How Long does Chicken Salad Last?

Store-bought mayonnaise usually make it last longer. What about home made?

Updated October 17, 2021

When it comes to the shelf life of chicken salad, it's good to know that its safety can vary depending on a few key factors.

Most deli meats are typically considered safe to consume for up to seven days after you've bought them. However, when it comes to chicken salad, how much time passes between when you purchase the product and when you eat it can make a big difference in terms of safety.

Chicken Salad Safety Factors

If you use mayonnaise

If the chicken salad has mayonnaise in it (and most pre-packaged varieties do), then it is important to know that the shelf life for this product is only three to four days because of the risk of salmonella or other harmful bacteria growing inside.

If no mayonnaise

On the other hand, if you choose to make your own chicken salad with ingredients that don't have any kind of perishable ingredients, then you will have a much longer window during which time the product will be safe for consumption. When cooked chicken is combined with vegetables and dry spices without mayonnaise being included in the dish, there should be no reason why your homemade chicken salad won't be safe for up to five days.


The level of moisture that's in your chicken salad is also going to have a significant effect on how long it will be safe for you to eat. To make sure the product is still good, check for any kind of sogginess or changes to color and texture. If your dressing is made with mayonnaise or other moist ingredients, then you should know that the product will likely only be good for two to three days in the refrigerator. If you're using a dressing that doesn't contain any perishable ingredients, then your chicken salad could be safe for consumption up to five days after creation.

Use Date (Store-bought)

Finally, it's important to mention that the "use by" date printed on the packaging of your chicken salad will have a significant impact on how long you can safely eat it. Once you've opened up the package, however, there are several ways in which you can tell if your food is still safe for consumption. The first tactic is to look at the color and texture of your dish. If it appears discolored or if parts of the food are moldy, then you should not eat this chicken salad any longer. Other tactics include smelling the product or inserting a utensil to see if there's any kind of foul odor present.

How to Store Chicken Salad

To help preserve the shelf life of your chicken salad, it's important to store the product in a way that is best for it.

If you're using your chicken salad as an ingredient or garnish, then you can place it into a container with a lid and store it in your refrigerator until its use-by date has passed.

On the other hand, if you're planning to eat your chicken salad as a meal alongside a fresh salad or something similar, then you should know that it's best to consume this dish within two hours of making it.

If you need to store cooked chicken salad for a longer amount of time, then it's recommended that you place the food into an airtight container and then into your refrigerator. You should know that cooked chicken salad can typically keep in the fridge for up to three days before it becomes unsafe for consumption.

Refrigerate in an airtight container, preferably glass or plastic to prevent bacteria.

When you use a container that is not airtight, your chicken salad may have an unpleasant sour taste because air will react with the ingredients in the dish and give it a slightly rotten flavor.

If you're making your own chicken salad, then keep in mind that this product will only be good for three to five days when cooked chicken is involved. You can add other ingredients into the mix, such as vegetables and spices without mayonnaise, which should help extend this timeframe up to a week.

Remember that when you make your own chicken salad at home, you can take the opportunity to increase the amount of time in between when it's made and when it's eaten by keeping it in an airtight container (one that doesn't let any light through). The refrigerator is not the only place where this kind of storage will suffice; taking advantage of a cool spot in your house like a basement or even placing the container outside during the colder months are both viable options.

When you do choose to refrigerate your chicken salad, though, remember to take out your dish no later than twenty-four hours before you plan on eating so that there aren't any cold spots present which might encourage harmful bacteria growth. If you've opened your chicken salad and can't finish it within these four days, feel free to freeze the dish (keeping in mind that when thawing this product, you must do so in the refrigerator).

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Can You Freeze Chicken Salad to Extend its Shelf Life?

No, as long as it includes mayonnaise. The mayonnaise that is used in your chicken salad will not hold up well to freezing. Even if it does survive this process, however, the overall flavor of the dish will be altered and unpalatable for most people. If you're looking to eat your chicken salad for longer than three days after cooking it, then refrigerating the product is really your best bet.

Is It Safe to Eat Expired Chicken Salad?

Generally speaking, no - especially if there are veggies involved. There are two main factors at play here: whether or not there are any eggs present (which might contain salmonella) and how long ago was this food made. The first factor that makes it unsafe to eat chicken salad past its prime is the addition of eggs. If you're using hard-boiled eggs in your chicken salad, then know that these should be used within two days of cooking them - and not a week or a month ago.

The second factor to take into consideration when determining whether or not expired chicken salad is safe for consumption is how long ago was this dish made. Ideally, you should eat any food within three to five days after cooking it because any longer than this and you run the risk of all sorts of bacterial infection.

What to Look for When Determining Whether a Chicken Salad Is Spoiled?

There are several warning signs that indicate whether or not your chicken salad is spoiled. If the food has an unpleasant sour smell, appearance, or texture, then it's best to throw this dish away immediately so you don't get sick.

Other indicators of spoilage include mold (which looks like white fuzzy wisps throughout the chicken salad), leaking cans (this means that bacteria got inside and caused oxidation which led to rust on the outside of the can), and an open can with a pungent odor.

If your chicken salad falls into any of these categories, then know that you should not eat it; instead, place it in its original container inside a plastic bag for disposal purposes.


Chicken salad is a common food choice for many individuals. As a final thought, remember that there is really no way to extend the shelf life of chicken salad if it includes mayonnaise. The problem with this product, though, is that it cannot be stored forever and will only last up to five days in the refrigerator after being made. If you want your chicken salad to keep for longer than this amount of time then stick to storing it in an airtight container which does not allow any light to come through. Taking this extra precaution will help you keep your product uncontaminated for a little more than four days.

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About the author 

Dianne Centeno

Dianne is the editor-in-chief and also one of the main writers of Use&Cook. She has an endless curiosity for new kitchen ideas and products which keeps her motivated. Her technical background is also the key to make complex kitchen issues easier with the right set of cooking tools.

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