It’s holiday time again. Do you know what that means? It means more calls to attend birthday parties, Christmas parties, new year parties and graduation parties. I mean, isn’t life just supposed to be about parties?
Chicken salad happens to be a must-have dish for almost all parties. Do you know why? This is mostly because it’s easy to prepare, appealing to the eyes, tasty and of great health benefits. Depending on how you prepare it, you may use it as a starter, side dish or main dish. It can be a breakfast, lunch or dinner meal.
As you can see, this is a versatile and delicious recipe. No wonder, most people keep it as part of their meal for parties. There isn’t one person I know who doesn’t feel ashamed when they run out of foodstuff at party events. This makes it inevitable to prepare a lot more of chicken salad than needed which leads to the question “can you freeze chicken salad?” Most people would like to know if it is safe to freeze it. Read on to find out the answers.
Can you freeze chicken salad?
The answer to this question is an outright yes. Don’t waste your leftover food just yet. However, you need to consider various options while following set procedures to ensure it’s safe for use next time. It’s advisable not to freeze the salad if:
- You left it sitting outside for a while (about 2 hours). Basically, the sun has hit it during the exposure and thereby allowing for bacterial growth.
- You used too much mayonnaise or yoghurt during the preparation.
- It has already started becoming sour and thereby changing in flavour or taste.
- One that you prepared using apple, cucumber, celery or whichever vegetable that loses its flavour and texture when frozen.
Otherwise you can freeze it using the appropriate steps and ensure you use it as soon as possible.
How long do you expect it to last?
Before we delve into the method to use in the freezing process, it’s essential to understand how long the dish will stay fresh.
Note that it is possible to store the chicken salad for up to 3 months depending on what you used in the preparation and how you are storing it. If you have a large batch please divide it into portions to avoid thawing the whole batch then freeze again because there-in lies the rub.
The ideal time of stay would be a week. Freezers have the tendency of altering the flavour and colour of food so within a week it’s expected that it will still be fresh and of perfect flavour and colour.
Why would you want to freeze this salad?
The nature of this dish makes it the best option for busy home owners to prepare ahead of time and make it an on the go dish any time visitors arrive. Therefore, preparing the meal way before hand makes it save your time and energy. If you follow the freezing procedure while maintaining safety, the meal will be fresh when needed.
Some people would like to have a mixture of cooked chicken and other vegetables like broccoli or spinach. For it to satisfy your taste buds though, you may need to be cautious in the dressing. If there are leftovers, you will need to freeze it for future use. Understand though that the vegetables will lose their crunchiness.
How to freeze the chicken
Freezing chicken salad like any other meal is not hard. You only need a freezer, freezer bags, the meal and to be cautious.
Note that, you need to immediately freeze the chicken once you finish serving. Put the salad in a plastic bag and stack it into the refrigerator.
To avoid the step where the dressing separates from the salad during the freezing process, take the salad out after 6 hours of freezing and stir it. This will ensure every part of the meal remains intact.
Divide your salad into various portions in different containers or freezer bags. Leave some space and don’t fill it to the brim. You want your ingredients to remain whole not mashed from squeezing.
If you are using freezer bags, after you have kept the salad in the bag, remove excess air by pressing the bag or using a vacuum sealer to seal the bag. You may be wondering why you need this: Understand that the excess air makes room for quick bacterial growth and it also makes the salad soggy.
You shouldn’t keep your salad for more than 3 months, therefore, label your bags as per the date of packaging. This will help you know how long the salad has been in the freezer.
Flatten the freezer bag to make the salad freeze evenly and place in the freezer.
Essential pro tips
- If you are making your salad for future use, you will have to avoid some ingredients. These include mayonnaise and yoghurt. If you use a lot of this ingredients the salad will become watery once you thaw it.
- Other ingredients that you should avoid are onions and celery and any other that has a lot of water. This is for the same reason above.
- Never freeze your salad after thawing it. This will lead to quick spoilage. It’s important to divide it into sizable portions.
- Use a vacuum sealer for the sealing process.
The thawing process
You have successfully frozen the chicken and the time has come when you need to reuse it. Below are the steps to follow in the thawing process:
Since you know you will be using the chicken soon, take the chicken out of your freezer and place it in the refrigerator overnight. Let it completely thaw before you get it out of the freezer. Do not thaw it at room temperature because this allows for bacteria to form very quickly.
After it thaws completely, take it out of the fridge and from the freezer bag into a container. Drain off the excess water or liquid because that might alter the taste completely. Stir it with the aim of mixing all the ingredients together again.
Add some corn-starch to improve its texture and consistency. Eating it as it is may not be the best choice. You can add it as part of the ingredients to pasta salads and a complimentary of sandwich.
Alternatively, you can spice it up a little. You can add some freshly chopped vegetable and fruits to try and revive the original taste. You can also add some more pepper and salt to the mixture.
Note, you should eat the thawed chicken within the 3 days. Otherwise you will be consuming stale components of the salad.
Nutritious value of the salad
While people love the dish so much, it can have some detrimental health effects on your body. This is mainly because of the mayonnaise in the recipe. However, chicken salad can be a nutritious meal if you will use the healthy ingredients. Below is a breakdown of the health value of the dish.
It has high amount of protein but also high amount of cholesterol. The sodium level is known to be low and a blood building agent specifically vitamin B6. It strengthens your bones while protecting your cell selenium.
Celery and onions
They are not only a source of flavour to the meal but also delivers you a healthy mix of minerals and vitamins. In addition, they have high content of fibre, potassium, manganese and folate.
This is the culprit that renders the salad hazardous to your health. Some people make their salad from diet mayonnaise which is slightly healthier. Although it still features high content of calories, it does have low cholesterol. The diet mayonnaise therefore has vitamin E which is a great antioxidant and vitamin k which is a blood clotting agent.
The list of ingredients gets better with:
Fruits and nuts
Most chicken salad recipes contain apples, grapes, walnuts or almonds. This fruit contains high content fibre and some sugar while the nuts are known to contain omega-3 fatty acids as well as vitamin E.
Here is a healthy choice of ingredients
You can easily increase the amount of nutritional benefits by reducing the chicken you use and instead adding the vegetable and fruits quantity. Instead of using mayonnaise in the recipe consider using yoghurt as this will reduce the quantity of calories. You can add cucumber, lettuce and shredded carrots to enhance the health benefits.
As you can see it’s very easy to freeze chicken salad. If you follow the procedure above, your salad will be safe to use for as long as 3 months. To be honest freshly made salads and other kinds of foodstuff are better than freezing food. This is majorly because the frozen food tends to lose its flavour quickly.
However, if you are running out of time and would like to prepare other meals or engage in other activities all together. The frozen food becomes your sole companion. So, now that you know the answer go ahead and make your large batches serve your friends and family then freeze the rest in small portions for future use.