Chicken salad is a miracle of modern snack foods. It does not even register as a snack food to most people. But when you consider that it is packaged, sold at gas stations, and able to keep for months and months, you realize that it has a few things in common with normal snack foods. The big difference is that it is healthy.
Chicken salad is easy to access, full of greens, and oftentimes delicious. But it is also easy to get too much of it. People are often surprised by how quickly greens fill their stomach. As such, you will often find yourself in need of refreezing your chicken salads to be finished later. But how is this done? Can it be done?
Yes, you can freeze chicken salad. You do have to keep an eye on the ingredients, however. Unlike many meals that feature chicken, chicken salad is in no danger of having bacteria grow on it. But if it contains mayonnaise or hard-boiled egg, then that might pose an issue while freezing instead.
The chicken in many chicken salads will usually contain preservatives that allow it to sit on the shelf for longer. Ordinarily, leaving chicken, even cold chicken, on the shelf of a grocery store for a long time would pose a serious health risk. But the chicken in chicken salad is different, and that difference makes it freezable.
How To Freeze Chicken Salad (And How To Not)
Chicken salad bought from the store can be kept in its own container while freezing. If you have already disposed of the container (such as a situation wherein you put the chicken salad on a plate or in a bowl), then you can simply wrap the plate or bowl in plastic, or place the chicken salad in a piece of Tupperware.
The big thing you have to prioritize when freezing chicken salad is keeping its container airtight. Whether that means double wrapping the plastic or sealing its own container shut (store-bought chicken salads will come in an airtight container), keeping it airtight will keep bacteria in the freezer from landing on it.
This is especially important for chicken salads that are home made. Home made chicken salad will use home made chicken. As you might have surmised, this chicken does not have the same preservatives in it that these store-bought chicken salads do. As such, it will last nowhere near as long in the freezer.
The difference is a matter of months. Store-bought chicken salad can last for up to three months in the freezer. Home made chicken salad can last up to three days. That is how important the preservatives in store-bought chicken salads are to keeping them safe and healthy.
Something you have to watch out for whether you are storing store-bought or home made chicken salads is mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is a combination of lard, water, and egg. None of these freezes at or to the same temperature. The issue with that is that it means the mayonnaise will break apart once it is frozen, the same happens if mayonnaise is microwaved..
When a chemical compound made up of different molecules is frozen, the bonds that keep that compound stable will break if one of those molecules freezes into a solid while the others remain a liquid. For example, mayonnaise’s water will freeze before its egg does, separating it out into ice.
After that, the mayonnaise is no longer mayonnaise. Not only has the water separated out from it and become ice, but the egg and the lard left over are likely unable to bond properly due to the absence of the water.
In short, mayonnaise cannot be frozen. It will be destroyed in the process. As such, chicken salads with mayonnaise on them might be negatively affected by the freezing process. The chicken salad itself will not be destroyed, but the more mayonnaise is on it, the more the taste will be ruined.
Hard boiled eggs are another common ingredient to chicken salads that cannot freeze. Again, hard boiled eggs contain enough water that freezing them basically destroys them. Unlike mayonnaise though, hard boiled eggs can be picked off the chicken salad before freezing, and either eaten individually or thrown away.
Luckily, due to the preservatives inside the chicken mentioned earlier, there is little difference between the amount of time the greenery of a chicken salad can spend in the freezer and the amount of time the chicken of the chicken salad can spend in the freezer. Lettuce and cabbage can last for months, just like the chicken.
The reason for the three-month time limit is that eventually, either the chicken or the greens of the chicken salad will develop freezer burn. This is not dangerous by itself, but it absolutely ruins the taste of the chicken salad. In general, expect the taste and texture of the chicken salad to suffer the longer it is stored.
Is Chicken Salad Good After Freezing?
Chicken salad can lose some texture as it stays in the freezer. Neither chicken nor salad have enough water for there to be a serious threat of them developing freezer burn any time soon. But still, eat your chicken salad as soon as you can. No reason to risk wasting a perfectly good bowl of chicken.