Few things make for a more satisfying lunch then a fresh chicken salad. The combination of high quality roasted chicken (though some people do prefer boiled), mayonnaise, perhaps some mustards, and some light vegetables like carrots and celery makes for one of the most wonderful foods of all time. It’s the perfect mix of protein and flavor.
We don’t make chicken salad too often (it’s too easy to just eat the chicken and go on with your day…), but when we do, there tend to be a lot of it. So then question has come up… can you freeze the leftovers?
To Freeze Or Not Too Freeze…
So, it turns out that this question is a bit complicated. For the sake of simplicity let’s assume you are making a standard, mayo-based chicken salad.
We know the chicken and vegetables can be frozen easily and that they will taste fine when thawed, though the celery and red onions will lose their crunch. But what about the mayo?
When chicken salad is frozen and then thawed, the mayonnaise breaks down and separates from the rest of the ingredients, resulting in a watery, unappetizing dish.
So, yes, chicken salad can technically be frozen, but the texture and flavor of the dish will suffer as a result. If you do freeze it, don’t keep it in there more than a month or two — the mayonnaise will break down more and more, this vegetables will continue to soften, and then water in the mixture will cause freezer burn on the chicken, turning into a tough and even leathery.
You will be much better served by chilling the chicken salad, keeping it in the coldest part of your fridge until you want it. It should last 3-4 days with no problems at all, thanks to the fats of the mayonnaise sealing the flavor in. You’ll want to let it warm up a bit before eating, but it’s quite nice chilled, especially in the summer.
How To Freeze Chicken Salad The Smart Way
If you really want to freeze your chicken salad, then you should actually do it in components. You the can freeze the chicken in a freezer bag, perhaps chopping or shredding it first. Just make sure you are freezing high quality, fully cooked chicken, as the freezing process won’t kill the types of harmful bacteria that come in undercooked or bad chicken, and you won’t think to cook it again post-freezing.
Celery and onions can be frozen, but it’s better not to, as they stay good in the fridge so long that there really is no need to freeze them. Plus each of these are household staples, so you probably will have them at the ready the next time you want to make a chicken salad.
If you do like to add herbs, like dill, these will always be better fresh, but they will fresh well enough and can be added to the dish after defrosting with just a small loss in quality.
And, again, the mayonnaise is an issue, but it’s simply not a food that freezes well. Most mayos are shelf-stable before they opened, so you are better off buying a small mayo and keeping it on the shelf for the next time you want to make chicken salad, as opposed to trying to freeze it. And then once opened, mayonnaise can last in the fridge for a very long time, so it shouldn’t be too much of a concern.
Hate this idea? Well, if you absolutely must freeze a full chicken salad then don’t make a mayonnaise-based one, instead do with an olive oil-based chicken salad, sometimes called a “Mediterranean-style chicken salad“. These won’t thaw perfectly, but the olive oil will hold up much better than the mayo!
So you can technically freeze chicken salad, but it’s not going to taste very good when you thaw it out again. If you find yourself with leftovers, your best bet is to keep them in the fridge for up to four days. And if you’re really in a bind, give your chicken salad a quick blast in the microwave before eating. Bon appetit!