Chicken salad is a creamy and delicious side dish that can safely be proclaimed as a superstar of almost every party I’ve attended or even hosted. Why it is so widely popular, I am not so sure. But the thing I know is that I always have a secret batch of this deliciousness in my freezer in case unexpected guests announce their arrival.
Before I learned that I could store my leftover chicken salad in the freezer, it was well known that we would have this dish served in a few different forms in the next few days since we refuse to waste food. I remember that one BBQ party when I overestimated the crowd and made too much of it.
I immediately knew we wouldn’t be able to clean out this amount today, and I was not in the mood for eating chicken salad for days to come. That’s when I questioned myself what now? Can you freeze chicken salad?
I was sure it was possible somehow since, in a literal sense, you can freeze anything you like if you have a freezer, but I did not know how to do it nor how long it can last in the freezer. So there you are, the mystery is solved, but you still need to learn how to do it, so please continue reading this article to learn how.
Things To Consider Before Freezing Your Chicken Salad
As usual, a prepping process of the dish is critical to the food’s longevity in the freezer, and chicken salad is no excuse. There are several types of dressing for this salad, and the mayonnaise is one of the most popular, but unfortunately, this condiment is not the best candidate for freezing.
The mayonnaise and some other ingredients that are mandatory in this salad could separate or turn rancid quicker than the chicken meat. Also, the chicken salad contains crunchy vegetables like scallions and celery that are sensitive to freezing temperatures.
Here is some pro tip: make a large batch of the salad intentionally and divide the serving portion from the portion that you intend to freeze. I say this since it will be the best thing to do to freeze all salad ingredients without adding the mayo. Your salad will taste better if you add the mayo a few minutes before serving, just as the salad thawed completely.
You should also know that mayo can be substituted with dressings such as whipped salad dressing, pesto, olive oil, or mustard. They are a way better option than mayo since they freeze better and will not clump when thawed.
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How To Freeze A Chicken Salad
Freezing chicken salad is not that difficult at all. What you need is a freezer and a few containers or Ziploc bags, and you’re good to go. I always try to maximize my storage space, so I prefer using resealable bags and avoid using large containers.
Will the taste and the quality be as good as a freshly prepared dish? Sadly the answer is no. You will notice some difference at the very least, but we are all aware that it is a difficult thing to do to freeze something and restore its original state.
Chicken Salad With Mayonnaise
The first thing you need to know is that the salad with less amount of mayo will freeze better. It is also important to use store-bought mayonnaise, considering it is more suitable for freezing in the long run.
If you must store already made chicken salad with mayo, you should know that the mayo will separate when frozen and thawed. This can be a problem that can destroy the flavor of the salad since it will release a lot of water and soak it.
The freezing process is simple, prepare the salad as usual and place it in several freezer-safe containers with an airtight lid or resealable plastic bag. Scoop the desired amount of salad into the container and squeeze as much air as possible before sealing. Place the salad in the coolest part of the freezer.
Always write the storage date, then place the chicken salad in the freezer and use it within 2 to 3 months. I do not recommend freezing a salad with mayo or yogurt dressing if it was sitting out of the fridge for several hours since it may already contain some bacteria in it.
Chicken Salad Without Mayonnaise
If you prepared a salad with any of the substitute dressings I mentioned above, your salad would have a better texture once it is thawed since they do not split low temperatures, nor they clump like mayo. The process is the same as the one above: scoop the salad into your choice of a freezer-safe container or bag. Remove as much air as you can and seal it. Write the storage date and place the chicken salad in the coldest spot of the freezer and use it within the next three months.
The Thawing Process
As I said, a frozen chicken salad can last in the freezer for up to three months, but I highly suggest consuming it as soon as possible since it will deteriorate in flavor with time. The defrosting process is not complicated; all you have to do is transfer the frozen chicken salad in the fridge and leave it to thaw overnight. Never thaw it on the countertop since it will turn bad.
If the salad consistency turns watery, drain it, and give it a good stir until the ingredients are well mixed. After that, you can add a teaspoon of cornstarch to improve the texture and a tablespoon of the mayo or the dressing you used to restore the flavor.
If you do not have time to wait overnight, you can always submerge the container into a bowl of tap water. But make sure that the container or bags are tightly sealed to prevent water coming into the dish.
A chicken salad that has been previously frozen may not be best for eating on its own, so I usually use it in sandwiches, or as a dressing for pasta salads. Adding some freshly chopped vegetables as scallion or celery will freshen up your salad and enhance the taste and texture. Always add some salt and pepper after thawing.
You should use it within 2-3 days of being thawed and do not refreeze it again; that is why I recommend freezing smaller portions of the salad to avoid wasting food. Also, to avoid food poisoning once thawed salad should be thrown away if it has been kept unrefrigerated for more than two hours.
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How Will You Know If The Chicken Salad Turned Bad?
Well, this is easy to tell since the first sign of the spoilage is if you noticed that the salad turned into an abnormally mushy mass. After that, you should notice an off and odd aroma. You need to know that if you used mayo or yogurt as a dressing, the chance of your salad turning bad is much higher if you froze without dressing or with some substitute dressings.
The reason is simple, the mayo or any dairy dressing is a great breeding ground for bacteria, especially if the salad was left on the countertop for a few hours then frozen.
Let’s Wrap It Up
As you have seen, freezing chicken salad is a hassle-free process, but certain things have to be taken into consideration, so you do not ruin the salad or, in the worst-case scenario, end up with the bad stomach.
Once you realize you have total control over the ingredients, the whole process will be even easier since you won’t break your nerves because the scallions and celery fell apart affected by the low temperatures.
I, in general, prefer freezing partially prepared food. I will always dress my salad, add greens and herbs, or season my food after the thawing process since the flavor gets reduced a lot in the freezer. You should never expect frozen food to taste as good as the freshly made, but you can always enhance the taste if you follow my method and do the final touch-ups after the thawing.
Remember, homemade chicken salads must be frozen the day they are made,a store-bought one should be frozen on the day it was opened (keep in mind the best-by date).