The possibilities are endless when it comes to chicken salad, but the problem is, it doesn’t last more than three days in the refrigerator. That is why freezing is a good idea for reducing waste and maximizing the meals you can get from your leftovers.
Chicken salad is popular for lunches, dinners, barbecues, and parties. It comes in creamy, spicy, crunchy, and curried varieties. Leftover chicken salad is delicious stuffed onto a sandwich, into a pita, or rolled up in a wrap.
To get the best out of your leftovers, make sure you carefully follow the guidelines in this article to ensure your chicken salad stays tasty and safe to eat.
Types of Chicken Salad
#1. Chicken Salad with a Creamy Dressing
Chicken salad with a creamy dressing will include any dressing containing dairy-based products such as cream, sour cream, or yogurt as well as mayonnaise. These types of chicken salads are popular to use as sandwich fillers.
#2. Chicken Salad with a Vinaigrette
Chicken salad with a vinaigrette type dressing is tossed with an olive oil and vinegar combination, which forms a temporary emulsion. These types of dressings are usually dairy and egg-free.
#3. Chicken Salad with Fresh Greens
Chicken salad with fresh greens contains cooked chicken with or without dressing tossed with fresh ingredients like lettuce, rocket, cucumber, tomatoes, onions, and celery.
#4. Chicken with Vegetables
Chicken salad can also be made with cooked or raw vegetables, including strips of carrots, broccoli, sweetcorn, and cabbage.
#5. Chicken with Rice or Pasta
Cold chicken salads can be made tossed together with rice or pasta for a hearty summer meal.
Can You Freeze Chicken Salad?
Yes, you can freeze chicken salad. However, certain types of chicken salad freeze better than other types. Plan ahead and take precautions as to which parts of the salad should go into the freezer for the best quality preservation.
How To Freeze Chicken Salad
If you are making a large batch of chicken salad with the purpose of freezing some of it for later use, hold off on the mayonnaise and fresh greens. These items are best added after defrosting the rest of the ingredients just before serving.
Here is a step-by-step guide to freezing a prepared chicken salad for the best quality preservation.
Step 1: Check the Quality
A chicken salad that has been left in the sun or outside the fridge for more than two hours is not suitable for freezing as the chicken salad is prone to bacterial growth.
A chicken salad that has been kept refrigerated for less than two days is safe to freeze.
Step 2: Remove Salad Greens
If there is lettuce, fresh tomato, celery, apple, cucumber, or grapes in your salad, remove it as these items will spoil in the freezer.
Step 3: Portion
Divide the salad into your portion size of choice, keeping in mind that you cannot refreeze it once thawed.
Step 4: Pack and Seal
Place each portion into a separate zip lock freezer bag. Lie the bag flat and press out as much excess air as possible before sealing the bag tightly. Keeping air out is vital to avoid bacterial growth and food contamination.
Step 5: Label and Date
This is optional, but always a good idea to keep track of how long your food has been hiding in the back of the freezer. Label each bag with a permanent marker and add the date.
Step 6: Stir
This step only applies if you are freezing a salad that already has some form of mayo or creamy dressing mixed into the contents. Once the salad is partially frozen, stir the ingredients well, preventing too much separation during the freezing process.
Again, remove the air, seal, and place back in the freezer immediately to complete the freezing process.
Chicken Salad Ingredients That Do Not Freeze Well
Mayonnaise denatures on freezing. On defrosting, the mayo won’t return to its normal creamy texture but instead separates into chunks, appearing almost as if it has curdled. Add mayonnaise separately, just before serving.
Ingredients such as cucumber, onion, lettuce, tomato, grapes, and celery are all very high in water content. On defrosting, this water will leak out of the produce, leaving only soggy fibers behind.
Do not freeze any raw salad ingredients with a high water content together with your chicken. Add your fresh greens separately, just before serving.
As with mayonnaise, yogurt denatures during the freezing process and will defrost in an unappetizing manner spoiling the entire dish.
Avoid putting egg-based sauces or egg whites in the salad if freezing as these will not keep a palatable texture on thawing.
Which Ingredients That Freeze Well?
Mayonnaise substitutes such as pesto, vinaigrettes, mustard, and whipped salad dressing freeze and thaw with better consistency than mayonnaise.
Green beans, broccoli, carrots, sweetcorn, and peas freeze well, either raw or semi-cooked.
How To Defrost Chicken Salad
Thawing your chicken salad correctly is imperative to ensure that it is tasty and safe to eat. Here are the steps to follow when defrosting your chicken salad:
Step 1: Refrigerate
Take your chicken salad out of the freezer and place it immediately into the fridge. Keep it in the sealed zip lock bag.
Step 2: Drain and Stir
After it is completely thawed, remove the bag from the fridge and drain all the excess liquid. Be sure not to let the chicken salad thaw at room temperature as this allows for bacterial growth.
Once all the excess liquid is removed, place the salad in a container and stir the ingredients to mix them evenly.
Step 3: Spice, Dress, Add Greens
Now is the time to revive your salad. Add the mayonnaise or other preferred dressing, then mix in freshly chopped greens, or stuff your chicken salad into a sandwich.
Taste, texture, and nutrients in fresh foods are, undoubtedly, a step up from frozen meals. However, the convenience doesn’t come close to merely taking a container out of the freezer the night before and having a meal ready the next day without lifting a finger. Talk about healthy fast food.
Foods such as chicken salad can be prone to contamination. It is important to follow storage, freezing, and thawing instructions carefully. Although chicken salads can be kept in the freezer for up to three months, the sooner you eat it, the better the quality will be.
The great thing about frozen chicken salad is that you can transform the leftovers into so many different dishes from sandwiches and wraps to stir-fry and casseroles.
Image by depositphotos/Nadianb