Almost everything can be frozen, but this does not mean everything should be frozen. Whether you have found a couple of bags of pre-mixed salad on sale at your local grocery store, or you’ve made up a big batch of salad hoping to enjoy it with your lunches during the week, you definitely do not want to see it all go to waste.
Salad does not last long, even when kept in the fridge, so should you freeze it? Unfortunately, no, salad should not be frozen. When frozen and thawed, the salad will turn into a green, slimy mush, which will be completely unappetizing.
The Guide to Freezing Salad
In this article, we’ll cover common ingredients typically used in most standard salads and whether they are safe to freeze. Unfortunately, we can already tell you that salad, in general, shouldn’t be frozen.
Read on to find out exactly which ingredients of a salad don’t freeze well, and what you can do instead.
While most of the ingredients in salad do not fare well when frozen, lettuce is by far the worst.
If you are wanting to use lettuce tossed up in a fresh salad, freezing it is not the way to go. However, if you are wanting to cook lettuce, freezing it is fine as you will not need the lettuce to be in pristine condition.
When frozen, ice crystals form on the lettuce, which forms on the plant cells. As these ice crystals form, they rupture the cell walls.
As lettuce has such a high water content, the freezing process causes more ice crystals, and therefore more damage, which results in a slimy mess.
How damaged lettuce becomes from freezing also depends on the type of lettuce being frozen.
Thicker-leafed lettuce such as romaine, Cos, Boston or butterheads freeze slightly better than the thinner-leafed lettuce types, but they still do not thaw well to be used in salads, but can be cooked with after being frozen.
Home-grown lettuce also does much better when frozen, as this lettuce does not go through storage and shipping, so they end up thawing much better when frozen, not having been broken down as much already.
Freezing lettuce is not recommended, you will not be able to enjoy crisp, fresh leaves that form the base of a good salad.
If you are going to freeze lettuce, make sure you actually use quality double sealed Ziploc bags.
How To Freeze Lettuce
If you do want to freeze lettuce, whether to see how it freezes or to use it for cooking, here is how you should do so.
- First, you should separate all the leaves and wash them thoroughly. Remove the leaf bases from all the leaves.
- Using a paper towel, gently blot down the lettuce leaves, removing as much water as possible. The lettuce will freeze much better if there is as little water as possible on the leaves, so drying them is really important.
- Place the dried lettuce leaves into freezer bags, removing as much air as possible from the bags. You can even use a straw to suck out any excess air around the leaves.
- Seal the bag tightly and place the bag into the freezer. If you have a vacuum sealer, you can use it to secure the leaves in the plastic freezer bag as tightly as possible.
Frozen lettuce should be used within six months, and the frozen lettuce will be best used in casseroles, soups, stocks, quiches, and stir-fries, as the lettuce does not need to be eaten fresh.
Freezing Other Salad Ingredients
There are so many different ingredients you can add to a salad, both raw and cooked. Each ingredient freezes differently, so knowing which freezes well will help you save some elements of a salad for use later on.
Fruits and vegetables with a higher water content should not be frozen, as they will become icy in the freezer, and these ice crystals will destroy the cell walls of the product and cause them to become slimy and mushy. A soggy piece of cucumber or a limp tomato is never great in a salad.
Tomatoes – Tomatoes should not be frozen fresh if they need to be used in a salad. However, you can freeze tomatoes with the skin on to be used in cooked foods such as sauces and stews, but they should not be used in salads as they will be mushy after thawing.
Cucumbers – As cucumbers have a high water content, they also do not do well when frozen and thawed. Freezing and thawing cucumber will result in it being mushy and slimy, and definitely will not taste great in a salad. Once again, frozen cucumbers can be used in cooking, but should not be used in fresh salads.
Feta cheese – Feta cheese can be frozen and thawed and used again in a salad. Feta has a salty flavor and adds a great taste to salads, but feta can lose some of its flavors when frozen.
Carrots – Carrots can be frozen and used in a salad once thawed. You can choose to Blanche the carrots before freezing to ensure their flavor stays stronger while frozen, but they can be frozen raw. The carrots will not lose too much of their flavor and texture when frozen and thawed, so they are fine to use in a salad.
Spinach – Spinach, much like lettuce, turns mushy and slimy when frozen and thawed. Frozen spinach should not be added to a salad, but should instead be used in cooked dishes.
Broccoli – Broccoli does well when frozen, but for the best results, broccoli should be blanched before freezing. As broccoli can be softer than the other vegetables when added to a salad, they are fine to use in a salad after freezing. You can also choose to blanch them in water for three minutes before adding them to a salad to bring back some color and texture.
Mushrooms – Mushrooms are really not great at all when frozen and thawed. While they can be used in cooked meals, the mushrooms will be mushy and very soft, and will not taste good in a salad at all.
There are many different components to a good salad, but as many of the ingredients are fresh and raw, it is difficult to freeze many of them, at least if you want a crisp, tasty salad to enjoy.
To better preserve your salad, you should instead try to place it in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and use it within its best by date. If you can’t manage to eat as much salad as what is left, you can try to use the separate ingredients in different dishes, such as soups and stews.
Freezing Salad Dressing
If you ever find yourself with the need to freeze salad dressing, it is better not to. There are so many different types of salad dressings to choose from, with all of them having a wide variant of ingredients.
It is really difficult to give a yes or no to freezing salad dressings, as the ingredients do not all freeze the same. Some ingredients are able to tolerate freezing, some become separated after freezing, and others might not even freeze at all.
Most salad dressings have a long refrigerator life, so just try to keep your salad dressing in the fridge and use it up before its best by date.
For homemade salad dressings, those which are made with oils can be frozen, but it is better to avoid freezing salad dressings made from mayonnaise and egg. These have a higher chance of separating and not looking edible at all after thawing.
Can I freeze potato salad?
Potato salad is one salad that can actually be frozen. However, the potato salad might lose some of its consistency when thawed.
The freezing of potato salad is easy, it needs to be placed in an airtight container into the freezer, but thawing it takes more care. If the potato salad has mayonnaise or egg, there is a chance that there could be bacterial growth if it is left to thaw at room temperature.
To safely thaw potato salad, you should place it in the refrigerator overnight to thaw slowly at a lower temperature. Once thawed, you can add some life back to your potato salad by adding some fresher dressing or fresh herbs.
You also have the option of heating your potato salad. Find out how here.
Can you freeze chicken salad?
Chicken salad needs to be separated before being frozen. As explained above, salad ingredients do not do well when frozen, but chicken can be frozen to be enjoyed at a later stage.
You will need to remove the chicken pieces from the salad and place them in an airtight container or in a freezer bag.
To thaw, you can leave the chicken pieces in the fridge overnight, and then warm them up in a frying pan or in the microwave before adding back to a fresh salad.
As salad can be made up of a nearly endless amount of ingredients, it can be difficult to know whether or not you can freeze a particular salad. To be safe, the answer is usually no. Lettuce is common in most salads and is something that turns slimy and mushy after freezing and thawing.
Rather try and portion your salad sizes to what you are able to eat before it starts spoiling, and keep the salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator to ensure it stays as fresh and crisp as possible.
If you enjoyed this article, you might be interested in the article we wrote about the best bamboo salad servers. You can check it out here.