How Long Does Watermelon Last and How to Tell if It’s Bad?

Watermelon is a great snack to enjoy on a hot summer day. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get carried away and buy way more than we can use before it goes bad.

We’re super excited and buy a big one. We get home, cut it into slices, and only then it hits us that it’s way too much. Now we’re nervous and start wondering how long does it last. Or if you can freeze some of the leftovers.

If you’ve bought too much watermelon and wonder what happens next, this article is for you. In it, we go through storing the fruit, its shelf life, and going bad. We also touch upon freezing it in case you need to store it for a prolonged period.

Watermelon before slicing
Watermelon ready to be sliced

How Long Does Watermelon Last?

A whole watermelon keeps for about a week at room temperature and up to two weeks in the refrigerator. Cut watermelon lasts between 3 and 5 days in the fridge. Make sure to wrap it tightly or place it in an airtight container, so it doesn’t dry out.

Like other fruits, watermelon doesn’t last that long. A whole one should keep good quality for about a week in the pantry. If you need more time, you get between 10 and 14 days if you refrigerate it.

Once you cut it up, the timer starts ticking. The fruit should retain freshness for about 3 to 5 days. The fresher it is, the longer it will last, obviously.

As usual, it’s best to eat all of it right after cutting it open, but it’s not always an option. Again, please bear in mind that wrapping is super important if you want to keep the leftovers for more than a day in the fridge.

If you would like to store the watermelon for longer than the mentioned periods, freeze it.

Whole watermelon7 days10 – 14 days
Cut watermelon 3 – 5 days
Watermelon shelf life, please note these periods are only estimates
Bunch of halved and quatered watermelons
(credit: Inbal Cohen)

How to Tell If Watermelon is Bad?

Your watermelon is spoiled if:

  • It’s light, feels hollow, or is soft to the touch. A good watermelon feels heavy and is firm, which means all the water is still there (watermelons are 90% water).
  • It’s moldy, has large bruises, or the exterior is discolored. Of course, some minor dark spots, bruising, or soft spots are okay, and you can cut off that part of the fruit if need be. But if the whole thing looks like a far cry from a fresh watermelon, it’s time for it to go.
  • It smells sour or foul in any other way. In theory, a whole watermelon should give off a fresh and slightly sweet aroma. But from my experience, it often doesn’t smell like much, and that’s still good enough for me.
  • The flesh is slimy, mushy, or looks dry. All of these are signs of water loss, and it might get to the point that the flesh is pulling away from the seeds. There’s a spectrum here, obviously, and some water loss (i.e., decent quality) is acceptable for most of us. But if it’s slimy, toss it.
  • It’s cut up and stored for more than 5 days. At that point, the watermelon might still be okay to eat, but it’s better to err on the side of caution and discard it.

Those are the main things to look out for. But if anything else about the watermelon, either whole or cut up, seems off for any reason, trust your gut. Better safe than sorry.

Water with frozen watermelon
Water with frozen watermelon as a drink on a hot day

How To Store Watermelon

Like all melons, watermelon retains its quality best if you store it whole. Thus, it makes sense to cut it up only right before eating.

When you bring the fruit home, you can store it either in the pantry or in the fridge. Generally, the longer you expect to store it, the cooler the area should be.

If you plan to cut it up the same day you buy it or the next day, it can sit on the counter for that time. If you’re not quite sure when you will eat it, best to put it in the fridge.

Once you cut up the watermelon into slices, you should store the leftovers in the fridge.

If you expect to keep it in the refrigerator for more than a day, wrap it tightly. If it’s a half or a quarter, use plastic or aluminum wrap. For smaller pieces, you can use airtight containers or resealable bags instead.

Wrapping protects the flesh from drying and picking up strong odors from the fridge. Watermelon pieces are always sold in plastic wrap for this exact reason.

The same storage practices work for other melons, e.g., cantaloupe (How to keep cantaloupe fresh?) and honeydew (How long is honeydew melon good for?).

Frozen watermelon pieces
Frozen watermelon pieces

Can You Freeze Watermelon?

Main article: Can you freeze watermelon?

If you have more watermelon than you can handle, you can freeze the leftovers.

Freezing and thawing alters the texture of the fruit. Because of that, eating it raw after thawing won’t be as pleasurable as eating it fresh. However, it works really well in smoothies and other applications where the texture isn’t that important.

To freeze watermelon, start by cutting it into fairly small pieces, so they will easily fit into freezer bags. Now remove all the seeds and skin so the watermelon will be edible right away. Once that’s done, pre-freeze the pieces.

Once you take the frozen pieces from the freezer, transfer them to freezer bags, add labels if needed, and chuck them back in. The fruit can easily last there for a few months.

When it comes to defrosting, it’s best to do it in the fridge overnight. If it’s for a smoothie, you can throw it in frozen if your blender can handle ice.

Other melons freeze well too. If you’re interested, check out my guides:

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