Here’s all you need to know about the shelf life and spoilage of cucumbers. Learn how long cucumbers last, how to store them, and how to tell if one is spoiled.
So you’ve got a couple of cucumbers in the fridge, wondering how long they can sit there before they go bad. How long do cucumbers last?
Or maybe yours look a bit iffy, and you want to learn if they’re still okay to eat. How do you tell if a cucumber is bad?
If either sounds familiar, you’re in the right place. Read on.
This guide covers both slicing (including English cucumbers) and pickling cucumbers, as neither the shelf life nor storage practices are that different.
Table of Contents
- How Long Do Cucumbers Last?
- How to Tell if a Cucumber Is Bad?
- Do Cucumbers Need to Be Refrigerated?
- How to Store Cucumbers
- Cucumbers Shelf Life and Spoilage Summary
How Long Do Cucumbers Last?
|Cucumber, whole, unwrapped||7 days||7 days|
|Cucumber, whole, wrapped||7 – 10 days||10 – 14 days|
|Cucumber, cut||3 – 4 days|
Cucumbers keep for about a week if you leave them unwrapped in the crisper drawer of your fridge. To prolong their storage time to two weeks, you can either wrap them in plastic (like English cucumbers are) or wrap them in paper towels and seal them in a resealable bag.
Wrapping helps insulate the cucumber from the environment and doesn’t allow it to release water that easily, helping prolong the storage time.
(We’ll talk more about storage practices in a bit.)
The optimal storage temperature for cucumbers is 50-55°F (or 10-12.5°C). If you combine that with an environment with 95% humidity, your cucumbers should keep for 10 to 14 days without any extra protection. The only issue with that is hardly anyone has access to a storage spot that maintains those conditions.
And that’s why I still recommend the refrigerator as the go-to place for your cukes.
If the periods above are not long enough for your needs, consider pickling your cucumbers. Pickles last much longer than regular cucumbers and are a great way to preserve excess cukes.
Pickling slicing cucumbers is fine, although the taste and texture might differ from regular pickles. Make sure you don’t pickle waxed cucumbers (those with an unnatural sheen), though.
Now, you can find a whole bunch of articles online saying that you should store your cucumbers at room temperature for best results. There’s some merit to that, but it’s definitely not the be-all and end-all solution to storing cukes.
At Room Temperature
Unwrapped cucumbers last for about a week at room temperature, and you can probably get a few extra days if your wrap them tightly using plastic wrap. Or if they come wrapped, as is often the case for English cucumbers.
The thing is, the place where you store your cucumbers should maintain a temperature of about 68°F (or 20°C). If it’s the middle of a hot summer and your “room temperature” is a few degrees higher than that, your cucumbers will probably start to soften and shrivel even sooner.
In other words, unless your fridge is running super cold, which makes cukes deteriorate much faster, leaving cucumbers on the counter probably won’t fix your issues with short shelf life.
Cut cucumbers keep for 3 to 4 days in the fridge before they go all soft and mushy. To get those full 3 to 5 days, make sure you wrap the cut side well using plastic wrap or a silicone food saver.
Placing that cut cucumber in a zip-top bag can help too, but moisture loss will be pretty rapid unless you tightly cover the cut area.
If you leave a cut cucumber exposed, it’ll lose water much quicker and will probably be pretty bad within 1 to 2 days of first placing it in the fridge.
Next up, let’s talk about spoilage signs.
How to Tell if a Cucumber Is Bad?
Discard cucumbers that:
- Are shriveling, soft, or mushy. All three are signs of water loss, and when your cukes get to the point they’re soft, they’re not good quality-wise. It’s okay if the cucumber isn’t super crisp, but at a certain point, you have to decide it’s no longer acceptable.
- Are covered with wrinkles or water-soaked spots. Those are other signs of water loss. Obviously, it’s okay to cut off a wrinkled end or a small soaked spot and use the rest, but if the green veggie is covered with those, it’s beyond saving.
- Are moldy. Mold or other signs of organic growth visible on the surface mean the cukes are no good. That usually happens to cut cucumbers stored for more than a couple of days (or unwrapped) or whole cukes stored for a long time. Since cucumbers are mostly water, toss the entire thing if you notice a moldy area – cutting off the affected part and using the rest is a no-no.
Those are the usual signs of spoilage.
If there’s anything else about the cukes that you’re not so jazzed about, trust your intuition and toss them. Better safe than sorry.
Knowing that, let’s tackle whether you should refrigerate cucumbers.
Do Cucumbers Need to Be Refrigerated?
You don’t have to refrigerate cucumbers, as they can last for about a week at room temperature in a dry place away from sunlight. But if you’d like to store them for more than a week, properly wrapping and refrigerating them is your best bet.
In other words, it’s all about storage time.
If you tend to finish your cucumbers within less than a week of buying them, leaving them on the counter shouldn’t be an issue. Assuming that your room temperature is somewhere around 68°F (or 20°C), of course.
Furthermore, leaving cukes at room temperature versus in the refrigerator is a good idea if your fridge tends to run cold.
Cukes are sensitive to temperatures below 50°F (or 10°C) and can suffer from chilling injury if stored for more than a few days at those temperatures. And the colder the temperature, the more accelerated the decay.
That’s why many people suggest storing cukes at room temperature is the way to go.
That said, if you have a fridge that runs between 37°F (3°C) and 40°F (5°C), the storage time for an unwrapped cucumber will be quite similar no matter if you refrigerate it or not.
Next, let’s talk about what you can do to keep your cucumbers in tip-top shape for as long as possible.
How to Store Cucumbers
You already know that cucumbers thrive in temperatures around 50°F (or 10°C) and in high humidity. So when storing your cukes, try to make things resemble those conditions as much as possible. That’s how you get the most out of cucumbers.
Now, let’s talk about a couple of storage approaches that work well and can help double the week that’s the typical shelf life of your cukes.
Wrapped in Plastic
Simply wrapping each cucumber in plastic wrap and placing it in the crisper drawer should help it last about two weeks. It’s the same thing that’s often done to shrink-wrapped English cucumbers.
A tight wrap helps achieve two things:
- isolate the cucumbers from the cold temperature in the fridge, and therefore avoid chilling injury
- force the cukes to retain as much moisture as possible, delaying water loss (the reason why cucumbers become soft and slimy)
And that’s enough to make the cukes last up to two weeks.
Now, you might wonder if using resealable bags instead of plastic wrap is an option. Unfortunately, not quite.
If you simply place the cucumber in a zip-top bag, there’s still some breathing room in that bag.
That allows the cucumber to “sweat” and the released water that will condensate in the bag. Unfortunately, that water makes an excellent environment for microorganisms to grow, which might result in your cucumber going bad prematurely.
Fortunately, you can fix that by wrapping the cukes in paper towels.
Wrapped in Paper Towels and Sealed in a Resealable Bag
Wrapping cucumbers in dry paper towels and sealing them in a zip-top bag seems to be the best method for prolonging the storage time of cucumbers.
(Excluding pickling them, of course.)
That extra paper towel absorbs all the water the cucumbers release, so they don’t sit covered with water drops. And the bag protects the veggie from the outside and keeps all the moisture inside, minimizing moisture loss.
The only downside is that you have to invest a minute or two before refrigerating that freshly-bought cucumber once you’re back from the grocery store.
I think it’s well worth the effort if you need the cukes to last those two weeks. But if you don’t, you’ll be okay just tossing them in the crisper drawer as-is.
If you’re interested in learning more about other methods of storing cukes, including storing cucumbers in a resealable bag with a spoon (yes, you read that right), check out this article by the Kitchn.
Cucumbers Shelf Life and Spoilage Summary
Thank you for reading this short guide on cucumbers. Let’s briefly recap what we’ve covered above:
- How long do cucumbers last? Cucumbers last about a week in the fridge if you leave them unwrapped in the crisper drawer. If you wrap them with plastic wrap or place in a zip-top bag and covered with paper towels, they’ll keep for about two weeks. Cut cucumbers last for 3 to 4 days.
- How to tell if a cucumber is bad? Toss cucumbers that are soft, shriveled, heavily wrinkled, or covered with water-soaked spots. If you notice any signs of mold, it’s time for them to go, too.
- Do you need to refrigerate cucumbers? You don’t have to refrigerate cucumbers, as they can keep for about a week at room temperature. Refrigeration and wrapping help them last longer, so that’s the way to go if you want to store cukes for more than a week. Leaving cucumbers at room temperature is worth a try if your fridge tends to run cold and your cucumbers show signs of chilling injury only after a couple of days of storage.