Is it safe to freeze chicken salad?
The question really isn’t can you freeze chicken salad, because technically you can freeze just about anything. The real question is should you freeze chicken salad and is it safe to eat after you’ve frozen it?
The answer is that it depends.
Whether or not you freeze leftover chicken salad depends on when you made that chicken salad, how long it sat out, and what the ingredients are.
You should always avoid freezing chicken salad whenever you can. And you should seek to do whatever else you can with your chicken salad instead of freezing it.
Leftover chicken salad recipes are all over the internet. There are chicken salad sandwiches, chicken salad dip, and chicken salad as a salad dressing. There are plenty of ways you can reuse your leftover chicken salad without having to freeze it.
However, if you do decide to freeze it, there are some things you should know!
Factors to consider before freezing chicken salad
Once you decide that yes, you want to freeze chicken salad leftovers, then you have to think about what perishable ingredients are in your whole batch of chicken salad.
What are the ingredients most commonly found in chicken salad?
Chicken of course is the most common ingredient in chicken salad. When you freeze chicken, especially pulled chicken or chicken in pieces, it can be defrosted pretty easily and generally taste the same.
Mayo, Miracle Whip, Yogurt, or Greek Yogurt
If you’re freezing chicken salad that has mayo, Miracle Whip, Greek yogurt, or yogurt in general, then it will basically fall apart when you defrost it. The egg yolks or fat content in the frozen chicken salad will separate from the egg whites and also separate from the water and it will look and taste terrible when you initially defrost it. However, you can mix in additional yogurt or mayo to bring it back. Doing so is perfectly safe.
Hard-boiled eggs are one of the most common chicken salad ingredients and can be a delicious additional source of protein that will help keep you full. I especially love them in chicken salad sandwiches. However, frozen eggs don’t defrost well and tend to leak excess moisture when defrosted. It’ll water down your chicken salad ingredients and make it taste terrible. Even if it’s sealed in an airtight container or in a special freezer bag, it’ll still water it down.
Celery is one of my favorite ingredients to eat in chicken salad and tuna salad. It can provide a really pleasurable crunch to chicken salads and if your favorite store-bought chicken salad doesn’t have it, you can always chop some up and add it. However, since vegetables contain so much water, they also tend to release excess liquid when defrosted, which will ruin your chicken salad.
Grapes, apples, and other fruits are another favorite ingredient in chicken salad. It’s certainly not for everybody, and just like the debate about whether or not pineapple belongs on pizza, there are some strong feelings about having fruit in chicken salad. If you find yourself with too much chicken salad and it has fruits in it, you should not even consider freezing it. Even with airtight containers and freezer bags, fruits like frozen grapes and apples will be chewy and rubbery when defrosted.
Dried fruits and nuts
Should you bother freezing chicken salad that has dried fruits and nuts in it? Yes! This is one of the chicken salad ingredients that hold up great during the freezing and defrosting process. If you find yourself with a large batch of chicken salad and it’s full of dried fruits and nuts then no worries, at least that ingredient will defrost perfectly!
Olive oil or other oils
Freezing chicken salad with olive oil or other oils is actually better than freezing with mayonnaise or yogurt. It still won’t defrost properly but it won’t separate from itself.
What about other ingredients?
There’s an endless amount of ingredients, herbs, and spices that people put in their chicken salad.
In a general sense, herbs and spices can easily be frozen and defrosted. And it can be placed in the freezer without any special containers or freezer bags.
Also as a general rule and as mentioned previously, food that has a high moisture or high water content will freeze just fine but not defrost well.
So if your ingredients are dry then it’ll be no problem, if you’re moist then it may not hold up well.
How do I properly freeze chicken salad?
Once you’ve decided that you really have no choice and if you don’t freeze your excess chicken salad then you’ll have to throw it away, then here are some tips to keep food safety and taste at the forefront.
Do this when freezing chicken salad
- Use a freezer-safe container or a special plastic bag that’s designed to keep foods frozen without ruining them. Vacuum seal chicken salad if you want it to taste and fresh as possible.
- Remove as much air as possible. Excess air can cause freezer burn and a build-up of bacteria on food.
- Do you want to freeze Costco chicken salad? Don’t! You don’t know all the ingredients or how long it’s been refrigerated or even left out. Even if you think it has a long shelf life left, don’t do it.
- Use reasonably quickly. Of course, the sooner you use it, the better it will probably taste. But you probably have up to three months before the chicken salad loses its consistency and flavor.
- Don’t thaw your chicken salad in room temperature! Doing so might cause some ingredients to thaw faster than others and leaving dairy or chicken out for too long could give you food poisoning.
- After you thaw it out in the refrigerator, pour out any excess liquids and replace it in your dish with more mayonnaise or yogurt if necessary.
How do I defrost chicken salad?
If your chicken salad has been in the freezer for less than 3 months and you’re ready to defrost it, there are a few things to think through before you begin.
Place it in the refrigerator and thaw it out in there. Different ingredients defrost at different rates.
It might take the mayonnaise and chicken a few hours to thaw out but it might take celery just an hour. So give it a few hours before you try and eat it.
Also, understand that there might be a thick layer of fat that has separated from the water. This looks gross but isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker. I suggest pouring out the water and putting in some mayonnaise to make up the difference.
Make sure you do the smell test before adding any ingredients or trying to eat it!
Once you’ve mixed additional mayonnaise and or added any additional ingredients into your thawed chicken salad, then you’re ready to eat!
How long can it stay out at room temperature?
Leaving chicken salad out at room temperature will quickly cause a build-up of bacteria in it after just a few hours. Remember, it’s made of chicken, eggs, mayo, and other foods that you might now want out at room temperature for very long.
It’s always best to prepare your dish and then quickly put it in the refrigerator where it can stay, if properly stored, for up to 5 days.
Properly stored means that your chicken salad is in an airtight container or is at least covered well. This is great if you’re making a large batch for a party or special occasion. You don’t have to worry about making it the same day.
Avoiding Chicken Salad Contamination
Can you freeze chicken salad? Yes. Can you freeze chicken salad without contaminating it? Usually, yes!
If you’re buying a chicken salad from a store, don’t bother freezing it. There are too many things that you don’t know about it.
If you’re making rotisserie chicken salad using a rotisserie chicken that you bought at a store, then yes, you can freeze it if you like. This is because you’re controlling all of the other ingredients like hard-boiled eggs, celery, fruits, and nuts.
If you’re making it from scratch and want to freeze chicken salad for later use, then yes, you can freeze it.
As a general rule, you want to freeze chicken salads only using airtight containers with NO excess and you want to keep them in the freezer for no more than 3 months.
And most importantly, you want to freeze homemade chicken salad the day you make it. Doing so will ensure that it’s fresh and free from bacteria.
So, can you freeze chicken salad?
Chicken salad is a great family dish that is a favorite all throughout the United States. Whether you can freeze chicken salad or not really isn’t the question, it’s more of a SHOULD you freeze chicken salad. And the final answer to that is up to you.
We hope that this article has given you enough to help you make an informed decision and answered any questions you might’ve had regarding whether or not you can freeze chicken salad.