You can freeze chicken salad! If you have extra or you're meal-prepping a large batch - freezing store-bought or homemade chicken salad is possible, and it's a good way to extend the shelf life.
The freezing process
- Remove any excess liquid from the salad, then spoon the salad into freezer bags, vacuum seal bags, or a freezer-safe container. Don't jam-pack the containers, fill them around half to two-thirds of the way full so that it has room to expand a bit when frozen.
- If freezing in bags, press the bag down to remove the excess air or use a vacuum sealer if you have one.
Top tip - Removing the air from the bags stops freezer burn from occurring. Freezer burn happens when moisture gets into the food. When food is exposed to air, water evaporates and creates moisture which in turn creates freezer-burn. Removing the excess air avoids that.
- Place the containers or bags in the freezer for up to three months.
Before freezing extra chicken salad, make sure that your salad has not been left at room temperature for more than two hours. As stated by the FDA " Never allow poultry to sit at room temperature for more than two hours—one hour if the air temperature is above 90° F."
What is chicken salad?
Chicken salad is usually a cold dish made from shredded chicken mixed with mayonnaise and other ingredients. Fresh vegetables such as celery and onion, nuts, herbs, and seasonings are also added.
Sometimes there is the addition of chopped eggs and grapes. Chicken salad can be eaten on its own as an appetizer or snack or in chicken salad sandwiches. It also makes an excellent side dish when served atop a bed of lettuce or stuffed into celery ribs for added crunchiness!
The best container for freezing chicken salad
Freezing is a brilliant way for long-term storage, but you've got to ensure the food stays protected from air and moisture. Those two are the dreaded elements that can ruin your frozen food.
For this reason, bags from which you can remove excess air are the best option for freezing chicken salad. You can use freezer-safe solid containers, but they won't protect the chicken salad as well, or for as long as bags.
Best options -
- In heavy-duty freezer bags. They can be thick plastic or silicone. You can seal them tightly to remove the air, and they don’t impart any flavors to the frozen food. They are also malleable so they can be stored flat in the freezer and stacked. A plastic freezer bag is different from a regular zip-lock bag because it is slightly thicker and made from a stronger, more durable plastic. This ensures that they can last longer in the freezer without tearing or punctures. This helps avoid freezer burn and helps food last longer in the freezer. Silicone bags are more expensive but they can be washed and reused time and time again.
- Vacuum sealed bags - If you plan to freeze food regularly, this is a great investment. vacuum sealers get as much air out of a bag as possible. This really reduces the chance of freezer burn.
Can you freeze chicken salad with mayo?
Though you can freeze chicken salad with mayo, for best results leave it out. Mayonnaise tends to change in texture once frozen and it can split. If you are making your chicken salad to freeze, leave the mayonnaise out and only add it until you're ready to serve.
If you're freezing leftover chicken salad that already has mayonnaise on it, you can go ahead and freeze it, though know that the texture will change a bit. The mayonnaise will become greasy as it splits. You may want to add in a bit of fresh mayo to mix it back up with before serving.
Can you freeze chicken salad with yogurt?
Avoid freezing chicken salad if it has a yogurt dressing. Yogurt has lots of water. This high moisture content can make the salad quite soggy when defrosted. However, if you do need to freeze it with yogurt, take your time draining the salad once thawed.
Adding on extra toppings and a fresh spoonful of greek yogurt dressing when thawed will help to give it a better consistency again when serving.
There are dairy products that have less water content than yogurt, such as sour cream. This is a better option to freeze and it won't make the salad as wet.
How long can you freeze chicken salad?
Up to three months if stored correctly.
Do note though that depending on what other ingredients are added to the salad, the textures may change. Crunchy vegetables and nuts will soften and dressings can split.
- Perishable ingredients such as celery, scallion, and almonds can all soften and change texture when frozen.
- If grapes are in your salad ingredients, know that these will be mushy when thawed.
- Boiled eggs in a chicken salad recipes are delicious, but egg whites can become rubbery when frozen and thawed.
- Mayonnaise can become split and yogurt will be watery.
If you don't mind the texture change then there is no problem freezing any of the above ingredients. You can add in some extra crispy crunch by sprinkling over sliced almonds and freshly chopped celery or adding fresh greens and grapes before serving.
A good stir and addition of fresh mayo, lemon juice, dijon mustard, or yogurt dressing when serving can bring back more flavor too and help the salad resemble its original state.
The thawing process
Place the frozen chicken salad into the refrigerator. It is always advised to thaw chicken salad in the fridge and not at room temperature. When thawing at room temperature for an extended period of time there is the risk of bacterial growth
Once the salad has been thawed, give it a good stir and drain it to remove any excess moisture.
Now add in any extra additions of chopped nuts, celery, scallions, and extra mayonnaise to bring back texture and flavor.
Consume the thawed chicken salad within 1-2 days and store it in an airtight container in the fridge.
How long does chicken salad last in the fridge?
The shelf life of chicken salad in the fridge is about 2-3 days depending on the ingredients added to it.
Ensure it is stored safely in a sealed container or bag and that it was never left at room temperature for longer than two hours.