Can You Freeze Chicken Salad?

Can you freeze chicken salad? Learn my best tips on when you can and when you shouldn’t freeze chicken salads.

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Here in the South, we’re no strangers to mayonnaise-based salads. Everyone knows these dishes are better the next day after all the flavors have melded together.

Chicken salad, along with egg and tuna salad, is so popular in the South you’ll likely find at least one of them being served at engagement parties, wedding receptions, birthday parties, baby showers, family reunions, picnics, cookouts, and on many restaurant menus as well as in many local grocery store delis.

But unless you make it with rotisserie chicken, chicken salad isn’t the quickest dish to make, but can you make a large batch and freeze it for later?  What chicken salad ingredients do well in the freezer? Which ones do not? Let’s find out, shall we?

chicken salad in bowl

Can You Freeze Chicken Salad?

Yes, you can freeze chicken salad for up to three months. However, the quality may be unpleasant once thawed. Your success with freezing chicken salad depends on the ingredients used to make it and how well they retain their quality once frozen and thawed.

Freezing Mayo, Miracle Whip, and Yogurt

Can You Freeze Chicken Salad Made With Mayonnaise?

Technically, you can freeze chicken salad with mayonnaise. However, mayo doesn’t freeze well and tends to separate once it has thawed, greatly reducing the quality of your leftovers.

If your dish contains mayo, it’s best to skip the freezing. 

Can You Freeze Chicken Salad Made With Miracle Whip?

Unlike mayo, a whipped salad dressing like Miracle Whip doesn’t separate the same way mayo does, so you will likely experience better quality once thawed.

Even with the knowledge that mayonnaise doesn’t freeze well, you can still experiment and freeze your mayonnaise-based chicken salad by following the tips below for your best chance of success.

Can You Freeze Chicken Salad With Regular Or Greek Yogurt?

Like mayonnaise, yogurt will separate once thawed, leaving your dish with a change in texture that may render your chicken salad inedible. 

If you have chicken salad with regular or Greek yogurt, it’s best to avoid freezing it. 

With that said, if you insist on freezing your chicken salad, follow the same tips as freezing with mayo, except stir in additional yogurt instead of mayonnaise once thawed. 

chicken salad sandwich with lettuce and tomatoes

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Freezing Fruit, Veggies, Nuts, and Eggs

Can You Freeze Chicken Salad With Vegetables?

Crunchy vegetables like celery, green peppers, onions, and scallions do not retain their crispness once thawed, so it’s best to skip freezing chicken salad made with crispy, high water content vegetables. On the other hand, dill pickle relish tends to do better in the freezer so it might work ok for you.

Can You Freeze Chicken Salad With Grapes or Apples In It?

Frozen grapes make a great snack, but grapes become mushy and watery when completely thawed. So, it’s best to avoid freezing chicken salad that contains grapes.

Apples are another high water content fruit, so avoid freezing them as well.

Can You Freeze Chicken Salad With Nuts In It?

Nuts make a tasty addition to many dishes. They also do well when frozen, so they won’t affect the quality of your food once thawed.

Can You Freeze Chicken Salad With Eggs?

If you have a chicken salad made with hard-boiled eggs, don’t freeze it.  While egg yolks fare pretty well in the freezer, egg whites do not. They get tough and rubbery when frozen, and they also release a ton of water when thawed. 

If you like hard-boiled eggs in your chicken salad, freeze chicken salad without the eggs and add them in once thawed.

chicken salad sandwich on multigrain

How To Freeze Chicken Salad

While you can freeze leftover chicken salad, for optimal quality, you should freeze homemade chicken salad the day it was made and freeze store-bought chicken salad the day it was purchased.

  1. Freeze in a disposable freezer bag or a reusable one like this. If you must, you can use an airtight container.
  2. Remove excess air from the bag. Close the freezer bag. Then, open it just enough to insert a straw just inside the bag. Holding the top of the bag on each side of the straw (making sure no air escapes), gently suck as much air out of the bag as possible. Quickly remove the staw and seal.
  3. Using a freezer label and a black sharpie, label the bags with the food name and date frozen.
  4. Store in the coldest part of the freezer for up to three months.

TIP: When freezing, use a freezer bag with a thick layer. Don’t try to freeze using storage bags. This helps keep air and odors away from your food. Airtight containers don’t allow you to remove all the air from them. This can cause freezer burn and further degrade its quality.

southwestern chicken salad wrap

How To Defrost Chicken Salad

When thawing chicken salad, never thaw it at room temperature. Always thaw it in the fridge as this dish often contains highly perishable ingredients, so you don’t want to give bacteria a chance to grow by thawing at room temperature.

To thaw, simply remove it from the freezer and place in the fridge overnight.

How To Improve The Quality Of Previously Frozen Chicken Salad.

If your chicken salad was made with mayonnaise, cream cheese or another dairy product, it’s likely there will be some separation. You may also see excess liquid on the top of your defrosted chicken salad. Here’s how to improve these issues.

  1. Pour off any excess liquids.
  2. Give the chicken salad a good stir.
  3. Give it a taste and stir in some fresh mayonnaise, salad dressing, or other dairy product.

You could also consider stirring in some homemade pesto or olive oil. This would also be a good time to add other ingredients like chopped celery, onions, grapes, apples, nuts, etc.

How To Tell If Chicken Salad Has Gone Bad

If your chicken salad has an “off” smell or taste, discard it immediately. Also, if your chicken has any kind of “growth” on it or is discolored, it has gone bad and should be thrown out and not eaten. You do not want your family or friends getting food poisoning from your food.

Remember, reducing food waste is a big part of maintaining a cost-effective kitchen. However, a trip to the doctor from food poisoning will cost more than throwing out and remaking a new batch of chicken salad.

When To Skip Freezing Chicken Salad

Don’t bother freezing chicken salad that has been unrefrigerated for more than one hour. Period. It doesn’t matter if it was sitting on the counter or sitting outside during a picnic, do not freeze your chicken salad if it has been left out of the fridge. Always put food safety first.

Frequently Asked Questions

chicken salad sandwich with grapes

Can You Freeze Chicken Salad Sandwiches?

It depends. If you use a “salad dressing” like Miracle Whip instead of mayonnaise and you don’t add in any veggies, boiled eggs, or fruits in your dish, you would probably be ok. Otherwise, the quality, once thawed, may not be palatable.

For the best results, shred your chicken salad and mix in the salad dressing thoroughly rather than having chunked chicken. The shredded chicken helps “hide” the separation.

Can You Freeze Costco Chicken Salad?

Instead of asking can you freeze chicken salad, I would be asking should I freeze Costco chicken salad? My answer would be yes, you can freeze chicken salad from Costco, but I wouldn’t do it.

Costco’s rotisserie chicken salad contains mayonnaise, sour cream, and celery. Once thawed, the celery will be limp and will likely release excess moisture making the chicken salad wet. Also, mayonnaise and sour cream have their own issues once frozen and thawed. Read my article about freezing sour cream to learn more.

What To Do With Too Much Chicken Salad

If you have extra chicken salad and don’t want to freeze it, there are several ways you could use it up quickly.

  1. Eat chicken salad sandwiches for lunch.
  2. Share it with your friends and neighbors.
  3. Serve it on a bed of lettuce with crackers.

How Long Can You Keep Homemade Chicken Salad In the Refrigerator?

The shelf-life of chicken salad, if properly stored at or below 40°F, will last up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

How Long Can Chicken Salad Be Left Out of the Refrigerator?

Chicken salad should be discarded if it was left out in temperatures of at least 90°F for more than 1 hour or if it was left out for more than 2 hours at temperatures below 90°F.

As mentioned previously, never freeze chicken salad that has been left unrefrigerated. 

Can You Vacuum Seal Chicken Salad?

Vacuum-sealing will help keep air from your chicken salad, but it will not help the quality of the ingredients once thawed.

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Final Thoughts From Cost-Effective Kitchen

As you can see, freezing chicken salad isn’t a good idea. Many of the ingredients used in chicken salad don’t retain their quality when thawed. 

With that said, if you don’t use vegetables or fruits and you use a salad dressing like Miracle Whip instead of mayo, you may be ok freezing your chicken salad.

You could always try to freeze chicken salads without mayonnaise and then add in your fruits and vegetables once thawed.

The most cost-effective way to experiment with freezing chicken salad is test a single serving in the freezer. Freeze it for several days to a few weeks, then thaw and see if you are ok with the texture.

That way, in case you hate it, you aren’t wasting a whole batch of chicken salad!

Instead of freezing and eating suboptimal chicken salad, try not to make more chicken salad than your family will eat within 5 days.

Or, you could do what I do.  I don’t eat frozen chicken salad. NEVER.

Instead of making a large batch of chicken salad, make small batches more often. 

I rarely make a chicken salad just to make chicken salad. It’s usually always made with leftover chicken from another meal.

For example, if I am baking chicken for dinner, I may throw in a few extra tenders or breasts and turn that into chicken salad for lunch the next day.

Or, if I have leftover chicken from a prior meal, I will turn it into chicken salad for my husband’s lunches. 

Because I make small batches, my family doesn’t get tired of it because they aren’t eating chicken salad for days on end.

While it’s perfectly safe to freeze leftover chicken salad, remember this salad loses some quality once thawed. So I’d only freeze a small amount at first. Then thaw and consume to see if it meets your satisfaction.

Got any questions? Comments? I’d love to hear from you!

In the meantime, check out my post about the shelf life of tuna salad or egg salad.

And while you’re at it, get some ideas on what to serve with chicken salad.

Until next time…


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