Whether you’re making chicken salad for a crowd or just to have on hand at home, how long does Chicken Salad last and how do you store it? This post covers everything from fridge or freezer to ambient, and what to look for when chicken salad goes bad.

Chicken salad in the backgrounf with "how long does chicken salad last?" in a banner.

🤔 What factors can affect chicken salad?

  1. Storebought vs. Homemade chicken salad: The first thing you’ll want to consider is where the chicken salad came from. It would have the best quality if you made it at home with fresh ingredients with no additional fruits, vegetables, and fresh herbs. For store-bought chicken salad, the easiest thing to do is check the expiration date which should be on every prepackaged chicken salad at the store.
  2. Fresh ingredients: Fresh ingredients are a huge factor in the shelf life of chicken salad. Because of their high moisture content, the quality of fresh herbs degrades quickly when it’s added to something like a creamy salad with salad dressing or mayonnaise, second to fresh fruits like grapes and vegetables like celery which taste amazing in a chicken salad but start to break down quickly. Pro tip: premake the chicken salad without the additional herbs, fruits and vegetables, and then mix them in right before you serve the salad to keep everything fresh!
  3. Moisture: Moisture is a major concern when it comes to the quality of your chicken salad. For example, a moist chicken salad which is kept at room temperature is the ideal breeding ground for bacterial growth, especially if its container doesn’t have a lid. It’s a good idea to keep that lid on if you’re serving chicken salad potluck-style!
  4. Proper preparation: Finally, it’s so important for the chicken breast to be cooked properly before consuming it. Chicken meat should not be pink, and the juices should be clear when it is ready to eat. It should be handled with clean or gloved hands and also clean tools to avoid microbial contamination. You can also check if the internal temperature of the cooked chicken is 165 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the perfect temperature for safe chicken! Undercooked chicken is the perfect condition for harmful bacteria to grow on the meat, possibly leading to food poisoning.

🌡️ Chicken Salad at room temperature

When you have a chicken salad sitting at room temperature, there are a couple of things to keep in mind, which will help the chicken salad last longer:

  1. Airtight container: It’s a great idea to keep a lid on the salad so no additional germs and bacteria growth can affect the quality.
  2. Put it back in the fridge: As chicken salad recipes often have dairy products like creamy mayonnaise, greek yogurt, salad dressing, or miracle whip in them, it’s a great idea to put it back in the fridge as soon as you can to keep the salad fresher for longer. This is especially important on a hot summer day.
  3. No more than 2 hours: It’s best to not leave the chicken salad out for a long time, as any leftover salad can go off pretty quickly. I aim to have mine either eaten or stored in the fridge within an hour of taking it out, however, up to two hours will be okay.
Chicken salad in a white bowl.

🥶 How long does Chicken Salad last in the fridge?

Personally, I think this is the best way to store leftover chicken salad! The cool storage conditions keep bad bacteria at bay, the ingredients keep fresher and the chicken salad can last longer. Some key points to consider when storing chicken salad are:

  • Container: Make sure to store any leftover chicken in an airtight container. The lid should be sealed to not only stop it from spilling but to keep any extra bacteria out. Avoid covering it with aluminum foil as it doesn’t seal it as well.
  • How long chicken salad was sitting out: Keep in mind the length of time it was at room temperature. If it was out for a couple of hours I would make sure to finish it within a day or two.
  • Time in: If the chicken salad is being stored in an airtight container in the fridge from the beginning, it should last for 3-4 days.
  • Add fresh ingredients later: Adding any high moisture fresh foods like herbs, veggies, and fruit right before you serve it is a great way to extend the chicken salad shelf life. It also tastes better! Limp, mushy herbs are really one of my pet peeves that I try to avoid at all costs.

❄️ Can you freeze Chicken Salad?

The freezer is a great place to store chicken salad! It stays fresh for longer and tastes just as good. Here are my tips for freezing chicken salad:

  • Skip the fresh ingredients: If you’re making your own chicken salad at home, skip adding fresh herbs, leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables until you’re ready to serve the salad. I like to freeze just the chicken and mayonnaise mixture (with seasonings) and add anything else to the thawed chicken salad right before eating to keep it super fresh!
  • Food container: You’ll want to store the chicken salad in a sealed container. If you make a large batch of chicken salad, it’s a great idea to store individual portions in freezer bags, so that you can eat the whole portion and skip having leftovers.
  • Store: Store frozen chicken salad in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • Thaw: Thaw the chicken salad completely before consuming it. It’s best to thaw it overnight in the fridge, as leaving it at room temperature affects the quality and can make it degrade quicker.
  • Eating it: The general rule of thumb is to eat the chicken salad within a day of defrosting it for best results.
Overhead shot of Chicken salad in a white bowl.

👀 6 things to look for when Chicken Salad goes off

Bad chicken salad can be pretty funky, and can make you really sick if consumed! The best thing to do when checking if food is off is to use your senses: how it looks, smell, texture, and taste.

  1. Unpleasant smell: Some describe it as a rotten smell or a sour smell. Either way, this off odor is easy to catch, as soon as you open the container. If it smells bad, it’s time to let it go!
  2. Slimy texture: If your nose is failing you, bad chicken will also have a slimy texture to look out for. It may be. a little hard to tell, as chicken salad has a moist and creamy texture anyway, but the sliminess is almost sticky.
  3. Separation: Separation can happen to good chicken salad as well as off chicken salad. If you see a lot of water in the chicken salad container, smell it and check the texture to see if it is off.
  4. Colour: Rotten food can develop mould which will be green, brown, black, blue, yellow, or even sometimes pink in colour. If your chicken salad is looking a little too colourful, chuck it out!
  5. Fuzz: If the food is turning mouldy, it can sometimes look a little fuzzy or furry. It’s definitely bad if it has some fuzzy mould on it.
  6. Taste: It’s a good idea to taste your food, and to think about what you taste when eating. “Does this taste okay?” If you’re questioning it, it may be a good idea to just go ahead and throw it out.
Chicken salad in a baked sweet potato.

🍽️ How to serve a chicken salad?

There are so many great ways to serve chicken salad! Here are a few of my favourites:

Serve chicken salad in:

  • A baked potato
  • Baked sweet potato
  • Wrap
  • As chicken salad sandwiches

Serve chicken salad with:

  • Pasta Salad
  • Potato Salad
  • Fruit Salad
  • Macaroni Salad

Check out my post for over 50 ways to serve chicken salad!

🥗 The Best Chicken Salad recipe

Chicken Salad is one of my go-to’s for a healthy protein dish that my family loves! My healthy Chicken Salad recipe is made with shredded chicken or leftover chicken and loaded with grapes, green onions, mayonnaise, garlic and smoked paprika. It’s a powerhouse of flavour and so addictive.

Now that you know how to make chicken salad last longer, there’s no reason not to whip up a batch and store it in the fridge for easy meals!

Close up of chicken salad.

😋 More chicken recipes you will love

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