasoning, and whole grain mustard. This vinaigrette is also featured in my homemade vegan salad dressings post.
Pro tip: Add whole grain mustard (that's the kind that has seeds in it) to your balsamic vinaigrette to create an emulsion. The seeds in the mustard help hold the balsamic and oil together and add a little extra flavor.
The mustard flavor is not very strong, so if you're not a fan of mustard you may actually like this vinaigrette.
- Greens: Use kale, spinach or spring mix in place of romaine
- Pasta: Instead of regular rotini, use whole wheat or protein pasta for additional nutrients like protein and fiber
- Onion: If you're not a fan of raw onion, diced red bell pepper will give a similar crunch. Scallions are also a good swap.
- Mozzarella: Mozzarella pearls not available? Try shredded mozzarella or dice up a mozzarella ball instead
- Make it vegan by omitting mozzarella entirely or replace with your favorite vegan mozzarella or add homemade cashew parmesan
- I put my salads in these wide mouth 32 ounce Ball jars (also known as mason jars). They're available at most grocery stores, on Amazon, and usually there's several at the thrift store (that's where most of mine are from).
- Crispy chickpeas will get less crisp the longer they sit in the fridge. For best results, keep crispy chickpeas at room temp and add to the salad just before eating.
- Eat the salad straight out of the jar (that's my preferred way) or pour it out into a bowl.
Looking for more meal prep recipes?
Did you try this recipe? You can leave a star rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ in the recipe card or a review down in the comments section. I always appreciate your feedback! You can also follow along on my YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest or sign up for my newsletter!
Vegetarian Salad in a Jar Meal Prep
- 8 ounces dry rotini
- 15 ounce can chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil plus more for tossing with cooked pasta
- 2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 8 ounces cherry tomatoes sliced in half
- ½ cup diced red onion from ½ medium red onion
- 6 ounces mozzarella pearls
- 1 large head romaine chopped into 2" pieces (see note #1)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cook rotini according to package instructions. Once cooked, toss with olive oil and place in the refrigerator to cool.
- Pat chickpeas dry with a paper towel. Evenly layer on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Use clean hands to evenly coat, then sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt.
- Roast chickpeas for 40 minutes, stirring halfway through. Remove from oven when golden brown and crispy.
- Make the balsamic vinaigrette by whisking together balsamic vinegar, olive oil, mustard, Italian seasoning and pepper in a small bowl. Alternatively, add ingredients to a small lidded jar (such as a small Ball jar) and shake until combined.
- To assemble the salads: Add two tablespoons vinaigrette to the bottom of a wide-mouthed Ball jar. Divide remaining ingredients evenly between four jars in this order: pasta, cherry tomatoes, diced red onion, mozzarella pearls, romaine lettuce, roasted chickpeas. Alternatively, to keep the chickpeas crispy, store them at room temperature and add just before eating.
- Romaine: One head of romaine yields 6 cups cleaned and chopped lettuce, or roughly 14-16 ounce prepackage lettuce.
- I use this salad spinner to make cleaning and prepping salad easier.
- Customization ideas: Choose whole wheat or protein pasta in place of regular rotini. Try bell peppers in place of (or in addition to) diced red onions. You can use store-bought roasted chickpeas to cut down on time.
- To make vegan: Omit mozzarella balls and replace with an equal amount of homemade cashew parmesan or vegan shreds.