If you've ever had leftover or extra chicken salad that you don't want to waste, you've probably wondered if you can freeze chicken salad.
The answer depends on several things, including how old the leftover chicken salad is and what type of ingredients are in your chicken salad.
Chicken salad is a favorite high-protein salad and a great way to use up leftover chicken. You can use chicken salad to make chicken salad sandwiches, or serve it over salad greens, like this BLT chicken salad.
But if you have leftovers, can it be frozen?
Is it Safe?
Freezing stops bacterial growth. When you thaw your food, however, bacterial growth continues from exactly where it left off. So if your leftover chicken salad was 5 days old when you put it in the freezer, it's going to be a defrosted 5 day old chicken salad. Which makes it a 6 day-old-chicken salad that isn't all that fresh.
If you have store-bought chicken salad (like Costco chicken salad), you can't always be sure how fresh it is. So it's generally not a good idea to freeze store bought chicken salad.
For this reason, and because freezing changes the flavor and texture of chicken salad, StateFoodSafety.com recommends against freezing chicken salad.
But if your leftover chicken salad was made only 1 to 2 days earlier and you really want to freeze it, read on for the best method.
Plain Chicken Salad with Mayonnaise or Yogurt
Chicken salad made with mayonnaise or yogurt tastes best if it's defrosted within 3 months. However, even if your chicken salad is frozen for a shorter amount of time the flavor and texture will be affected.
Mayonnaise is an emulsion, meaning that two un-mixable ingredients (oil and egg yolks) are whisked together and become suspended in a creamy spread. When frozen, this emulsion breaks apart and the oil separates. So if you freeze chicken salad dressed in mayo, the defrosted chicken will seem more oily and less creamy than your original batch of fresh chicken salad.
Greek Yogurt and other dairy products like creme fraiche and sour cream can become watery or grainy when frozen. So chicken salad tossed with yogurt and other dairy products will have a texture that is less creamy than fresh chicken salad.
Freezing Additional Salad Ingredients
Chicken salad often contains more than just chicken and mayo. Many of these perishable ingredients will become soft or watery when frozen and defrosted. They'll add excess liquid to the salad. But some freeze just fine.
Hard-boiled eggs - the texture changes and can be rubbery. Frozen hardboiled eggs can also add moisture to the chicken salad and make it watery when defrosted.
Cucumber - the texture becomes soft and soggy
Nuts - walnuts, almonds and other nuts usually freeze well
Grapes - Grapes freeze well, but will add a bit of watery moisture to the salad when it defrosts.
Fresh greens - Salad greens don't freeze well.
Bacon - Cooked bacon can be frozen, but it's generally recommended that it's not frozen longer than 1 month
How to Freeze Chicken Salad
Although there are different types of chicken salad, they all freeze in pretty much the same way.
Freezing Process: The easiest way to freeze chicken salad is to put the chicken in either a freezer bag with an airtight seal or a sealed container that is freezer-safe.
If using a freezer bag, make sure to remove excess air from the bag before sealing it. Options include Ziploc freezer bags or Stasher reusable bags.
Containers that work well for freezing include glass jars or bowls with tight lids like Pyrex or Mason jars.
How to Defrost and Flavor
The safest way to defrost frozen chicken salad is overnight in the refrigerator. This is the best choice for defrosting.
After defrosting, you'll need to add more flavor, texture and color so the thawed chicken salad looks and tastes better.
First, mix the chicken well. Then add more mayonnaise, yogurt or creme fraiche to bring back the creaminess.
Taste the chicken salad and add salt and pepper to boost the flavor.
Add crunchy, colorful ingredients so the defrosted chicken has more texture and color.
- Nuts - almonds, walnuts or cashews
- Bell pepper
- Fresh herbs (parsley, dill, basil)
- Red onion or scallions
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Can You Freeze Chicken Salad?
This recipe walks you through the best way to freeze and defrost chicken salad so that it has the best flavor and texture.
- Prep Time: 10
- Total Time: 10 minutes
- Yield: 4 1x
- Category: Cooking Tips
- Method: Mix
- Cuisine: American
- 1 batch of plain chicken salad (made with mayonnaise)
Additional Ingredients to Add After the Chicken Salad Defrosts (choose several)
- bell pepper, chopped
- cucumber, chopped
- Carrot, grated
- Celery, thinly sliced
- Green or red onion, finely chopped
- Nuts, such as almond, cashews or walnuts
- Fresh herbs (parsley, dill, basil)
- To freeze the chicken salad, place it in a freezer-safe bag or storage container. If using a bag (such as Ziploc) make sure to remove as much air as possible from the bag.
- To defrost frozen chicken salad, place the frozen salad in the refrigerator overnight.
- Once the salad has defrosted, mix it really well. The salad will probably be oily, due to the mayonnaise separating. You'll need to add more mayonnaise (or sour cream, yogurt or creme fraiche) to bring back a creamy texture.
- To bring back flavor and texture, add some of the crunchy and brightly colored ingredients listed above to the chicken salad.
- Add plenty of salt and pepper before serving.
Read the blog post above to learn when it's safe to freeze chicken salad (hint: freezing chicken salad that is more than 3 days old isn't recommended)
Chicken salad tastes best if defrosted within 3 months.
Defrosted chicken salad should be kept in the refrigerator and eaten with a day or two.
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