Who doesn’t love a good pasta salad? It is such a versatile dish that can be served for lunch or dinner, as an accompaniment to a wide variety of dishes, and even as a topping for casseroles, slices of bread, and crackers!
The biggest problem we always seem to have is making way too much salad and ending up with more than we can eat in a few days. So naturally, the perfect solution would be to freeze it, right?
But is it possible to freeze pasta salad? Yes, you can freeze pasta salad! However, it is important to be aware of what individual ingredients went into the salad aside from pasta and potentially freeze them separately. Another must-do is to undercook your pasta by 1-2 minutes which will help it keep its shape in the freezer.
Today, we will look at freezing pasta salads, more specifically all the tricks you can do to make yours last longer and stay fresh!
We will discuss how you can freeze fresh pasta salads, pasta salads with mayonnaise, and any other types you come across.
In the end, you will be an expert and your life will become much more convenient!
What Is Pasta Salad?
Pasta salad is, as the name suggests, a type of salad that contains pasta. Where the versatility comes in is that there are many different types of pasta salads.
The first and arguably the most common type is a cooked macaroni salad with mayonnaise and other fresh ingredients.
Then, you also get fresh pasta salads that make use of fresh traditional salad ingredients like tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, etc.
There are so many types of pasta salad out there. They’re as diverse as they are delicious!
Can You Freeze Cooked Pasta Salad?
All pasta salads are “technically” cooked, but also not really. By that, we mean that usually only the pasta part is cooked, but all the other ingredients and sauces are fresh and raw.
Cooked pasta salads often refer to pasta salads that are served warm – the same way potato salads can be served cold or hot.
Certain ingredients like herbs and lettuce don’t freeze well, while others can be frozen and will keep well for months.
The pasta itself can definitely freeze; however, there are a few downsides. When pasta cooks, it absorbs a lot of water.
So yes, the pasta itself can freeze, but eventually, the pasta eventually starts to break down, and starchy water leaks out.
This can affect the texture and flavor of the rest of the ingredients in the pasta dish, and the pasta itself becomes bland and unappealing.
So, bottom line, pasta salads can be frozen in their unfinished state meaning they shouldn’t be completely mixed.
How To Freeze Fresh Pasta Salads
Fresh pasta salads are the most difficult to freeze simply because it uses fresh ingredients. Like we have previously mentioned, certain fresh ingredients freeze well and others don’t.
A great rule of thumb is that fresh ingredients with a high water content should not be frozen. This includes ingredients like tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach, lettuce, or any other leafy greens, mushrooms, and many more.
The reason they have such poor freezing capabilities is that the water inside these ingredients initially freezes, then starts leaking out and changing the ingredient itself.
The changes vary but with regards to texture, most because mealy and soft, but some can disintegrate as cucumbers or lettuce does. When the texture changes, naturally so do the flavor of that ingredient.
This causes the rest of the ingredients to also be affected, especially if mixed like in a pasta salad.
You can have a look at our article “Can You Freeze Salad?” to give you an indication of what ingredients freeze well.
How To Freeze Cooked Pasta Salads
As we have mentioned, no pasta salad is truly “cooked” besides the pasta part; however, there are recipes where additional ingredients are added, heated, and then served warm.
Most of these recipes still contain at least one fresh and raw ingredient like leafy greens or tomato, so it’s best to remove those before freezing or not add them at all.
Cooked pasta salads that contain creamy ingredients like cream cheese won’t freeze well. This is because those ingredients essentially consist of water and fat, two elements that separate extremely quickly.
When these creams are frozen, they do tend to separate either during the process or when they are being thawed. We wouldn’t recommend freezing any pasta salad with creams in them.
Rather cook your ingredients, combine those that freeze well, freeze the mixture together and once thawed you can add the creamy sauce base.
Tips For Freezing Pasta Salads
We highly recommend freezing your ingredients separately for fresh pasta salads. If you really want to freeze everything though, have a look at our list below of common salad ingredients that can freeze well.
These ingredients include feta cheese, carrots, cured and cooked meats, and even broccoli.
You can mix them in with your cooked pasta and freeze them together. Once ready to use you can thaw the salad and simply add the last few fresh ingredients.
Your salad dressing, if you have one, should always be frozen separately if it can.
Being a liquid and seeing how high moisture ingredients are affected by freezing, it is simply a safer option to keep as much out of the mixed salad as possible.
Once your salad has been fully thawed you can mix in the liquid ingredients.
A very, VERY, handy and even crucial tip that we wish somebody told us sooner is to undercook your pasta if you know you want to freeze it. This method is especially handy if you are doing some meal planning.
Cook your pasta for the shortest amount of time recommended on the package. It should be al dente, which means not soft, but cooked. You may even want to reduce that time by a minute or so as well.
Once the time is up, drain the pasta and run it under cold water, or place it into an ice bath. This is to stop the internal heat from further cooking the pasta.
Once cooked you can add the rest of your pasta salad ingredients (that does freeze well) and freeze.
When finally freezing the pasta, make sure to place it inside either a zip-lock freezer-safe bag or an airtight container. There should be as little air as possible in the bag.
This will help protect the pasta from other odors in the freezer as well as excess moisture from entering.
Can You Freeze Pasta Salad with Mayonnaise?
Unfortunately, mayonnaise is another very unstable creamy liquid base consisting of fat and oil.
At regular temperatures, it has a high possibility to split, and when frozen will most definitely split and affect the flavor and texture of the other ingredients.
As with the other types of pasta salads, it is best to keep these ingredients separate and add them at the last minute.
If you don’t mind the change in flavor and texture, you can definitely freeze a mayonnaise-based pasta salad.
Now that we’ve gotten to explore some ways to freeze pasta salad and its various ingredients, let’s go over a few related questions we thought you might’ve had while reading this article!
How to defrost pasta salad?
Defrosting pasta salad is very easy and should preferably be done in the refrigerator. You can place the frozen salad on a tray and leave it in the fridge overnight.
If you are short on time, you can leave it at room temperature and it should defrost within a couple of hours.
Especially when making fresh pasta salads or ones that are mixed with other ingredients, it is best not to defrost them in an oven.
An oven will also create more liquid when defrosting the pasta itself, which we want to prevent completely.
How long can you freeze pasta salad?
Because it already doesn’t freeze that well we wouldn’t recommend freezing it for more than 2-3 weeks.
Keep in mind that the more ingredients you add to the mix, the shorter the pasta salad’s life will be as they have different freezing capabilities.
If you are freezing a fully mixed fresh pasta salad (without leafy greens, cucumbers, and other ingredients that don’t freeze well) you will only be able to keep it for roughly a week before it completely changes in taste and texture.
How long can you freeze plain cooked pasta?
Freezing cooked pasta separately from all of the other salad ingredients is definitely the best option. Although the pasta will still be affected after a while, it will have a much longer freezer life.
If stored properly and in a freezer that doesn’t have fluctuating temperatures, your cooked pasta can last up to 2 months.
Is it better to keep your pasta salad in the fridge?
Even though your pasta salad won’t have an extremely long shelf life in the refrigerator, it will keep roughly 3-5 days depending on the ingredients inside.
The benefit of doing this rather than freezing is that your texture won’t be affected as much.