Chicken salad is one of my favorite dishes to enjoy from time to time and there are many reasons for this.
This salad is quite easy to make and, since it is not limited to just a few ingredients, there are a lot of ways to make it.
Aside from that, it is very flavorful and can also be a health powerhouse if you choose the freshest and most healthy ingredients.
As you can see, there are many reasons to overdo it when making the salad, and end up thinking about what to do with it. Can you freeze it?
Well, although you can freeze chicken salad, in general, there is much more to say and that is why I wrote this article.
So, Can You Freeze Chicken Salad? It Depends…
As I already said, it is not so simple to answer this question in one sentence, but I will try my best to explain to you whether or not you should freeze your chicken salad.
There are two main factors to consider: Safety issues and the flavor and texture of your salad. So below, I will explain what this means.
Aside from the fact that your chicken salad will go bad if you add any spoiled ingredients when making it, whether you freeze it or not, there is also another thing to consider.
Namely, no matter how fresh the ingredients are, if you leave the salad outside at room temperature for more than 2 hours before freezing, it will go bad.
Most often, chicken salad is filled with highly sensitive ingredients, and according to the USDA, most types of foods, especially those prone to spoilage, shouldn’t be left outside for more than 2 hours.
So, if you have some chicken salad that you want to preserve for some other time, but you accidentally left it on the countertop, you better toss it if you don’t want to put your health at risk.
Flavor And Texture
Although it may not put your health at risk, I don’t know anyone who likes to eat food with deteriorated quality in terms of flavor and texture.
And this is exactly something that can happen when you are not careful when choosing the right ingredients for a salad that you are planning to freeze.
Namely, many chicken salads contain mayonnaise, and I can not imagine it without some of this delicious, creamy condiment.
However, mayonnaise presents a red flag when it comes to freezing chicken salad because freezing and thawing cause it to separate and become grainy.
So my recommendation is to freeze your chicken salad without mayonnaise and add it afterward. I do the same thing when freezing chicken noodle soup. I freeze the soup and noodles separately.
Although not as sensitive as mayo, there are also some other ingredients that can’t really be frozen. For example, yogurt is not very suitable for freezing and thawing because it also loses texture and flavor to some extent.
Also, frozen lettuce, cucumbers, and other watery vegetables can become mushy and wilted when thawed.
Finally, I would also recommend avoiding adding hard-boiled eggs before the freezing process because egg whites tend to become rubbery.
What Types Of Chicken Salads Freeze Well?
You now know that mayo-based chicken salad or any chicken salad with creamy ingredients is not an ideal option for freezing. But is there any type of chicken salad that likes the freezer? Of course there is!
• Chicken salads with a vinaigrette dressing: Chicken salads that are dressed with a vinaigrette, rather than a creamy dressing, tend to freeze better. The acidity in the vinaigrette can help to preserve the texture and flavor of the salad.
• Chicken salads with simple ingredients: Chicken salads with simple ingredients, such as chicken, vegetables, and herbs, tend to freeze well. Salads with more complex ingredients, such as fruits or nuts, may not freeze that well.
• Chicken salads with cooked chicken: If you use cooked chicken in your salad, rather than raw chicken, it will freeze better. Namely, cooked chicken is less likely to become tough or rubbery when frozen and thawed.
• Chicken salads with sturdy greens: Chicken salads with sturdy greens, such as kale or cabbage, tend to freeze better than those with delicate greens like arugula or spinach.
Sturdy greens are less likely to become wilted or mushy when frozen and thawed.
What Is The Right Way To Freeze Your Chicken Salad?
Now that you know what types of chicken salad are suitable for the freezing process, I am going to explain how to freeze it properly through just a few simple steps. So let’s begin.
STEP 1: You first need to make sure that your chicken salad hasn’t been left outside for more than 2 hours, and that it hasn’t been left in the fridge for more than 5 days.
STEP 2: Once you know that it meets these criteria, give your salad a good toss before you freeze it. This will ensure that all the ingredients have separated properly.
STEP 3: Your next task is to use a large spoon and transfer your chicken salad into sealable bags or airtight containers.
However, you don’t want to fill them to the top because it will take them longer to defrost, and the bag can easily tear.
STEP 4: If you are using an airtight container, you just need to seal the container properly to protect your salad from freezer burn. Freezer burn can alter the flavor and texture of even those ingredients that typically freeze well.
On the other hand, a ziplock bag can not simply be sealed that way, you first need to remove any excess air from it by pushing it down. If you have one, you can also use a vacuum suction machine to get rid of it.
STEP 5: Finally, label the bag or container with the exact date of storage, and put it in the freezer.
How Long Will It Last In The Freezer?
If stored properly in the freezer, chicken salad can last quite a long time.
It is estimated that, if you carefully follow the instructions above, your chicken salad will be good for up to 3 months in the freezer. Although safe indefinitely, the USDA doesn’t recommend keeping leftovers in the freezer for too long due to quality loss.
Even if there are only the ingredients that freeze well in the salad, their texture and flavor will deteriorate after 3 months.
Because of that, my recommendation is to keep your chicken salad in the freezer for up to 1 month if you want to preserve its best quality in terms of flavor and texture.
Thawing And Serving Chicken Salad
Your final task in this overall process is to thaw and serve the chicken salad the right way because this is as just as important as freezing it correctly.
So, after you decide to pull your chicken salad out of the freezer, transfer it to the refrigerator and let it thaw overnight.
Do not thaw chicken salad at room temperature, as this can allow harmful bacteria to grow and increase the risk of foodborne illness.
Once the chicken salad has thawed, you can add the dressing and any other desired ingredients.
When my salad appears to be dry after freezing and thawing, I always add a little bit of mayonnaise to moisten it. It also makes my chicken salad more flavorful and creamy and sets it for a true flavor power house.
Alternatively, you can also add a splash of vinegar or citrus juice for a refreshing twist.
Once you prepare the salad the right way, it is time to serve it. However, you need to keep in mind that it is very important to keep it at a safe temperature to prevent harmful bacteria growth.
If you decide to serve it cold, put it on the table immediately after pulling it out of the fridge.
If you, on the other hand, prefer serving it at room temperature, be sure to keep it out of the temperature danger zone (40°F to 140°F), which is the temperature range in which bacteria can grow most rapidly.
And of course, do not let it stay out for more than 2 hours.
So, can you freeze chicken salad? As you can conclude from this article, the answer to this question is positive, but you need to consider some facts, so I will sum them up here:
• Never freeze chicken salad that has been left outside for more than 2 hours.
• Avoid freezing mayo-based chicken salads as the freezing process will significantly deteriorate the texture.
• Use airtight containers when freezing chicken salad as they are the safest option.
• Although it can last for up to 3 months in the freezer, try to use chicken salad within 1 month for the best flavor and texture.
• Always thaw chicken salad in the refrigerator overnight.