What You Should Know Before Freezing Chicken Salad

Whether it's for a potluck, picnic, or BBQ, chicken salad is an easy and delicious dish to make in bulk to feed a large group of people. It's an easily customizable dish, and there are all sorts of ways to elevate your chicken salad, like using brown sugar as your secret ingredient, or cooking your chicken sous vide for the juiciest chicken salad ever, but depending on just how big a batch you made, you might still end up with more leftovers than you could possibly finish in the five days that your chicken salad would remain good for in the refrigerator.

Luckily, it is possible to freeze chicken salad for later use. Assuming your chicken salad hasn't been left out at room temperature for more than two hours, as advised by the FDA, you can store chicken salad in a plastic bag or airtight container in the freezer for up to three months. However, it's important to know that there are certain factors that will affect how well your chicken salad will freeze and thaw out, including how well the chicken salad will retain its texture and taste. Here's what you need to know before freezing chicken salad.

The ingredients in your chicken salad will affect how well it freezes and thaws

Many people make their chicken salad with mayonnaise. If you're planning to freeze your chicken salad though, you'll want to rethink using mayonnaise as your base. That's because mayonnaise doesn't freeze well and will likely separate when thawed out, which will definitely affect the texture and taste of your chicken salad, according to Robust Kitchen. Similarly, yogurt, including Greek yogurt, doesn't freeze well and will separate when thawed. If you know you're going to freeze your chicken salad, it's best to use a whipped salad dressing like Miracle Whip, which won't separate when frozen and thawed, or to wait to add mayonnaise or yogurt until after the frozen chicken salad has been thawed out, recommends Can You Freeze This.

The addition of other ingredients to your chicken salad could also be problematic if you plan to freeze it, including egg whites (which become rubbery when frozen, though egg yolks are fine), and crunchy vegetables or fruits like celery, scallions, onions, apples, and grapes, which tend to lose their crispness and instead becomes mushy and soggy messes after being frozen and thawed. If you must use these ingredients, it's best to wait to add them until after you've thawed out your frozen chicken salad.

How long does chicken salad last in the freezer

Assuming you've avoided using ingredients that don't freeze and thaw out well in your chicken salad, you can freeze your chicken salad for up to three months, though for the best results, it's best to enjoy your chicken salad within one month, recommends The Short Order Cook. Store your chicken salad in an airtight container or a freezer-safe bag, and try to remove as much of the air as possible — a vacuum sealer can remove all the excess air from the bag, but if you don't have one, you can simply use your hands to squeeze out as much air as you can.

If you have a lot of chicken salad left over, it's best to portion out the remainder before freezing. That way, you can simply remove one portion at a time to defrost. Be sure to label everything and add a date, so you know when you put the chicken salad in the freezer and when you need to defrost it. Also make sure that your freezer is set to 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below, notes the FDA. Do not freeze any chicken salad that has been left out at room temperature for more than two hours (or one hour at high outdoor temperatures).

How to defrost chicken salad

When you're ready to defrost your chicken salad, remove what you need from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator to thaw out overnight. If you didn't plan ahead and need it sooner, you can place your frozen chicken salad in a waterproof bag and defrost it in a bowl of water. Do not defrost your chicken salad on the kitchen counter as you run the risk of spoilage. Check to make sure your chicken salad hasn't spoiled — throw it away if you notice any unpleasant smell or see any signs of mold in your chicken salad.

You may find your defrosted chicken salad to have excess water. Carefully pour out the excess liquid before serving or simply give the chicken a good stir to mix everything well. For better results, you may want to add more mayonnaise, sour cream, yogurt, or crème fraiche to improve the texture of the chicken salad. You may also want to add extras such as hard-boiled eggs, celery, onions, or pickle juice to add extra crunch and flavor to your chicken salad. Keep your defrosted chicken salad in the refrigerator until you are ready to consume it, but make sure you do so within a day or two, recommends the Kitchen Skip.