If you have leftover chicken salad and you don’t want it to go to waste, you might wonder: can you freeze chicken salad? The answer: it depends on how it’s made! Here I’ll show you what type of chicken salad can be frozen, the best freezing method and how to prep your chicken salad if you want to freeze it.
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Whipping up a large batch of chicken salad is fantastic for parties, a baby shower and casual get togethers….it’s easy to make and everyone loves it! Homemade chicken salad sandwiches (made with rotisserie chicken) or wraps are always a hit at my house on busy weeknights!
While it sounds like a nice idea to be able to freeze any leftover chicken salad, there are a few things you have to consider before doing so because freezing chicken salad can be tricky!
FDA GUIDELINES ON FREEZING COOKED CHICKEN
The current FDA guidelines on freezing cooked chicken is 4 months, at 0˚F (-18˚C). They do point out however, the timeline is to preserve the quality of the food, but food stored at this temperature can be stored indefinitely.
Buttttt…what about freezing chicken SALAD?!
CAN YOU FREEZE CHICKEN SALAD?
Yes, but if you want to freeze it successfully, it really depends how it is prepared. There are so many different types of chicken salad! However, the vast majority of chicken salad is mayo-based. Although there are no food safety issues when freezing mayonnaise, freezing mayo is a bad idea in terms of preserving the quality of your delicious chicken salad!
There are some delicious, freezable options for chicken salad though–like this Chicken Salad Without Mayo. This chicken salad has a dijon mustard vinaigrette base, and freezes up just wonderfully!
Can you freeze chicken salad with mayonnaise?
Classic chicken salad, such as Costco chicken salad, is typically made with mayo and a few crunchy vegetables like celery and onion. Again, if frozen properly, you are not at risk of any contamination when freezing this type of chicken salad. However, it is not recommended if you want to preserve the quality of the chicken salad in any way. Why?
Mayonnaise is an emulsion of egg yolks and an oil of some sort (soybean oil, olive oil, vegetable oil, etc). An emulsion is the combining of two or more liquids that are normally unmixable.
When mayo is thawed, the emulsion of egg and oil breaks down and separates. Unfortunately, it is impossible to get the emulsion back when the mayo is mixed with chicken salad.
Another reason why freezing traditional chicken salad isn’t the best option, is because it typically contains veggies such as celery and onion that have a high moisture content. When thawed in the chicken salad, these veggies will just add to the moisture level in the salad and water it down further.
While you can add extra fresh mayo or a squeeze of lemon juice to your thawed chicken salad in an attempt to revive it, the texture and consistency will be way off. In short, it’s safe to freeze chicken salad with mayo, but not a good idea!
Can you freeze chicken salad with Miracle Whip?
Miracle Whip is made in the same way as regular mayo–an emulsification of oil and eggs. Miracle Whips just happens to contain high fructose corn syrup or sweetener, giving it a sweeter taste.
Therefore, the same “rules” apply to freezing chicken salad with regular mayonnaise– it’s safe to freeze chicken salad with Miracle Whip, but not recommended because it will change the entire texture of the chicken salad.
Can you freeze chicken salad with eggs?
Southern chicken salad like this one contain hard boiled eggs. According to the FDA’s Refrigerator and Freezer Storage Chart, they do not recommended freezing hard cooked eggs. Therefore, chicken salad with eggs should not be frozen.
Can you freeze chicken salad with Greek yogurt?
Mayonnaise substitutes in chicken salad such as greek yogurt may seem like a good idea to freeze since there is no emulsification with yogurt. However, like with most dairy products, yogurt tends to separate and get watery in the thawing process.
This will not only change the texture of the yogurt, the excess liquid from the yogurt will water down your chicken salad, so not the best idea!
WHAT KIND OF CHICKEN SALAD IS OK TO FREEZE?
Chicken salad that is vinaigrette-based, like this Chicken Salad Without Mayo is your best option! This type of chicken salad is the best candidate for freezing.
You may get a little excess moisture from the onion and celery when thawing, however it won’t be nearly as dramatic as freezing and thawing chicken salad with mayo!
HOW TO FREEZE CHICKEN SALAD
There are a few ways to freeze chicken salad to get the best results:
Freezing Traditional Chicken Salad (with mayo/Miracle Whip/Greek yogurt)
- If you are still dead-set on freezing chicken salad with mayo, store it in an airtight container (these are my favorite freezer-safe containers) or freezer bag. If using a freezer bag, remove as much air as possible. Or better yet, use a vacuum sealer to remove all excess air.
- The FDA says that freezing at 0˚F (-18˚C) keeps food (including cooked meats) safe indefinitely (See their Food Storage Chart). However, to preserve the taste of the chicken salad, I wouldn’t store it over 1-2 months.
Freezing Vinaigrette-Based Chicken Salad (no mayo)
- To freeze chicken salad without mayo, follow the exact same method for freezing chicken salad WITH mayo (above).
Freezing Chicken Salad in Separate Parts
- The best way to freeze chicken salad is to freeze the ingredients separate from one another. Then, thaw and toss them together, along with your mayo or vinaigrette for a quick and easy meal!
- Simply separate the chicken and veggies into separate freezer bags or containers. Then thaw, and toss with mayo and any other remaining ingredients.
WHEN NOT TO FREEZE CHICKEN SALAD
Never freeze chicken salad that has been at room temperature for an extended period of time. FDA guidelines say no more than two hours. Cooked chicken that has been left out for more than two hours is susceptible to bacterial growth and at risk of contamination.
If you’ve made too much chicken salad and it’s been sitting out for more than two hours, as sad as it is to let it go to waste, toss it!
HOW TO THAW CHICKEN SALAD
Always let chicken salad thaw IN THE FRIDGE (not on the counter). Thawing chicken salad too quickly (using heat or even room temperature), will further causes icky changes in texture, along with flavor changes.
Chicken salad will take between 5-6 hours to thaw in the fridge.
When the chicken salad is thawed, you may notice excess liquid in the bag or container (either from the veggies, mayo, or both). Simple discard as much liquid as possible.
You can freshen up the chicken salad by adding a bit more mayo and a squeeze of lemon juice before serving.
HOW LONG DOES CHICKEN SALAD LAST IN THE FREEZER?
The FDA says that freezing at 0˚F (-18˚C) keeps food (including cooked meats) safe indefinitely (See their Food Storage Chart). However, to preserve the taste of the chicken salad, I don’t recommend storing it over 1-2 months.