Should You Freeze Leftover Chicken Salad?

Chicken salad is one of the most satisfying and simplest meals out there, whether it's served on quality bread or piled high on fresh greens. If you whip up too large of a batch and worry you won't finish it in time, though, you may be tempted to freeze it to extend its life. In most cases, however, you'll want to think twice before popping your leftover chicken salad in the freezer.

One of chicken salad's main ingredients, mayonnaise, can't stand up to freezing and thawing. When frozen mayo thaws, the delicately-balanced emulsion that keeps it creamy tends to break down, separating the oil from the other ingredients. This will ruin the mayo's composition, as well as the creamy texture that makes chicken salad so delicious.

Swapping out mayo for a common alternative may have mixed results if you plan to freeze the salad. Greek yogurt, crème fraîche, and sour cream can become grainy or watery when frozen, but they tend to fare better than separated mayo, at least. You can try using avocado instead, although you may object to its softer texture once it's been frozen and thawed.

Solutions for freezing chicken salad

If you plan to make a large batch of chicken salad and want to save some for future use, you can assemble the salad without mayo (and any other freezer-sensitive ingredients) before freezing the extras. Then, just add the mayo to the portion you're going to eat right away and, later, add it to the rest of the dish after it's been thawed. Even freezing precut or shredded cooked chicken (which can last up to four months in an airtight container or freezer bag) ahead of time can help significantly, allowing you to put a batch together on the spot far quicker than if you started from scratch.

Of course, you can avoid this freezing issue entirely by only making as much as you plan to eat. Chicken salad can last up to four days in the fridge once it's mixed, giving you plenty of opportunities to enjoy it with various meals. So, whether you're whipping up a basic chicken salad recipe or you're in the mood for a batch of copycat Trader Joe's chicken salad, keep this information in mind to enjoy the dish at its best — and that's far away from the freezer.