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How Long Can You Freeze Cooked Chicken


Whether you are meal-prepping or have cooked a large batch of chicken, don’t worry; you can keep it for later. When we talk about saving food for later, readers often ask how long they can freeze cooked chicken.

You can store cooked chicken in the freezer for as long as 6 months, according to USDA’s cold food storage chart.

However, you must know how to freeze it properly so it lasts long. This article tells you everything about freezing and refrigerating chicken. Let’s get to it quickly!

How Long Can You Freeze Cooked Chicken?

USDA’s cold food storage chart mentions you can keep cooked chicken in the freezer for six months when stored properly.

According to USDA, cooked chicken tastes fine after freezing for up to four months; chicken with gravy is good for as long as six months, whereas you can freeze cooked chicken patties or nuggets for three months at best.

How to Freeze Cooked Chicken: Step-by-Step

Freezing cooked chicken is quite simple; here’s how to freeze cooked chicken:

  • First, let your cooked chicken cool down on the shelf. But do not leave it on the counter for more than two hours.
  • Then, keep the chicken in the refrigerator for a few hours (preferably 24 hours) before freezing to increase lifespan. 
  • Next, divide the cooked chicken into portions depending on how much your family eats at one time. Defrosting and refreezing large batches is never a good idea.
  • Now, transfer the chicken to adequately sized boxes or ziplock bags. Make sure the boxes are airtight, and you seal shut the ziplock bags.
  • Put the date on each portion to know how long it will last. Furthermore, you may mention what each packet is for (e.g., BBQ chicken sandwiches, cheese pasta, etc.)

Note: It is suggested to remove the bones before freezing cooked chicken. You can also shred the chicken into smaller pieces if you want to use it in soups, sandwiches, or pasta.

How to Flash-Freeze Cooked Chicken?

Another way to keep your chicken in the freezer longer is to flash-freeze it. The process follows the same steps as above, with the addition of one. 

After cooling your cooked chicken, flash-freeze it for one hour before dividing it into batches. Spread the shredded or portioned chicken onto a tray and leave it in the freezer for an hour. It will help the chicken retain its flavor and texture longer.

Then, you can transfer it to your storage bags and containers to keep it in the freezer.


Freezing Different Types of Cooked Chicken 

Roast Chicken

Roast chicken is one of the simplest forms of cooked chicken, whether it’s about cooking or storing it. It is best to take the chicken off the bones and store it in individual portions. Roast chicken typically maintains its flavor for around four months. 

Rotisserie Chicken

Most people prefer getting a rotisserie chicken from the store or making one at home for meal prep. If you want to keep the rotisserie chicken in the freezer, keeping it whole might not be the best idea. We suggest shredding or dividing it into smaller portions to avoid refreezing. 

Grilled Chicken

If you plan to cook grilled chicken and then freeze it, you must know that it might not taste the same, even a month later. You will not get the grilled or smoky flavor of defrosting the chicken. 

Baked Chicken

Chicken baked with different aromatics and spices is suitable for freezing for a long time. It stays flavorful for as long as four months if it stays frozen continuously.

Fried Chicken

Fried chicken is the least favorite choice when it comes to storing cooked chicken in the freezer. The coating will become soft and soggy in the freezer and will not taste good on defrosting.

How to Defrost Frozen Cooked Chicken?

Now that you know how long you can freeze cooked chicken, it’s time to tell you how to defrost it when needed.

If you are in a hurry, toss the box (microwave-safe) or ziplock into the microwave on the defrost setting. Keep checking after a minute to ensure it defrosts evenly. Take your chicken out when it defrosts completely.


How to Heat Frozen Cooked Chicken Before Eating?

While you can warm cooked chicken in the microwave for a few minutes after it defrosts, it is best to heat it to piping hot.

Put the defrosted chicken in the oven or the stovetop to 165°F for two minutes; it helps kill the bacteria (if any); check the temperature using a thermometer.

Cook it on all sides and it’s ready to eat!

Can You Refreeze Cooked Chicken After Defrosting?

The precise answer to this is ‘no.’ You should not refreeze uncooked or cooked chicken after defrosting as it increases the risks for bacterial contamination.

The general rule of thumb is only to cook, freeze (or refrigerate), defrost and reheat your food once; so, you must make reasonable portions per need.

How to Know if Frozen Cooked Chicken is Good to Eat?

Though you can store the cooked chicken in the freezer for up to six months, it might not always be safe to eat.

When you take the frozen chicken out of the freezer and defrost it, look for the following signs of spoilage:

  • Observe color changes in the chicken
  • Smell it to see if it smells foul
  • Check the texture of the chicken
  • Look for mold

If you see any of these signs in your frozen cooked chicken, it’s bad news; you must discard it right away!

Which Cooked Chicken Can You Not Freeze?

You can freeze almost all kinds of chicken, but consider the ingredients before you toss the chicken in the freezer.

For example, mayonnaise in your chicken dish might split on defrosting, ruining your meal. Similarly, leafy vegetables will not stay in good shape all these months.

So, it depends on the ingredients you freeze alongside your cooked chicken.

How Long can You Freeze Raw Chicken?

Most people prefer keeping chicken in the refrigerator to maintain its texture and taste. Yet, USDA guidelines do not recommend keeping raw chicken in the fridge for over two days. Thus, the best way is to keep raw chicken in the freezer so it lasts longer.

USDA mentions that you can keep the chicken indefinitely if you keep it frozen without taking it out even once. Here’s how long different types of raw chicken stay good in the freezer:

  • Raw Whole Chicken: A year
  • Raw Chicken Parts: Nine months
  • Raw Ground Chicken: Three months

How to Freeze Raw Chicken?

As we mentioned freezing raw chicken, why not give you a quick overview of how to freeze it? 

  1. Freezing raw chicken requires taking it out of the store packaging and wrapping it in plastic wrap.
  2. Next, layer it with aluminum foil to protect the chicken from freezer burns.
  3. Once properly packed, keep it flat on the freezer’s surface and take it out when you want to eat it.
  4. Alternatively, you can divide the chicken into batches and save it in ziplock bags in the freezer for later use.

The Bottom Line

Freezing cooked chicken can be immensely helpful when meal prepping or wanting to save leftover chicken for later use. You can store cooked chicken in the freezer for as long as six months. However, it tastes best four months from the date of freezing. At the same time, chicken in gravy or broth may taste good for six months. Moreover, you must consume cooked chicken patties or nuggets within three months. The flavor of the chicken on defrosting depends on the type of cooked chicken you freeze.


How long can you refrigerate cooked chicken?

The lifespan of cooked chicken in the refrigerator is way less than in the freezer. You can keep chicken breasts or whole chicken in the fridge for two days. Chicken in gravy also lasts around the same time in the fridge.

Can you freeze cooked chicken after 3 days?

It is not healthy to keep cooked chicken in the fridge for three days and then transfer it to the freezer. If you want to freeze the cooked chicken for later use, keep it in the fridge for 24 hours, flash-freeze it for an hour to seal the flavor, and then freeze it for as long as six months. 

Is 2-year-old frozen chicken still good?

You might be surprised that if your chicken has been sitting in a fully functional freezer continuously, you can use it even after two years. USDA mentions, “If kept frozen continuously, chicken will be safe indefinitely.”

Can I eat cooked chicken after 7 days?

You can eat the cooked chicken after seven days if you freeze it 24 hours after cooking it and not longer. However, if you keep it in the fridge, the chicken will go bad after 7 days, and you should discard it.

What is the best way to freeze cooked chicken?

The best way to freeze cooked chicken is to take the meat off the bones, shred it, and keep it in ziplock bags in the fridge for 24 hours. Shift the packets to the freezer and consume them within 6 months.

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