Have extra chicken salad? Learn how to freeze chicken salad leftovers or make-ahead chicken salad. These tips and tricks will have you safely storing the salad in the freezer in no time.
Chicken salad is as good for weeknight dinners as it is to make for any party. From a baby shower to a potluck, it is an excellent dish to serve to a crowd.
There are two situations when you might consider freezing the salad:
- When you have leftovers
- If you want to make chicken salad days ahead of time. For more information on early prep, see my post on how to make chicken salad early. I share lots of helpful tips and tricks.
If you have leftovers, you may wonder, can you freeze chicken salad? You can only freeze chicken salad that does not contain mayonnaise, dairy, celery, grapes, or hard-boiled eggs. Salad without these ingredients freezes and thaws without damaging the taste and consistency.
If the recipe has mayo, dairy, fruits, or crunchy vegetables, you will not like the thawed chicken salad. It will be watery, mushy, and unappealing.
Beware: Read the labels on store-bought salad, like Costco chicken salad. You will probably find similar ingredients that don’t freeze well, like mayonnaise and celery.
You may also be interested in learning the best bread for chicken salad sandwiches. Read up on both bread and non-bread alternatives.
How to Freeze Leftover Chicken Salad
If you have a heaping bowl of chicken salad left over, you may not be able to eat it before it goes bad. The shelf life of chicken salad is 2 to 3 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Refrigeration, rather than freezing, is the best option for most chicken salad recipes. Classic chicken salad often has celery, crisp fruits (like grapes or apples), and mayonnaise.
However, if the salad is made with the type of ingredients that do freeze well, follow these steps.
Note: Never freeze food that has been left at room temperature for an extended period of time. According to the FDA guidelines, perishable ingredients should be refrigerated within two hours of preparation. This avoids the risk of contamination and bacterial growth.
See my post on common food safety guidelines for more information.
- Transfer the leftover salad from the original container to a freezer bag or an airtight freezer-safe container. Alternately, use a vacuum sealer and bags. This removes most air, making it ideal for longer storage.
It is a good idea to separate the salad into portion size containers. Then you can thaw as much chicken salad as you want to eat at a time.
If you use a resealable plastic bag, squeeze out any excess air. This will help save room in the freezer and prevent freezer burn.
- Label the container with the name and the date. Chicken salad freezes for up to three months.
You may be interested in ingredients that typically go in chicken salad. Check out the post on what goes in chicken salad. All your questions will be answered.
Can You Freeze These Ingredients in the Salad?
Can you freeze it in chicken salad?
No. It will separate.
No. It will separate.
No. It will separate.
No. They will get mushy.
No. It will get soft.
No. The consistency will change.
Yes. They may get a little soft though.
How to Freeze Make-Ahead Chicken Salad?
The good news is that you have more flexibility when freezing make-ahead chicken salad. You can prep a large batch of chicken salad with ingredients that freeze well.
Then when you are ready to serve the dish, mix celery, nuts, fruits, and other foods that don’t freeze well into the whole salad.
You save time and get the best chicken salad texture without compromises.
Step 1. Analyze Your Recipe
- Separate the ingredients that will freeze from the ones that won’t. Chicken (the main ingredient will freeze).
- Consider using Miracle Whip, which will freeze.
- Decide the ingredients that shouldn’t be frozen, like celery, grapes, apples, etc. Can you do prep work ahead and keep these items in the fridge? Or is it better to wait to prep these ingredients until you are ready to serve the salad?
Note: Nuts can freeze but can also get soft when mixed in a dressing and frozen.
Step 2. Mix the ingredients together that can be frozen.
- Mix the chicken, Miracle Whip, Dijon mustard, and dried herbs together.
- Transfer the salad to a freezer-safe bag or bowl.
- Spread the salad evenly and do not overfill the container. A freezer bag is the best choice to save space. Squeeze out excess air from the bag. This will save room in the freezer and help prevent freezer burn. Double bag the salad if you are worried about leaks.
- Label the container with the ingredients and the date. The salad should last up to three months in the freezer if correctly stored.
Step 3. Prep the other ingredients.
- One to two days before serving the salad, chop the ingredients that can’t be frozen. Chop the celery, slice the grapes, chop the nuts, and hard boil and chop the eggs.
- Keep each perishable item in a separate sealed container in the fridge until you are ready to mix the salad.
- Store items like nuts and dried fruit in separate baggies or lidded bowls at room temperature.
Step 4. Mix the salad
- Thaw the frozen chicken salad in the refrigerator the night before serving it.
- Right before serving, mix the rest of the ingredients into the salad. If the salad is dry, add more mayo or lemon juice to moisten.
Now that you have an idea for your sandwich, find out all the best toppings for chicken salad sandwiches. Toppings add pizazz.
Can You Freeze Chicken Salad with Mayonnaise?
It is best to avoid freezing chicken salad with mayonnaise. Why can’t you freeze salads with mayonnaise?
Mayonnaise is made with egg yolks, oil, vinegar, and sometimes lemon juice. These ingredients combine well in mayonnaise but can separate during freezing and defrosting. Defrosting chicken salad or any salad that uses mayonnaise will likely leave you with an unappetizing dish.
There is no guarantee that the ingredients will separate when freezing them. However, it’s very likely.
Technically, it’s still edible once you defrost it. However, it won’t offer the same consistency or flavor as a fresh salad.
Some home cooks note that you can freeze salads with mayonnaise, and then drain the extra liquid. Even without the moisture, you will notice a change in the consistency and flavor of the salad.
However, if you don’t mind the appearance and flavor changes, you can try it. Though, I don’t recommend it!
Can You Freeze Chicken Salad Without Mayo?
You can freeze chicken salad without mayo if it does not have other ingredients that should not be frozen. Once you defrost it, add mayo or a mayo substitute and enjoy your chicken salad.
A better option? Swap out mayo for a similar ingredient that does freeze well, like Miracle Whip. Miracle Whip is an excellent mayonnaise substitute. Yes, it does have eggs. But it won’t separate as you defrost the salad.
Can You Freeze Chicken Salad with Sour Cream?
It is not a great idea to freeze chicken salad with sour cream. The thawed salad will look unappealing, have excess moisture, and have a changed flavor.
Sour cream is one of the worst things to freeze. Generally, most dairy products do not freeze well (except for ice cream). The liquid separates from the solids when sour cream thaws.
Can You Freeze Chicken Salad with Yogurt?
Do not freeze chicken salad with yogurt. Regular yogurt is not a great candidate for the freezer. While it does make a delicious alternative to mayonnaise in chicken salad, it will separate during the defrosting stage.
Skip using yogurt or Greek yogurt as a swap unless you don’t mind a change in consistency and texture.
Can You Freeze Chicken Salad with Grapes?
Avoid freezing chicken salad with grapes, apples, and other common ingredients with high water content. They will get a squishy consistency during the thawing process.
The water content of grapes makes them freeze well. However, they get mushy while defrosting.
Can You Freeze Chicken Salad with Eggs?
Hard-boiled eggs are another food that does not freeze well. Once you defrost them, their consistency becomes chewy and challenging to eat. Eggs also release a good amount of water when they defrost, so they would also make the chicken salad watery.
It’s best to freeze your chicken salad without eggs. Then, boil fresh eggs and add them after you defrost the chicken salad.
See my post on how to hard boil eggs perfectly. My method is easy and gives you fool-proof moist, delicious, creamy eggs.
Can You Freeze Chicken Salad with Celery?
It is a bad idea to freeze chicken salad with celery. Celery softens as it defrosts and loses its crunchy texture. Instead, slice fresh celery to add to defrosted chicken salad.
Celery has a high moisture content – like grapes. If you freeze celery, it’s best to use it in recipes like a soup where it cooks in a large amount of water.
Can You Freeze Chicken Salad Sandwiches?
If you use Miracle Whip instead of mayo and avoid adding celery, you can freeze the sandwiches. Make sure to wrap your sandwiches separately in airtight bags before freezing them. Using airtight bags or containers helps prevent the chicken salad sandwiches from drying out.
Avoid adding grapes, celery, eggs, and dairy products to chicken salad sandwiches if you plan to freeze them.
How to Thaw Chicken Salad?
Thawing chicken salad is as important as the freezing process. The key to thawing is taking chicken salad from the freezer and putting it directly into the fridge.
While it may be tempting to thaw frozen chicken salad out on the counter, this could lead to food safety issues, including bacterial growth. If you’re really in a rush, you can place the sealed container in cool water to help it thaw faster.
If there is any liquid separation, dump the excess liquid out. Usually, this liquid does not have a pleasant taste, so avoid mixing it into the chicken salad.
If the thawed salad is dry, mix mayo or lemon juice into the chicken salad. A splash of olive oil works too.
Food Safety Note: Even if you stored and defrosted the chicken salad correctly, if it does not smell pleasant, toss it in the garbage.
Do not freeze Costco chicken salad because it contains celery, onions, and mayonnaise. These items do not freeze well. The celery and onions will lose their crunchy texture, and the mayonnaise will separate.
You can freeze homemade chicken salad as long as it does not contain fruits, veggies, or mayonnaise.
You can freeze any already made chicken salad that does not have grapes, apples, celery, or mayonnaise.
It is not a good idea to freeze avocado chicken salad. Avocados that are frozen and thawed become mushy and slimy. The original taste and texture will be lost.
You can vacuum seal and freeze chicken salad with success if all of the other ingredients can be frozen and then thawed without losing taste and texture. Avoid freezing celery, grapes, and mayo.
Have a random chicken salad question? I probably have an answer.
Want to know what you can leave out of chicken salad without it affecting the taste? Check out my post on food you can skip when making the recipe.
You can freeze chicken salad (even store-bought chicken salad) as long as all the components can be frozen. Avoid freezing the salad if it has eggs, dairy, celery, or grapes so that the consistency and flavor do not change.
This rule applies to homemade chicken salad, rotisserie chicken salad, and store-bought salad.