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 chicken salad 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. Leftovers are delicious stuffed onto chicken salad sandwiches, into a pita, or rolled up in a wrap.
To get the best out of your leftovers if you have too much chicken salad, 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 Recipes
#1. Chicken Salad with a Creamy Dressing
A chicken salad recipe with a creamy dressing will include any dressing containing dairy-based products such as cream, sour cream, or yogurt as well as chicken salad with mayonnaise. These types 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 Grapes and Fresh Greens
Chicken salad with fresh greens contains cooked chicken with or without dressing tossed with fresh vegetables like celery, lettuce, rocket, cucumber, tomatoes, and onions.
#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 Chicken Salad Be Frozen?
Yes, you can freeze chicken salad. However, certain types of chicken salads freeze better than other types. If you have more chicken salad than you need, 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 with the purpose of freezing chicken salad for later use, hold off on the mayonnaise and fresh greens. These perishable ingredients are best added after defrosting the chicken, just before serving. The same advice applies for making and freezing rotisserie chicken salad.
Here is a step-by-step guide to freeze chicken salad for the best quality preservation.
Step 1: Check the Quality
For food safety reasons, if you have let the chicken salad sit in the sun, or it has been left unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours, it is not suitable for freezing. Chicken salad is prone to harmful bacterial growth.
Leftover 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, or cucumber in your salad, remove it as these items will spoil in the freezer. Don’t bother freezing this as the salad loses its crunch entirely. Frozen grapes will also turn mushy and unappetizing.
Step 3: Portion
Divide the salad into your portion size of choice, keeping in mind that you cannot freeze chicken salad again once thawed.
Step 4: Pack and Seal
Place each portion into a separate zip lock freezer bag. Avoid overfilling the bags. You can vacuum seal chicken salad by lying the bag flat and press out as much air as possible before sealing the bag tightly. Keeping air out is vital for safety to avoid bacterial growth and food contamination. For extra protection you can place the bags in freezer friendly airtight containers.
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 the freezer bags 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 excess air, seal, and place back in the freezer immediately to complete the freezing process.
Chicken Salad Ingredients That Do Not Freeze Well
Chicken Salad with Mayo
Homemade mayo usually contains raw eggs while store-bought varieties often include pasteurized eggs instead. Regardless of the type, mayonnaise will denature on freezing. On defrosting, the mayo won’t return to its normal creamy texture but instead the ingredients separate into chunks, appearing almost as if it has curdled. Add mayonnaise separately, just before serving.
Ingredients such as cucumber, onion, lettuce, tomato, and celery all have a high water content composition. On defrosting, this water will leak out of the produce, leaving only soggy fibers behind. The same applies to chicken salad with grapes.
Do not freeze any raw salad ingredients 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 freezing chicken salad with Greek yogurt.
Chicken Salad with Eggs
Chicken salad with hard boiled eggs are best eaten fresh. Avoid putting egg-based sauces or egg whites in the salad if freezing as these will not keep a palatable texture on thawing. Egg yolks, on the other hand freeze quite well.
Note: If you want to freeze chicken salad sandwiches, keep in mind that they should not contain any of the above ingredients. It is best to assemble sandwiches with fresh ingredients after defrosting the chicken for the best outcome.
Which Ingredients 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 frozen chicken salad correctly is imperative to ensure that it is tasty and safe to eat. Here are the steps to follow when defrosting your homemade chicken salad:
Step 1: Refrigerate
Remove it from the freezer and immediately place the chicken salad in the fridge to thaw overnight or for a few hours depending on the portion size. 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 moisture and liquids. 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 all the ingredients to mix them evenly.
Step 3: Spice, Dress, Add Greens
Now is the time to revive your salad. Add more mayonnaise or other preferred dressing, then mix in freshly chopped greens, or stuff a thick layer of 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 are highly perishable and are prone to contamination. If you follow storage, freezing, and thawing instructions carefully chicken salad without mayonnaise or greens can be kept well in the freezer. Although a whole batch of chicken salad can last in the freezer perfectly safe for up to three months in freezer safe packaging, 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.
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