Here’s all you need to know about the shelf life and spoilage of spinach. Learn how long spinach lasts, how to store it, and how to tell if it’s bad.
So the bag of spinach you were supposed to eat last week is still in the fridge. That makes you wonder: how long does spinach last?
Or maybe yours doesn’t look that great, and you need to make sure it’s okay to eat it before you turn it into a smoothie or cook it on the stove. So how do you know if spinach is bad?
Sounds familiar? If so, this short guide on spinach is what you were looking for. Read on.
How Long Does Spinach Last?
|Bagged spinach (unopened)||Use-by + 2 – 3 days|
|Bagged spinach (opened)||5 – 10 days|
|Fresh spinach||up to 14 days|
|Cooked spinach||3 – 4 days|
Bagged spinach lasts up to two weeks and keeps for 5 to 10 days after opening, depending on how soon you open it up. Fresh spinach from the farmers’ market can last for up to two weeks.
To maximize the storage time, refrigerate spinach in a plastic bag, and don’t wash it until you’re ready to eat or prepare it.
Bagged vs. Fresh Spinach
Store-bought bagged spinach comes with a date printed on it, and that date is a good starting point. It’s usually between 7 and 14 days from the day you buy it, and you might get a couple of days extra if you’re lucky and do everything right.
Once you open the bag, aging accelerates, so I recommend using the spinach within 5 to 10 days. And if it’s already nearing the printed date, limit that to 2 to 3 days, assuming the quality is still a-okay.
Fresh spinach you buy at the farmers’ market lasts up to two weeks, assuming that it’s fresh and you follow good storage practices. But if you squash it on the way home, it’ll become slimy within a few days.
Finally, remember that the periods outlined above are best-case scenarios.
That means even if you follow all the practices I outline in the storage section, it’s not a given that your spinach will last that long. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
(Or, better yet, eat it as soon as possible.)
Nutrients vs. Storage Time
If you’re eating spinach mainly for its nutrients, make sure you eat it as fresh as possible.
That’s because, according to Penn State University, the nutrient profile of spinach degrades over time relatively quickly:
That seven-day-old bag of spinach in your refrigerator may not make you as strong as your grandma told you, because, according to Penn State food scientists, spinach stored for a long time loses much of its nutrient content.
In other words, the fresher you eat it, the better it is for you.
Cooked spinach lasts for 3 to 4 days in an airtight container in the fridge. Let the spinach cool before you refrigerate it, but ensure that the cooling period isn’t longer than 2 hours to keep the dish safe.
If you need more time, freezing is also an option.
Once your spinach is cooked, there’s no extra setup needed before you freeze it. All you need to do is to divide the spinach into meal-sized portions, transfer each part into an airtight container or freezer bag, and freeze.
(That’s also how long kale lasts after cooking.)
How to Tell if Spinach Is Bad?
Main article: How to tell if spinach is bad?
Discard spinach if:
- It’s completely wilted or slimy. Spinach gradually loses water, which results in wilting leaves that sooner or later become slimy. It’s okay to use slightly wilted spinach, but toss it if it gets slimy (photo below).
- The leaves are discolored or spotty. Leaves with black, brown, yellow, or other spots are a no-go. Those discolorations are usually a sign of a disease, e.g., downy mildew, and eating them isn’t a good idea. Toss the spotty leaves and use the rest.
- It smells off. If your spinach bag gives off a “funny” smell, it’s time to toss it.
- It’s cooked and refrigerated for more than four days. If your spinach leftovers sit in the fridge longer than four, maybe five days, they’re no longer safe to eat.
If anything else about your spinach seems off, trust your intuition and discard the spinach. Better safe than sorry.
The typical scenario is that the leaves gradually wilt, and at some point, they go slimy. The longer the spinach sits in the fridge, the more water it loses, and soon enough, that results in wilting and slime.
If my spinach has been sitting in the fridge for more than a couple of days, the bag usually contains some wilted or slimy leaves. So before I use the leafy green, I sort out the bad leaves and use the rest.
Obviously, if most of the spinach in the bag is slimy, it ends up in the trash can.
If you’re considering eating spinach that’s starting to wilt and turn yellow, it’s best to use it in a cooked dish. The taste of the cruciferous veggie will be acceptable at best, so using it in a dish will help to cover that up.
How To Store Spinach
Store spinach unwashed in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer. Keep the bag half-open to help spinach retain moisture but also allow it to breathe and get rid of excess water.
If you notice any water drops in the bag, consider wrapping your spinach with paper towels. Those towels will soak up any excess so that the water doesn’t remain on the leaves, causing them to spoil more quickly.
If you buy pre-bagged spinach, don’t open it immediately when you get home. But give the leafy green some airflow after you first open it.
If your spinach regularly goes bad because you forget about it or can’t be bothered with using it, switch to buying frozen spinach. You can use it whenever you want and you don’t have to worry about it going bad.
Does Spinach Need to Be Refrigerated?
You don’t need to refrigerate spinach if you’re going to use it the day you buy it. Otherwise, you should definitely store it in the fridge because that’ll increase the storage time from 1 to 2 days to at least 4 to 5 days.
The storage time increase is why refrigeration is recommended for spinach, and that’s why bagged kale is usually sold in the refrigerated section.
Fresh, raw spinach loses quality quickly, so you should refrigerate the bunch or bag immediately once you get home from the grocery store or farmers’ market.
Keeping your spinach unwashed is best not because washing somehow makes spinach go bad faster but because it’s difficult to completely dry the greens afterward. And any leftover water drops might cause your spinach to spoil sooner than it should.
That means pre-washed spinach is perfectly fine, as the cruciferous veggie has been thoroughly dried before bagging. But if you’re buying it fresh, postpone washing to when you’re ready to use it.
What if you already washed your spinach?
Simple: let it dry on kitchen towels or a dish dryer, and wipe any remaining moisture using paper towels before refrigerating it. This way, your spinach should be reasonably dry before you place it in a bag and retain quality for a week or two.
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