Have you ever made chicken salad and discovered that you prepared way too much? Chicken salad doesn’t last very long in the fridge– only 3 to 5 days. But that doesn’t mean you need to throw out the rest of it. As long as you freeze it before it gets to the end of that 3 to 5 day period, you can successfully and safely freeze chicken salad. It’s true– some chicken salad can be frozen for up to 3 months if you store it in a sealed container.
Although this is true, it does depend slightly on what ingredients you included in your chicken salad. Some ingredients, like hard boiled eggs or mayonnaise, simply don’t freeze well or aren’t safe to freeze. If your chicken salad includes either of these ingredients, it may be best to toss out what you can’t finish in a few days.
Is It Safe to Freeze Chicken Salad?
For many chicken salad recipes it is perfectly safe to freeze them. For some, however, you may be better off trying to finish it before it spoils in the fridge. There are two factors that might affect whether or not you should freeze your chicken salad: your ingredients and time.
Ingredients to Avoid Freezing
Some ingredients just don’t freeze well, and doing so can affect the quality or taste of your chicken salad. Ingredients like hard boiled eggs and mayonnaise don’t do well in the freezer, and you might end up with a yucky salad after freezing them.
Time Spent at Room Temp
Another situation in which you should avoid freezing chicken salad is if it has been sitting at room temperature for a while. Chicken salad that has been sitting out in your kitchen for over two hours should probably be thrown away.
Chicken salad that sits out for too long should never be eaten or frozen because it can make you incredibly sick.
How Long Does Chicken Salad Last?
One of the unfortunate truths in life is that all food– even the most delicious– has a ticking clock. This can be very frustrating if you spend a lot of time, energy, or money making one of your favorite recipes. As much as we might wish we could finish an entire batch of chicken salad, we might not feel like eating it after enjoying a few servings.
Luckily, storing chicken salad properly can help it last a bit longer, but not by much. One of the reasons that food starts to spoil in the fridge is because microorganisms in the food and the atmosphere are prompting the growth of mold, bacteria, or yeast.
Fridge vs. Freezer
Cold temperatures help slow this process, which is why your chicken salad lasts longer in the fridge than on the countertop. In fact, you should never eat chicken salad that has been sitting at room temperature for more than a few hours. It could contain harmful bacteria that will make you sick.
Refrigerated chicken salad will last much longer than room temperature chicken salad, however. If you properly store it, your chicken salad can last between 3 to 5 days in the fridge. Most refrigerators are set to about 40 degrees fahrenheit, and this helps slow the growth of mold and bacteria.
If you want to really extend the life of your chicken salad, however, placing it in the freezer is the way to go. Most freezers are set to 0 degrees fahrenheit, which prevents the growth of many bacterias and stops food from spoiling. In the freezer, your chicken salad can last up to 3 months if stored properly.
Will Chicken Salad Freeze Well?
As long as your chicken salad doesn’t contain any ingredients that don’t freeze well, it should be perfectly tasty after freezing and defrosting. Some ingredients like hard boiled eggs and mayonnaise just don’t do well in the freezer, so if your chicken salad uses these items, it might not be as good after freezing.
Luckily there are tons of delicious variations of chicken salad that you can choose from. So even if your favorite one uses mayo or eggs there are plenty of fun recipes to try. Chicken salad is an incredibly versatile food and will be delicious in many forms. Try adding fun ingredients like tahini, apples, or soy sauce to your next chicken salad recipe!
What Happens If You Freeze Chicken Salad?
The answer to this question depends entirely on the ingredients you used to make your chicken salad. Some chicken salad recipes freeze beautifully and are just as tasty once thawed as they were on the day you made them.
Other chicken salad recipes use ingredients like mayo that simply don’t freeze well, and therefore the salad is greatly affected. Unfortunately when a food doesn’t freeze well there isn’t a lot you can do to fix it once it has thawed. For best results, be sure to check that the ingredients in your chicken salad do well in freezing temperatures.
If you freeze a chicken salad that uses ingredients that don’t do well in the freezer, it can result in a thawed salad with a funky taste or texture. Usually the effects are pretty extreme, and the salad is rendered completely unappetizing.
Can You Freeze Salads With Mayonnaise?
While you technically can freeze salads with mayo, you might be disappointed with the result. Mayonnaise doesn’t perform well in the freezer, and it will leave you with a very different salad than you started with.
To be fair, the taste may be unaffected by freezing and thawing a salad with mayo, but the texture will be completely altered. Unfortunately, salads and other recipes with mayo will look normal while they are frozen, but the change occurs during the thawing process. You’ll be shocked at how different your perfect mayo-based salad looks after thawing for a few hours.
How Long Can You Refrigerate Chicken Salad?
If you want to store your chicken salad in the fridge it will last for 3 to 5 days in an airtight container. Make sure that the salad never sat out at room temperature for longer than two hours, though, as this could make it very dangerous to eat.
Also keep in mind that a chicken salad won’t last as long in the fridge if you don’t store it in the proper container. Your chicken salad will spoil much more quickly if you leave it in a container without a lid or if you don’t seal the container properly.
If you’re storing store-bought chicken salad, be sure that the container it comes in is able to properly re-seal. If not, transfer the contents to an airtight tupperware container and discard the store-bought packaging.
How Do You Store Chicken Salad?
Whether you’re storing it in the refrigerator or the freezer, chicken salad should always be stored in an airtight container. Make sure the container is tightly sealed, too. We also suggest that you label it with the date that you made it or bought it, because this will help you keep track of when it will start to go bad.
If you purchased a premade chicken salad from a store or a restaurant, you can treat the leftovers the same as homemade chicken salad. Sometimes store bought chicken salad will come in a nice container, and sometimes it won’t. If the container can’t be resealed properly or is not airtight, you should transfer the chicken salad to a tupperware container and discard the old packaging. Properly storing and sealing your chicken salad is the key to its longevity.
Why Can’t You Freeze Mayonnaise?
Mayonnaise is a very popular dressing or topping that is incredibly versatile. You can put it on burgers, dip fries in it, add it to salads, or any number of other applications. One of the things to keep in mind about mayo, however, is that it is made using eggs. This means it spoils incredibly easily if you don’t store it properly.
When you freeze mayonnaise, however, something strange happens. When frozen, all of the ingredients seem to separate and you end up with a funky frozen block.
Why Does Mayo Separate When Frozen?
Mayo separates in the freezer because it is an emulsion. Have you ever tried to mix water and oil? It can be pretty hopeless– those two ingredients just don’t want to mix.
Bearing that in mind, an emulsion is basically a forced mixing of ingredients that don’t want to mix together. Sometimes emulsions can hold their mixed form for a long time under the right conditions, like mayo. If you change those conditions, however, the emulsion will separate back into its starting ingredients.
Mayo is an emulsion of eggs, oil, and an acid like lemon juice or vinegar. Even though the ingredients are simple enough, those ingredients just don’t want to cooperate. That’s why it’s usually pretty tough to freeze mayo.
Can You Re-Mix Frozen Mayo?
If you decide to go ahead and freeze mayo, you might wonder if there’s anything you can do to get it back to its original state. It would seem logical enough– if the ingredients have simply separated, why can’t you just re-combine them?
In order to try re-emulsifying your thawed mayo, you may need an electric mixer or a blender/food processor. Try mixing it all together, and if it isn’t holding, we suggest adding a little water or mustard bit by bit as your mixing. This can help re-bind the ingredients together. This isn’t a guaranteed solution, however, and you still may fail.
Keep in mind that this will only work for mayo that has been frozen as a standalone ingredient. You will not be able to re-emulsify mayo that has been mixed into a recipe like chicken salad.
Why Can’t You Freeze Hard Boiled Eggs?
Technically, you can freeze hard boiled eggs, but you probably won’t want to. Hard boiled eggs are one of the many foods that simply do not like to be frozen. To see for yourself, try freezing a hard boiled egg for a few days and then thaw it and taste it– you’ll find the texture and consistency is dramatically different and not appetizing at all.
This occurs because of the way the water in the egg whites act when frozen. Frozen water molecules will expand to take up more space when frozen. (This is why water bottles with no extra room will explode when you freeze them).
Once you start to thaw a frozen hard boiled egg, the water will return to its smaller liquid form. While this occurs, the water will be expelled from the egg white and the result will be a rubbery, inedible egg white.
That being said, cooked egg yolks actually do freeze very well. So if you are looking to freeze hard boiled egg yolks, simply separate them from the whites, place them in an airtight container, and freeze.
How to Prepare a Chicken Salad for Freezing
There are a few steps to follow to maximize the tastiness of your chicken salad if you intend to store it in the freezer. Before we jump in, keep in mind that you should never leave chicken salad out at room temperature for longer than two hours. You should also never freeze chicken salad that has been sitting at room temperature for longer than two hours. The freezing temperatures will not kill the bacteria that was able to grow during that time, and you will still get sick after you thaw it.
- Label Your Container. There are a lot of different types of containers that will work for storing chicken salad, but we prefer using a plastic ziplock bag (or a reusable alternative). Not only are plastic bags easier to store in your freezer, they are also easier to force the excess air out of when you seal them. This helps keep your chicken salad as fresh as possible.
In order to ensure that you eat your chicken salad within the window of freshness, you should label the container of your choice with the date you packaged it and the name of the recipe. This is also helpful because frozen foods tend to look much different after a long time in the freezer. You might be sure right now that you would never forget which bag has the chicken salad, but a month from now you could be scratching your head at the mystery frozen food. *Tip* – it’s much easier to label a plastic bag before you fill it with chicken salad.
- One Bag or Many? Before you place your chicken salad in the bag or container, decide whether you may want to eat the chicken salad in single servings or if you want to eat the rest all at once. If you think you might want to grab a single serving for lunch or dinner, it might be a good idea to dole out single servings into smaller containers that you can grab one at a time. Once the chicken salad has frozen you won’t be able to separate servings until it thaws.
This also helps keep your chicken salad safe to eat. It’s usually not a good idea to freeze, thaw, freeze, and thaw any food too many times. Be sure to label each individual bag or container, just like you would for a whole batch. You can also consolidate them into one larger bag or container so that you don’t lose track of them in the freezer.
- Seal Them Up. Once you’ve separated them into their containers, it’s time to seal them up. If you’re using a ziplock bag, you should be sure to expel as much of the air from the bag as possible, effectively vacuum sealing it.
- Freeze ‘em. Now that you’ve got them separated and labeled, it’s time to plop them in the freezer! Check out the next section for tips on how to thaw your chicken salad.
How to Defrost Frozen Chicken Salad
When it comes to defrosting chicken salad, there is really only one way that you should do it. Unfortunately, thawing chicken salad cannot be rushed, so you need to plan ahead a little bit if you want to enjoy your frozen chicken salad.
In order to do it correctly, you need to take your frozen chicken salad and place it in the fridge. It will naturally thaw to an edible temperature in the fridge in a few hours. For best results, we suggest doing this over night.
Never try to cheat the system or speed up the thawing process by placing it at room temperature or microwaving it. This can have awful and unsafe results that will possibly make you very sick.
Chicken salad is so delicious, and to the surprise of many people it can actually be frozen! As long as the chicken salad you are freezing does not contain mayonnaise or hard boiled eggs, it will taste just as good after thawing as it did when you first made it.
Keep in mind that you should never freeze or eat chicken salad that has been sitting out at room temperature for longer than two hours, as this can be very dangerous. When thawing your chicken salad, be sure to follow the best methods to do this safely. Enjoy your tasty chicken salad!