Look, don’t take this the wrong way, but: Your leftover lunch salad probably isn’t great. The wholesome intentions were there. Oh! Leftovers! I’ll bring them to work tomorrow! And eat them for lunch! And then I won’t spend money on lunch! And my bank account will thank me! And also salad is healthy! Hooorrraaayyy!
Yeah, a tale as old as time. With an ending even older. You open up that cute little Tupperware (read: leftover takeout container), and make direct eye contact with the saddest pieces of lettuce you’ve ever seen. They’re soggy, slimy, and depressed. They feel even worse than they look. And they taste worse than they feel. This is not how salad should be. You can have it better.
This unfortunate salad isn’t crappy because of the ingredients you chose or the container you packed it in. It’s bad because you dressed all of your salad at the same time. Dressing, more specifically the acid in dressing, makes greens wilt in a hurry. The vinegar or citrus juice you used in your dressing breaks down the cell structure of the leaves, releasing water trapped in the greens. Which is why your 18-hour-old leftover salad is all wet and deflated. Salad hates that. We hate that.
So here’s what you do: You only dress as much salad as you’re going to eat, immediately before you eat it. It’s that simple. That will fix your soggy salad situation, with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Dress half your salad with half your dressing the night before, and pack the other half of the salad and the dressing for lunch. Oh, it’s 1:00 p.m. (the proper time for office lunch)? Bam: undressed greens. Bam: dressing. Bam. Bam. A leftover salad that actually tastes like it did last night.
Are there times when this doesn’t apply? Sure. Salads made with extremely hardy vegetables—think broccoli, cauliflower, etc—and non-lettuce greens like kale tend to stand up better to dressings, and sometimes even taste better after they’ve been marinating for a while. But when it comes to salads with more delicate greens, or even cold pasta salads that feature veggies like cucumbers, this whole dress-some-now, dress-some-later approach is a real game-changer. Because lunch is supposed to save you on a Tuesday, not spark an afternoon meltdown. No one needs one of those.