Does Kale Go Bad

It’s easy to buy a bag of kale at the market, with the best of intentions to find a recipe to make, only to forget when you get home. Or to pick up a whole bunch or bag of kale for a dish requiring only a handful or so, and then to find yourself with a whole lot of extra kale.

You know that kale does go bad. So, how long do you have to use that kale that’s sitting in the back of your refrigerator?

In this article, we go through storage, shelf life, and going bad of kale. If you would like to learn a few storage tricks or how to freeze kale, this article is for you.

Fresh kale
Image used under Creative Commons from Bobbi Bowers

How To Store Kale

Most people buy kale bagged and prewashed. Storing this kale is pretty similar to storing bagged spinach. That means once you get home, you put the bag in the fridge and keep it there at all times. Once you need kale, take as much as you need, close the bag and put it back into the fridge — nothing fancy here.

If you buy fresh kale, that is one that’s not commercially packaged, put it in a plastic bag in the fridge. What’s important is that you shouldn’t wash it until you need it.

No matter if the kale was bagged or not, there are a couple of things to remember. First, make sure the airflow is steady, and the veggie can breathe. Don’t try to seal the bag as tightly as you can. Instead, intentionally leave some holes to promote airflow.

Fresh bunch of kale
(credit: Adolfo Félix)

If kale tends to freeze in your fridge, you should either move it to the crisper drawer where it’s always a bit warmer or adjust the thermostat.


One more trick that’s good to have in your repertoire is using paper towels to fix moisture issues. If your kale often gets soggy, add a paper towel to the bag. It will absorb the excess moisture, so the kale doesn’t have to.

When it comes to cooked kale, you should keep it in the fridge too.

Transfer the veggie into an airtight container or freezer bag and refrigerate. Make sure you first dry the leaves thoroughly so that they won’t get soft and mushy in the fridge. Again, the paper towel trick can be handy here.

Freshly harvested kale
Freshly harvested kale

Can You Freeze Kale?

If you’d like to store kale long term, freezing is an option. First and foremost, you should know that freezing alters the texture of raw kale.

Because of that, you should either freeze cooked kale or start with cutting off the stems and blanching the leaves. Drying the kale thoroughly with paper towels is the next step. Once it’s prepared like that, you should pre-freeze it on a cookie tray. After that, the kale is ready for long term freezing in freezer bags or containers. Add a label with name and date if needed and chuck the bag or container into the freezer.

When it comes to thawing, thaw it in the fridge, or if you use it in a cooked dish, you can add it frozen.

If thawed kale doesn’t work in your usual dishes, try using it in a green smoothie. Other ingredients should make up for whatever kale is lacking.

Fresh green kale in a white ceramic bowl
Fresh green kale in a white ceramic bowl

How Long Does Kale Last

Like most other veggies, kale doesn’t last that long. When it comes to commercially bagged kale, the date on the label is a good reference point. It will usually be a week or up to 10 days from the day you buy it, and that’s a pretty accurate estimate.

Once you open the bag, the degradation process accelerates, so try to finish or freeze the kale within around more or less five days.

When it comes to fresh kale you bought on a farmer’s market, the story is similar. It will retain freshness for around five days to maybe a week.

For cooked kale, it will last in good quality for about 3 to 4 days. That is if you store it properly, of course.

Bagged kale (unopened)Date on the label
Bagged kale (opened)5 days
Fresh kale5 – 7 days
Cooked kale3 – 5 days

Please note the periods above are for the best quality.

Kale leaves
(credit: Laura Johnston)

How To Tell If Kale Is Bad

The simplest way to put it is: you will know that kale is spoiled when you see it. If there are some black specs, its time is coming to an end rapidly. At that point, you generally should discard the veggie. What I do, and that’s by no means a recommendation, is I throw out the leaves with black specs an use the rest. That’s obviously for bagged and pre-chopped kale.

If you notice that the leaves start to lose their color and become pale green, it’s either now or never. You either use them or toss them out, because in a day or so the leaves will be all yellow and the only thing to do with such kale is to throw it out.

When it comes to sure signs of bad kale, wilted and soggy leaves is one. Bad, off, or sulfur smell is another. If the leaves look good and smell okay, the kale is probably perfectly fine.