Can You Freeze Macaroni Salad?

Weekend barbeques are pretty iconic in the United States – hot days, cold drinks, tasty food. The main courses like hamburgers and hot dogs are usually what pops into our heads. However, the sides are equally important. Dishes like a bowl of potato chips, coleslaw, and potato salad complete the meal. My personal favorite, though, is a classic macaroni salad. And while it’s mostly thought of as a summertime side dish, I enjoy making it all year round!

I like to think that I can whip up a pretty decent homemade macaroni salad, and I put a good amount of time into making it. Since it takes a bit of time, I like to make a really big batch of it so I can enjoy it throughout the week. I am guessing many of you have similar experiences. But what happens if you make a batch that’s too big, and you won’t be able to eat it before it goes bad. You may be wondering what’s the best way to keep it fresh, longer or if there is another way besides the fridge to store it. 

So, can you freeze macaroni salad? Yes! You can certainly freeze macaroni salad. While it won’t be as good as when it’s fresh, at least you’ll be able to enjoy it and not see it go to waste. 

Can You Freeze Macaroni Salad?

Yes, you can certainly freeze macaroni salad. However, how you freeze it and the recipe of your macaroni salad can depend on how well it freezes and how long it can be stored in the freezer.

It’s important to note, though, that saying it’s okay to freeze macaroni isn’t a unanimous opinion. It’s totally safe to freeze, and most of the ingredients stay in good enough quality. But, if proper precautions aren’t taken then the results won’t be very good. 

The best way to freeze macaroni salad for the best results (and least likely to be ruined) is to freeze the salad dressing and pasta separately. That, of course, is if you think ahead and plan on making your macaroni salad to freeze it.

However, for me, this is usually not the case. I most often find myself freezing leftover pasta salad that has already been combined with all of the ingredients. And you can also freeze macaroni salad like this. I’ll go over the best practices a bit later on. 

When You Shouldn’t Freeze Leftover Macaroni Salad

If you have leftover macaroni salad, whether it’s been first stored in the fridge or left out at room temperature, there are times that you shouldn’t freeze your macaroni salad. Instead, you should discard it. 

First and foremost, if your salad has been left out at room temperature for more than two hours, it should be discarded immediately. It may appear safe to eat, but it most certainly isn’t.

Once macaroni salad has gone bad, it will emit an unpleasant odor and change color. However, because it is difficult to discern this when it is frozen, you should let it get to room temperature before doing a quality check.

Macaroni salads can occasionally acquire a strange texture or mold. In such cases, you should never taste your salad. Throw it out straight away.

What Happens to Macaroni Salad When You Freeze It?

The ingredients and how it’s prepared to be frozen will determine what happens to macaroni salad when you freeze it.

The ingredients that you use in your macaroni salad recipe will play a big role in how well it freezes.  The macaroni noodles, eggs, and, most importantly, the mayonnaise doesn’t freeze completely. As a result, when they come out of the freezer, their texture may be altered.

Cooking your pasta al dente will often offer it a better fighting chance in subzero freezer temperatures. Also, whole wheat, bean, and ordinary white flour macaroni typically withstand the softening effects of freezing and thawing better.

It’s typically not a good idea to freeze macaroni salad with mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is a liquid emulsion made up of various liquid components. As a result, the various components will separate as it freezes. And it will lose its richness when thawed.

Freeze mayonnaise separately if necessary; it can generally be whisked back into its original texture. Alternatively, you don’t need to freeze mayonnaise and just use some that’s in your fridge or pantry. 

Last up are eggs, which aren’t a universal ingredient, but if you use them, you should be wary when it comes to freezing them. This is because the white of a cooked egg does not freeze well and turns rubbery.

On the plus side, egg yolk freezes beautifully. As a result, if you intend to freeze macaroni salad, they are the preferable alternative. Otherwise, keep the egg-white bits small enough that the texture is hardly discernible.

Although the factors stated above can have an impact on how well your macaroni salad freezes, you now know that freezing is a possibility.

How to Freeze Macaroni Salad

I have previously mentioned that for the best results you should plan ahead and freeze the ingredients separately. However, it’s also possible to freeze a combined macaroni salad. Below, you’ll find both methods of preparation. 

How to Freeze Leftover Macaroni Salad

If it’s not possible to freeze each of the ingredients individually, leftover macaroni salad can be frozen when it’s combined. But, there are a few measures you should do to achieve the best results.

  • First, it’s important to freeze only a tiny amount at a time. Smaller amounts of macaroni will freeze faster, resulting in less damage to the pasta and less influence on the dressing.
  • Tightly pack the salad. Pack your salad as securely as possible after transferring it to a freezer-safe Ziploc bag or Tupperware container. Don’t worry about squishing your pasta; what matters is that as much air as possible is removed, including the air trapped inside the macaroni.
  • Cover the surface of a Tupperware container with plastic wrap before sealing the lid. This will provide additional protection against air exposure while still allowing your pasta salad to expand as it freezes.
  • Label the bag or container and then place it in the freezer.

Even when frozen, macaroni salad will not survive long in your freezer. It is critical to label your container(s) or bag(s) with the date so that you remember to consume your salad within a certain amount of time. The longer it stays in the freezer, the more it will lose its quality. 

How to Freeze Macaroni Salad (Dressing Separated)

If possible, the preferred way to freeze macaroni salad is by preparing all the ingredients and freezing them separately. And, you should also keep in mind what ingredients that you use, as some of the possible ingredients are notorious for not freezing very well. 

  • First, cook the macaroni so that it’s al dente. And then make sure that the pasta has cooled down completely before placing it in another container. The steam will produce water bubbles and add extra moisture to the container which can promote bacterial growth. 
  • Then, prepare the vegetables, and other ingredients you plan on adding to your salad. Place them into a freezer-safe bag or container. Remove as much air as possible before sealing the container or bag. If you’re freezing vegetables, you may want to consider blanching them before freezing them.
  • Lastly, if you make a separate dressing, combine all ingredients and then freeze it in its own container. And remember, if it contains mayo, then you should think about adding that after it’s defrosted. 
  • Make sure to label all of the bags or containers and then place them in the freezer. 

How Long Does Macaroni Salad Last in the Freezer?

A few things will determine how long your frozen pasta salad can last in the freezer.

  • If you plan to store leftover macaroni salad, you should utilize it within one or two weeks after freezing. The longer it’s frozen after this point, the more the quality will degrade. 
  • If you plan on freezing your salad, make sure to separate all of the components. In this manner, your salad may be stored for up to a month!
  • When frozen, ingredients like mayonnaise, eggs, shrimp, and shellfish reduce the shelf life of your macaroni salad. If your salad contains any of the following ingredients, you should eat it within a week of freezing it. However, egg yolk freezes fine. So, you can take that into consideration when making your macaroni salad. 

How to Defrost Macaroni Salad

The best (and only) way you should defrost frozen macaroni salad is by letting it thaw in the fridge. Simply put it in the fridge the night before you plan on eating it. 

Can You Refreeze Macaroni Salad?

No, you should definitely not refreeze macaroni salad. Freezing macaroni salad once will already have a slightly negative impact. Refreezing it will only compound this and make it much worse. 

Other Ways to Store Macaroni Salad

Storing macaroni salad in the fridge is the best way to enjoy macaroni salad at its best quality. And in fact, usually, it’s even tastier the second day as the flavors had the chance to mix together and become extra rich. 

If you think that freezing it is perhaps too risky if you can’t eat it all, consider sharing it with your friends, family, or neighbors so that it doesn’t go to waste!