How Long Does Coleslaw Last?

Here’s all about the shelf life, storage, and going bad of coleslaw, both homemade and store-bought. Learn how long it lasts, what’s the best way to store it, and how to tell if it’s spoiled.

Bought a large container of coleslaw and worried that it will go bad before you finish it? If so, you’re probably wondering how long does coleslaw last in the fridge.

Or maybe yours sits in the refrigerator for a couple of days already, and you want to know how to tell if it’s still okay to eat.

Sounds familiar?

If so, this short guide on coleslaw is what you’re looking for. Read on.

Burger, coleslaw, and sweet potato fries
(credit: Brandon Morgan)

Table of Contents

How Long Does Coleslaw Last?

Coleslaw lasts for 3 to 4 days sealed tight in the fridge. If it’s store-bought coleslaw that comes with a printed date, the salad should keep for a day or two past that date, or for 3 to 4 days after opening the container, whichever comes first.

Coleslaw is no sauerkraut or kimchi. Its shelf life is short, no matter if you buy it in the supermarket or whip it up yourself.

When it comes to salad dressing, it doesn’t affect coleslaw’s shelf life that much.

So if you’re a fan of a vinaigrette-based dressing instead of the usual mayonnaise-based one, that’s not a problem. Unless the dressing starts to separate after a day or two of storage, of course. Because of that, it’s best to know how long does your salad dressing last, so that there aren’t any surprises.

Store-Bought Coleslaw

When it comes to store-bought coleslaw, go with the use-by date on the label. An out-of-date coleslaw might be okay for a day or two past the printed date, but that’s it. Salads are perishable, and trying to store them for who-knows-how-long is never a good idea.

The label should also inform you of how long after opening the container the coleslaw should be good for. Usually, it’s 3 to 4 days, but make sure to check the label. After that period, the salad will gradually become watery and not all that appealing.

(Obviously, if you open the container on the day printed on the label, you only get to store it for a day or two. It’s not like opening the salad resets the timer.)

Homemade

For homemade coleslaw, it lasts between 3 to 4 days. Overall, it depends on the recipe, how well you store it, and what texture is still acceptable for you, but that period is a good rule of thumb.

The same is true for other salads, so if you’ve been wondering how long is macaroni salad good for, I’ve spared you a few clicks.

If you’re following a recipe you’ve found online, look for the shelf life information. Again, if your coleslaw is getting watery in a matter of a day or two, try the tips I outlined in the storage section.

Coleslaw Shelf Life

Fridge
Store-bought coleslaw (unopened)Use-by date + 1 – 2 days
Store-bought coleslaw (opened)3 – 4 days
Homemade coleslaw3 – 4 days
Please note that the periods above are estimates only.
Dinner with coleslaw side
(credit: Jacob Stone)

How To Tell If Coleslaw Is Bad?

Signs of spoiled coleslaw include:

  • Mold. Unsurprisingly, if there’s mold, the salad is done for.
  • Discolorations and other visual changes. Any dark spots mean the decay is setting in, and it’s best to discard the salad.
  • Sour or off smell. If the odor has changed noticeably, throw out the salad. Please note that if your coleslaw naturally smells sour (e.g., the dressing includes lemon juice), then that’s definitely not a sign of spoilage.
  • Prolonged storage. If the salad sits in storage for much longer than the suggested periods, you should get rid of it, even if it seems quite alright.
  • Awful taste. If everything else seems fine, let your taste buds decide if eating the salad is a good idea or not.

Moreover, the longer you store the coleslaw, the worse its texture. The veggies will lose their crispness, and the whole salad will become watery.

That said, watery coleslaw isn’t spoiled (provided there aren’t any other signs of spoilage). It doesn’t look pretty, and the taste is so-so at best, but it’s still okay to eat. It’s up to you if you eat or discard wilted coleslaw.

Beef burger and coleslaw side
(credit: Jakub Kapusnak)

How To Store Coleslaw

Coleslaw should sit in the fridge sealed in an airtight container, so that the salad doesn’t pick up any smells or dry out. Store this way, it should retain quality for 3 to 4 days, or 1 to 2 days past its date, if it’s store-bought.

If you don’t have a large enough container for your leftover coleslaw, you can wrap the bowl with aluminum foil or plastic wrap. It’s not perfect, but it gets the job done.

When scooping coleslaw, always use clean utensils. The easiest way to go about that is to get a separate spoon only for the salad, if you’re leaving the bowl on the table during dinner.

Tip

If you made a big batch, it’s best to scoop as much as you need for the meal and refrigerate the rest immediately.

If you’ve tried making coleslaw in bulk but ended up with a watery salad, you can try the following instead:

  • Prep and store veggies and dressing separately. Shredded cabbage and other veggies should last for about five days in the fridge, so you can prep them on a Sunday evening to use throughout the week. Combine the vegetables with the dressing before the meal.
  • Wilt the veggies before making the salad. Shred the cabbage, add salt, and leave it until it wilts. Then rinse and spin in a salad spinner to dry. This way, the cabbage won’t release as much water in the salad as it usually does, and your coleslaw shouldn’t end up watery.

Can You Freeze Coleslaw?

Technically you could freeze coleslaw, but it doesn’t freeze well, especially if it’s one with a mayonnaise- or dairy-based dressing. The dressing separates after thawing, the veggies soften, and there’s usually quite a bit of extra water in the bag or container.

In other words, unless you’re working with a recipe that’s designed for freezing, your coleslaw will most likely freeze poorly and look pretty disgusting after defrosting.

(So, if you already have a big bowl of coleslaw in the fridge, freezing is probably a no-go.)

That said, if you make your coleslaw with a vinegar-and-oil-based dressing, like this one, you could freeze it if you’re okay with soft veggies and some excess water in the container.

When freezing, make sure the salad is sealed tightly, preferably in an airtight container. And when it’s time to defrost it, do it overnight in the refrigerator and enjoy the thawed coleslaw the same day.

Coleslaw Shelf Life and Spoilage Summary

Thanks for reading this short guide on coleslaw. Let’s briefly recap what we’ve covered above:

  • How long does coleslaw last? Coleslaw lasts 3 to 4 days in a resealable container in the fridge. If it’s outside of refrigeration, you should toss it after two hours for safety reasons.
  • How to store coleslaw? Store the salad in a sealed container and refrigerate it. Freezing a coleslaw with a mayo- or dairy-based dressing yields bad results, while freezing one with a vinegar-based sauce is so-so at best.
  • When to toss coleslaw? Discard coleslaw if it’s moldy, has other visual changes, smells off, or has been stored in the fridge for more than 4 to 5 days.