Q. I’m throwing a baby shower on the weekend, and I’m making a lot of chicken salad. I plan on making extra and keeping it in the fridge in case we run out of it at the shower. However, I’m afraid that I’ll end up with too much and I don’t know what I should do with the extra. Can you freeze chicken salad?
A. You can freeze chicken salad, provided certain safety precautions are taken to ensure it remains safe to eat. Chicken salad that contains mayonnaise or yogurt and has been sitting out or unrefrigerated for several hours should not be frozen or even placed back in the refrigerator, as bacteria may make it unsafe to eat. Chicken salad that has been refrigerated however, is safe to freeze.
When freezing chicken salad, particularly if there is mayonnaise or yogurt in the recipe, be aware that the mayonnaise or yogurt will separate during the freezing process, making it watery. Give your chicken salad a good stir before freezing to minimize separation during the freezing process. Place the chicken salad in a freezer bag and remove the excess air either by squeezing the bag or using a vacuum sealer. Label and date the bag, and use within 2-3 months.
Flatten freezer bags and store flat to allow for stacking. Chicken should be placed in the coldest part of the freezer to ensure food safety. To thaw chicken salad, remove the freezer bag from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator. Thaw the chicken salad for several hours or overnight until thawed completely. Do not thaw on the counter, as unsafe bacteria can grow.
Once thawed completely, place the chicken salad in a container and drain off any extra water. Stir to combine all ingredients, and consider adding a teaspoon of cornstarch to the mixture to improve the texture. Chicken salad that has been previously frozen may not be best for eating on its own, as the texture will not be the same. It’s best used in sandwiches, or as a dressing for dishes such as pasta salads. Adding some fresh chopped vegetables can help add to the taste and texture of the salad. The salad may have lost some of its flavor, and adding some salt and pepper may also be necessary.
Thawed chicken salad should be eaten within 2-3 days of being thawed. Do not refreeze previously frozen chicken salad, and throw away any chicken salad that has been unrefrigerated for more than two hours.