Chicken salad is perfect for many occasions, and has the benefit of being nutritionally balanced, easy to make, and tasty. But what happens if you overestimate the amount you can eat? Or, you’d made it for a gathering, and people couldn’t make it?
It’s good to know that your efforts won’t go to waste. You can freeze chicken salad (see also Freezing Cooked Chicken), only if you prepare it properly, otherwise you risk it spoiling before you can even eat it.
Things You Need to Consider Before Trying to Freeze Chicken Salad
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as sticking it into the freezer.
Chicken salad contains a lot of ingredients that will go off well before the chicken, though most people assume that chicken is the most dangerous part to go rancid.
Mayonnaise is a big factor, as it can separate and go off much quicker, not to mention the vegetables you might add, which might not freeze well.
If you’re making a big batch of chicken salad to freeze, you’ll want to divide the dish up into parts that you’ll eat now, and portions that are going in the freezer.
Mayonnaise doesn’t freeze well. This is the first thing you need to consider. It’s best to leave it out of the dish until you’re ready to serve the chicken salad, and then you can add it at the last minute.
Adding it to the chicken salad which will go into the freezer can make the whole dish unstable.
You can also use substitutes for mayonnaise, including pesto, mustard, olive oil, and whipped salad cream. All of these freeze much easier than mayonnaise, and won’t clump together once you’ve thawed the chicken salad.
How Do You Freeze Chicken Salad?
Freezing Chicken Salad Which Contains Mayonnaise
If you want to attempt to freeze a chicken salad, mayonnaise and all, why not? Make it as you usually would, and lay out some suitable airtight containers which will freeze well.
You can also use freezer bags, as long as they are airtight and won’t leak. Place the salad into your desired container, and portion as necessary.
As with freezing anything, take as much air out of the container as possible before you put the lid on, write the date, and freeze it.
Freezing Chicken Salad Which Doesn’t Have Mayonnaise
If you’d rather use some alternative dressings instead of mayonnaise, prepare the salad as you normally would. Portion it as necessary, write the date on the outside of the container, and freeze.
You can also leave off any dressing until after you’ve thawed the salad, which does make it easier. You can then thaw it when you need it, and add whichever dressing or accent you prefer.
How Long Can You Keep a Chicken Salad in the Freezer?
Chicken salad will last for about 3 months in the freezer, though this can be longer. The less time it spends in the freezer – once fully frozen, of course – the more flavor it will retain.
How to Defrost a Chicken Salad
To defrost a chicken salad, the safest bet is to put it straight into the fridge and leave it to defrost for the next day.
Stir it well to recombine any ingredients, and add more dressing or sauce of your choice to improve the flavor.
If you need it before then, it’s advisable to leave it in the freezer and make a fresh batch.
Although, some people say that you can speed up the thawing process by putting the whole (sealed) container in tap water at a normal temperature.
This will help bring up the temperature more quickly, but you should always be careful trying to defrost meat rapidly, especially when it comes to chicken.
How to Avoid Contamination When Freezing Chicken Salad
Any chicken salad which contains mayonnaise will turn bad quickly, and it’s very prone to being contaminated, making it unsafe to eat. It’s always important to practice food hygiene, as neglecting to do so can make you very ill.
For best results, freeze a homemade chicken salad (see also How To Freeze Cooked Chicken) on the day you make it. At the very least, refrigerate it until you’re able to freeze it. Don’t let it sit out, as both the chicken and the mayonnaise will perish fairly quickly.
If you’ve bought a ready-made chicken salad, freeze it on the day you’ve purchased it to keep it fresh. If you’ve already opened it, you will obviously need to transfer it to an airtight, freezer-safe container and freeze it as soon as possible.
If you’ve left the chicken salad out of the fridge for more than an hour, it’s time to put it in the bin. No chicken salad is worth food poisoning!
How Do You Tell If Chicken Salad Is Safe to Eat?
While it’s easy to forget about a chicken salad, it’s also just as easy to tell if it’s gone off.
If there’s more liquid than you should reasonably expect, if the salad itself has dramatically changed texture, or it is giving off a strange smell, it’s time to throw it out.
If, after thawing the chicken salad, it’s watery but the smell or flavor hasn’t changed, it is safe to eat.
You can freeze chicken salad easily, but you do have to make sure that it’s not left out before or after freezing for it to go bad.
You can always add the ingredients that won’t freeze well after you’ve thawed it.
This way, there’s no risk of contamination or food poisoning, and you still have the benefit of cutting down your prep time.