Can You Freeze Chicken Salad?

A special meal or a BBQ is not complete without a heaping bowl of chicken salad! It’s a quintessential dish that’s wholesome, healthy, and of course, delicious. But what if you made too much chicken salad? Can you freeze chicken salad?

If say, you overestimated the food you serve or you simply want to stock up on chicken salad, we’re happy to report that this dish keeps well in the freezer. However, prepping the dish is critical to the longevity of chicken salad in the freezer!

Chicken and pine nut salad
(credit: Travis Yewell)

Factors to Consider Before Freezing Chicken Salad

Chicken salad contains mayonnaise and other ingredients that could separate or turn rancid much more quickly than the chicken meat. In addition, chicken salad contains crunchy vegetables, such as scallions and celery, which are quite sensitive to freezing temperatures.

If say, you intentionally made a large batch of chicken salad, divide the servings between portions that you’ll serve and portions you’ll freeze. For portions that you have to freeze, hold the mayonnaise until you are ready to serve. Mayonnaise is not a great candidate for freezing and adding it before freezing the salad will only affect the integrity of the dish. You can add the mayo a few minutes before serving, just as the salad thawed completely.

It’s also worth noting that mayo substitutes, such as whipped salad dressing, pesto, olive oil, and mustard, freezes better than mayonnaise. These subs will not clump when frozen and thawed. If you want to freeze the salad as is, using whipped salad dressing should simplify the prep process.

How to Freeze Chicken Salad?

Chicken Salad with Mayonnaise

If you’re committed to storing a traditionally-made chicken salad, one that’s made with mayo, you can. Just prepare the salad as usual. Once you’re ready to prep, prepare several freezer safe containers with an airtight lid.

You can also use resealable plastic bags. Scoop the salad into the container (according to your desired portion then squeeze as much air as you can before sealing. Write the storage date then place the chicken salad in the freezer.

Chicken Salad without Mayonnaise

If say, you’d like to use any of the mayo subs we’ve outlined previously, prepare the salad as you normally would then prep for freezing.  Scoop the salad into your choice of a freezer-safe container then remove as much air as possible before sealing. Write the storage date then place the chicken salad in the freezer.

On the other hand, if you want to exclude the mayonnaise (along with the greens) until the salad has been thawed, do not add this ingredient prior to freezing. Just prep the chicken meat and season it. Refer to the freezing preps outlined above.

Once you are ready to serve, thaw the seasoned chicken meat then add a dollop of mayo. Chop fresh celery and scallions, mix them with the rest of the salad then serve.

Salad and two wooden spoons
Image used under Creative Commons from Foodista

Shelf Life and Thawing Suggestions

Frozen chicken salad will keep in the freezer for three months or more. However, we highly suggest consuming your supply as soon as possible for optimal flavor.

To defrost, just transfer the frozen chicken salad in the fridge and leave the dish to thaw overnight. If the consistency of the salad turned watery, give it a good whip until the ingredients are well mixed. You can also add a tablespoon of the dressing/mayonnaise to achieve a thicker consistency.

If you are in a hurry, submerge the container into a bowl of tap water. This trick should thaw the frozen chicken salad much more quickly. Of course, you have to make sure that the container is tightly sealed so water will not seep into the dish.

Avoiding Contamination

Chicken salad with mayonnaise is highly perishable and prone to contamination so keep food safety in mind before freezing and prior to serving.

For the homemade chicken salad, we suggest freezing the dish on the day it is made. You can also chill the homemade salad in the fridge first prior to freezing. Never let the salad sit at room temperature for long because the mayonnaise could go bad.

As for the commercially made chicken salad, you have to freeze the product as soon as you opened it. If the salad has been left sitting for hours at room temperature or has been transported without refrigeration do not bother freezing it. The risk of contamination is too great.

How to Tell if Chicken Salad has Gone Bad?

It’s easy to tell if the chicken salad is no longer safe to eat. If the dish has turned abnormally mushy or it is giving off an odd aroma after thawing, the salad has gone bad. If it’s watery but there is no difference in flavor or aroma, it is still safe to eat.


Can you freeze chicken salad? Yes, you can freeze chicken salad, with or without mayonnaise! Freezing chicken salad is easy but certain factors have to be considered so you do not ruin a batch. Remember, you have total control over the ingredients so you can always add sensitive ingredients until you are ready to serve.