Mason jars are hot property right now—and not for the first time. Beyond their traditional use for canning (which, like bread baking earlier this year, is seeing a surge in popularity and a resulting scarcity of supplies in some areas), they’re good for lots of other things. People can be surprisingly passionate about those things, but even if you rail against the practice of drinking wine from mason jars, you can’t deny their versatility. Mason jar ice cream, cold brew, cake, dressing, soup, oats, and storage are just some of their alternative callings.
Are Ball Jars the Same Thing as Mason Jars?
While Ball is perhaps the best-known brand, mason jars are produced by several other companies (including Kerr and Newell) and come in an array of sizes and styles. You’ll recognize them by their flat lids and the threaded metal rings that hold the lids in place. But all of them, from the wide-mouth quart size to tiny quilted jelly jars, have more than one trick up their sleeve.
When canning, it’s important to not re-use mason jar lids, but if you’re simply using them to store things in the short-term, that’s not a concern.
So if you happen to have some mason jars at your disposal but are never actually going to get around to making homemade jam and jelly (same), and you’re all set for quick pickles at the moment, these are some of our favorite other ways to use them. Most of these also work with clip- or gasket-style canning jars (like Weck jars and Le Parfait Super jars) and even leftover jars with screw tops from pickles, condiments, and preserves you picked up at the store.
How to Use Mason Jars for Things Besides Canning
Even if the only hot water bath you’re going near is your own tub, do make sure that you have a jar intended for canning since that will mean it’s pretty sturdy—mason jars meant for decorative purposes or sold as drinking glasses may not hold up to all of these experiments (most notably anything involving heat). And if it’s one you’re reusing, hit it with some baking soda and vinegar if there are any lingering smells.
Homemade salad dressing is ridiculously easy (and usually far healthier and more delicious than what you get ready-made), even if you whisk it in a bowl. But use a tightly lidded jar to shake it up, pour it, and store it and it’s guaranteed to make you wonder why the hell you’ve been buying bottles of vinaigrette from the store for so long.
Sure, you can buy fancy cold brew bottles and pitchers, but if you already have a large 32-ounce mason jar, you don’t need to. You will need something to strain the coffee grounds, but chances are you have that laying around too. See how to make mason jar cold brew.
Ball Regular Mouth 32-Ounce Mason Jars, 2 for $18.99 from Amazon
Make enough to last a little while.
To go in your cold brew, of course! Or to use in baking, smoothies, cereal, or sip straight. Learn how to make oat milk and save tons of money. We especially like mason jars because the lids go on nice and tight—and you should shake the oat milk before each use, so that’s a big plus here (but any other tightly lidded container will do).
Yes, real ice cream, in any flavor you want, without an ice cream machine or any special appliances. Just a little stamina and arm strength and mason jar ice cream can be your glorious reality.
Ball Pint Jar (16-Ounce), $6.99 from Amazon
The ideal size for this project.
5. Bake Individual Cakes and Crisps
Yes, it’s adorable, and there’s no need to hate on that on principle. But baking mini cakes and fruit crisps in mason jars also happens to be a great way to make them easily portable for a picnic…not to mention help with portion control if you like some assistance in that area. Obligatory caveat: The manufacturers of canning jars usually advise not to put them in the oven as they could shatter, but plenty of people have successfully baked in them, so it’s up to you if you want to take the risk or not. If not, you can still pack individual portions of mousse, parfait, and other no-bake desserts.
There’s a long, long list of lunches and meal prep components you can store in mason jars, from grain salads and sauces to shredded protein, but there’s something extra satisfying about making an eco-friendly (and, yes, somewhat twee) DIY version of the Styrofoam cups of noodles you ate all the time as a kid (or maybe still do now, but you want to cut down on wasteful packaging). Some recipes call for thin rice vermicelli to ensure they’ll soften when you add boiling water, but you can also just start with cooked noodles of any kind (al dente so they don’t get mushy).
Related Reading: Eco-Friendly Food Storage Options Instead of Plastic
Overnight oats and/or chia pudding are easy to whip up in a mason jar for a grab-and-go breakfast…even if you’re only going as far as your coffee table, which is currently also your office desk. At least you won’t have to lug your glass jars a long way back home to wash them at the end of the week.
There are many strategies for organizing all your pantry staples, and while collecting enough mason jars to decant everything into them might take some time, you have to admit it looks fantastic—but you can just use a few for things like dried beans and bulk bin nuts and grains to start.
Homemade food gifts are always a hit during the holidays (or any other time you’re feeling generous, for that matter), and mason jars are often a convenient and attractive way to present them. Plus, your recipient can then reuse them once they finish all your cocoa, cake mix, or limoncello. A fetching tag and a ribbon and you don’t even have to wrap it, especially if it’s something with pretty layers.
10. Regrow Scallions
Let’s face it: Making sourdough is not all that easy. Regrowing scallions is, even if the only green space you have is a windowsill. And while they take some time to sprout, the process is downright delightful even before you realize it’s saving you money. (While you’re being scrappy, if you are lucky enough to have a bit more room outdoors, use a couple more mason jars to store coffee grounds and eggshells for helping your garden grow.)
We are merely dipping our toes into the whole flood of “crafts with mason jars” but this one is particularly…yep, face it: cute. Spray paint the jars if you like, and find a piece of artfully weathered scrap wood to save even more dough on this easy DIY project. You could use the same set-up in the kitchen for utensils if you’re short on counter and drawer space.
12. Make Planters
If you don’t have the space for a full garden outside, you can use mason jars to plant herbs indoors, or even make them into a home for hardy succulents. Mount a single row or multiple ranks of jars, for a green wall in any room that could use a little livening up.
Header image by Chowhound