Does Smoked Salmon Go Bad?

So smoked salmon was on sale, and you decided to stock up. You bought a few more packages than you can use in the next week or two, so you start to wonder: does smoked salmon go bad?

Or maybe you’ve bought smoked salmon for the first time, and you wonder how long you can store the leftovers or if you can freeze the fish.

In this article, we go through storage, shelf life, and going bad of smoked salmon. If you’re interested in learning more about these topics, this article is for you.

Smoked salmon on pizza
Image used under Creative Commons from Dale Cruse

How to Store Smoked Salmon

Smoked salmon almost always sits in the refrigerated section of the store, so it’s no surprise that it requires refrigeration.

Once you get back home after the trip to your local grocer make sure to transfer it to the refrigerator promptly. It won’t spoil if it sits at room temperature for 30 minutes or even an hour, but it’s definitely not a healthy thing to do.

Please note that some producers sell smoked salmon unrefrigerated.

SeaBear is such a company. If the package sits unrefrigerated and the label clearly says it can be stored at room temperature, feel free to keep it in the pantry or in a dark cabinet in the kitchen. Make sure it’s away from sunlight and sources of heat, though. When in doubt, refrigerate the fish.

When it comes to smoked salmon leftovers, they belong to the fridge.

If the original package is resealable, seal it tightly and put it into the refrigerator. If not, put the container into a freezer bag for some additional protection. That will keep the fish aroma contained and protect the smoked salmon from fridge odors at the same time.

Smoked salmon on a plate
Image used under Creative Commons from Frédérique Voisin-Demery

Can You Freeze Smoked Salmon?

If you’ve bought too much of the fish on a sale, I’ve got good news: you can freeze smoked salmon.

Smoked salmon usually comes in vacuum-sealed packs, and these are great for freezing. There’s no need for repacking or anything. Just take the container, chuck it into the freezer, and you’re good to go.

If you have some leftover smoked salmon you’d like to freeze, you need to wrap it properly. Putting the package into a freezer bag should take care of that.


When freezing smoked salmon in a bag, remember to squeeze as much air out as you can before sealing it.

Frozen smoked salmon should retain quality in the freezer for at least a few months.

When it comes to defrosting the frozen fish, the refrigerator is king. Transfer the package to the fridge the night before you need it, and the fish should be thawed in the morning.

Sandwich with smoked salmon and greens
(credit: PTMP)

How Long Does Smoked Salmon Last

Like other fish, smoked salmon comes with a date on the label. Usually, it’s a sell-by or use-by date, and it’s about two to three weeks from the moment the package was sealed.

That date is a pretty good estimate of how long the salmon will retain freshness. Of course, it should still be fresh for at least a day or two longer, but don’t expect miracles.

Once you open the package, the smoked salmon stays fresh for about 5 days. If you handle the storage well, you should be able to get away with a week, but that’s about it.


If you need to store smoked salmon for longer, freeze it. The process is straightforward and takes little time, so it has no downsides.

Smoked salmon (unopened)Sell-by + 3 days
Smoked salmon (opened)5 – 7 days

Please note the periods above are only estimates.

How to Tell If Smoked Salmon Has Gone Bad?

First of all, watch the dates. If an unopened package is more than a week past the date on the label, discard it. Same thing if an open package sits in the fridge for over a week.

If the date is reasonable, use your senses to determine the quality. If the fish develops a slimy film, the color becomes dull, or the smell sour, those are sure signs you should get rid of it.

Given that everything appearance-wise and smell-wise is okay give the salmon a taste. If it tastes okay, feel free to consume it. Otherwise, it’s past its prime, and you should discard it.

In short, if anything with the salmon seems fishy (see what I did there?), err on the side of caution and throw it away.