Preparing food in advance is something that people commonly do to prepare for both everyday life and big gatherings. However, some foods do not keep as well as others, so it’s common to wonder how long chicken salad will last.
Homemade chicken salad will generally last from 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator in an airtight container. To maximize shelf life, store in an airtight container and refrigerate within 2 hours of preparation. It is not recommended that chicken salad be frozen due to the mayonnaise content.
The rest of the article will take a closer look at the shelf life of chicken salad and answer a few common questions that are commonly asked.
How Long Chicken Salad Lasts
The best rule of thumb to follow is that it will only last as long as the fastest-spoiling ingredient. As cooked chicken is generally good for 3 days in the fridge, the safest timeframe for keeping refrigerated chicken salad is the same – 3 days.
Two main variables will influence the exact time that the chicken salad will stay fresh, though.
- The Temperature– To maximize your time, be sure to put homemade chicken salad into the refrigerator within two hours of preparation. Since bacteria begin to proliferate between 40°; and 140°; Fahrenheit, homemade salad left out at any warmer temperature should be discarded after two hours.
- What You Store It In– It is best to store homemade chicken salad in a container with a lid, ideally airtight. This will prevent the salad from picking up odors in the fridge and will prolong its storage time. If you don’t have a lid, some plastic wrap or aluminum foil will provide one for you.
Here is my favorite airtight container for storing perishable foods in the fridge or freezer. Just click the link to see it on Amazon.
Can I Freeze Chicken Salad?
That depends on what you’ve made it with. Mayonnaise does not freeze well, so chicken salad with mayonnaise probably will not do well in the freezer. Mayonnaise tends to split when frozen, resulting in a lot of water.
However, if you’ve only used a little bit of mayonnaise, you may be able to freeze it. Pour off any water after defrosting, and either add fresh mayo or some other dressing or some cornstarch, to freshen it up.
Pro Tip: Store-bought mayonnaise is best if you are freezing, and be sure to thaw in the fridge rather than the microwave or counter.
Does Using Canned Chicken Make Chicken Salad Last Longer?
Using canned chicken does not make chicken salad last longer. While canned chicken itself can last up to 3 years, once opened, it only lasts about 3-4 days if refrigerated.
Can I Can Chicken Salad?
Generally speaking, you cannot can chicken salad. This is because mayonnaise is an emulsion that will break up when heated. This will occur during the canning process and will result in a chicken salad you probably won’t want to eat.
Pre-packaged chicken salad, either in a can or a pouch, generally contains less mayo than fresh and lasts as long as a jar of mayo would when sealed. When opened, it usually will last the same as previously noted – 3-5 days.
Are There Alternatives to Using Mayonnaise in Chicken Salad?
There are several alternatives to traditional mayonnaise for use in chicken salad, including:
Yogurt is a popular alternative to mayo, and it can be used in salads and dressings. Greek yogurt is thicker than other types and will likely result in a closer texture equivalent.
Using a vinaigrette can make your salad lighter, brighter, and a little more sophisticated – especially if you use a citrus-based vinaigrette.
Using a nut cream will provide a different take on the traditional chicken salad. Often used in raw diets, cashew cream can be made at home and, when used with citrus-based ingredients, provide an alternative to mayo.
The bad news, though, is that since the clock is still ticking on the chicken, using one of these alternatives will not extend the storage time for your chicken salad.
How Can I Tell if Chicken Salad has Gone Bad?
There are three easy ways to tell if it is time to discard your chicken salad:
Look for any discoloration or change in appearance. Does your chicken salad look dry in spots? Is the chicken or any of the vegetables or other ingredients darkened or discolored? Does it appear slimy or excessively moist? Any of these can indicate that your salad should be discarded.
If your chicken salad has an unpleasant odor, throw it away. The smell can result from the chicken salad picking up odors via transference from other items in the fridge or can be the result of any of the ingredients having spoiled. Either way, if there is an unpleasant smell, it’s time to discard it.
If in any doubt, taste a very small portion. If anything about the taste seems off, throw your salad away. A caveat here is if there is any mold, never taste or consume the salad. Just discard.
Unfortunately, chicken salad (especially with mayonnaise) is not a food that, when homemade, can be kept for long. So when planning, be sure to factor in your storage time if you are looking to make it ahead, and only make as much as will be consumed within 3-5 days.
Chicken salad is not something you want to keep over the long term. It is best to just make it fresh as needed and only store it for a couple of days before consuming it. So, don’t make those sandwiches for the whole week during the weekend. However, it’s OK to stock up for Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday’s lunch.
I hope this article has been helpful. Thanks for stoppin’ by!
Anne James has a wealth of expertise in a wide array of interests, including quilting, cooking, gardening, camping, and making jelly.
She has a professional canning business and has been featured in the local newspaper, and has been her family canner for decades. Anyone growing up in the South knows that there is always a person in the family who has knowledge of the “old ways,” and this is exactly what Anne is.
With over 55 years of experience in these endeavors, she brings a level of hands-on knowledge that is hard to surpass.
Lovingly known as “Jelly Grandma” by her grandkids, Anne hopes your visit here has been a sweet one.