Does Coleslaw Go Bad and How Long Does It Last in The Fridge?

So, summer is coming and you are going to host a barbeque party with family and friends this weekend. It’s been a long-standing tradition to serve the grilled meats with coleslaw.

You still have a half bucket of coleslaw from last week. But, you’re doubtful if this cabbage salad will survive until the party.

Is it safe to serve old coleslaw? How long should coleslaw be kept in the fridge? Does coleslaw go bad?

Whether you prefer to make it at home or buy store-bought coleslaw, this article is useful for you. We will talk about coleslaw’s shelf life, storage, and how to know whether coleslaw has spoiled.

Wait no more, read on!

What is Coleslaw?

Coleslaw is an English translation for koolsla, a Dutch term for cabbage salad. This simple yet flavorful side dish was introduced by the Dutch settlers in the present-day New York City, back in the late 18th century.

Fast forward to centuries later, coleslaw has been widely celebrated as one of the American favorite side dishes. It is great to serve with meat dishes, burgers, or stuffed into tacos.

As the name implies, coleslaw is prepared from shredded cabbage, carrots, and salad dressing which typically contains vinegar and mayonnaise.

Outside of the US, especially in European countries, this crunchy salad is also widely served with slight variation in the type of vegetables and dressings, typically without mayonnaise added.

How to Store Coleslaw

Salads are perishable, so is coleslaw. Coleslaw should always be refrigerated, no matter if it’s homemade or store-bought. Make sure to always keep the container tightly sealed and use clean utensils when taking out the salad.

Although making homemade coleslaw is relatively simple and takes fewer efforts (especially if you use mix shredded vegetables and store-bought dressing), you never want to waste the food you made, do you?

If you make coleslaw in bulk, take the amount you need to serve and quickly refrigerate the remaining salad.

Room temperature is favorable for microbial growth and will spoil your salad faster. Coleslaw should not be left out of the fridge for more than 2 hours.

If you don’t prefer making coleslaw in bulk, buy or prepare shredded cabbage in advance and store it in the refrigerator. Whenever you want to have coleslaw for a meal, simply mix the vegetables with the sauce. It’s also easy and takes almost no time.

How Long Does Coleslaw Last?

Don’t confuse coleslaw with fermented vegetables, like sauerkraut, kimchi, or pickles. Unlike fermented pickled vegetables that can last for months, coleslaw does not last that long.

So how long is coleslaw good for?

Homemade coleslaw stays fresh for only 3 – 5 days. This period also depends on how well you prepare the salad and whether you refrigerate it properly.

Discard the remaining salad if it’s been too long in the fridge. It is either spoiled or the taste won’t make you happy.

Store-bought coleslaw should be consumed prior to the “best by” date stamped on the label. After opening, it should be finished in 2 – 3 days before the remaining product starts to lose the quality and eventually decay.

How to Tell if Coleslaw Has Gone Bad or Spoiled?

Coleslaw is naturally sour from the vinegar. However, if the smell and taste are awfully sour, it may have spoiled.

Likewise, if you see visible molds and discoloration, these are clear signs that coleslaw is not safe to eat.

If you have leftover coleslaw that’s been sitting in the fridge for more than 5 days, it is also advised to discard it. When it comes to food and its safety, if you’re doubtful, it’s always best to stay on the safe side.


Can you freeze coleslaw?

Although not recommended, yes you can freeze coleslaw.  Coleslaw prepared with vinegar-based dressing is better to freeze than one with mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is an emulsion and tends to separate after thawing, making it less appealing.

Be aware that after thawing, the salad may lose its texture and becomes more watery. Serve immediately and don’t leave it at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

Is it safe to eat expired coleslaw?

When it comes to store-bought coleslaw, observing the “best by” date is highly recommended. But, sometimes you just have one or two packs that are beyond this date.

Coleslaw’s shelf life is very short. This salad might still be okay to eat after 1 – 2 days after the date. If it’s older than that, better to get rid of it for safety reasons.

Also, do a quick check to see if there is any sign of spoilage before eating the salad.

Can old coleslaw make you sick?

Yes, it can happen. Coleslaw has a very short shelf life. It is perishable and can go bad more quickly than you think, especially with improper storage, like leaving it out at room temperature for too long.

In some cases, pathogenic bacteria that cause food poisoning are present without showing signs of spoilage.

Thus, if you happen to have coleslaw that’s been kept longer than the recommended time, there’s no safer option than to throw it away even when it still looks fine.

How long does shredded cabbage last?

Having shredded cabbage is very practical for whenever you want to make salads and other dishes. If you buy pre-shredded cabbage (or mix cabbage) it is best to observe the “best by” date for quick guidance. Usually, it lasts for 1 – 2 weeks after it’s bagged.

If you cut the cabbage at home, store it in a sealed container or bag, and always keep it refrigerated. Use within a few days. But, try to use it immediately for the maximum freshness and crisp texture!

Final Notes on Shelf Life of Coleslaw

Coleslaw is a perishable food and has a short life span. Always keep the salad refrigerated and enjoy it before it goes bad.

Proper food storage is important to maintain quality and prevent food poisoning. Whenever you’re doubting, always check for any signs of spoilage before scooping out the salad into your dinner plate!

Up next: Can You Freeze Coleslaw

coleslaw shelf life

*Photo by AndreySt/depositphotos

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