How Long Does Macaroni Salad Last in the Fridge?

Here’s all you need to know about the shelf life, storage, and spoilage of macaroni salad. Learn how long macaroni salad lasts, how to store the leftovers, and how to tell if it’s spoiled.

Made a big bowl of macaroni salad and worried you won’t finish it before it goes bad? How long is macaroni salad good for?

Or maybe you considered doubling your favorite recipe, but you’re not sure if the salad freezes well. Can you freeze macaroni salad?

If those questions sound familiar, this article is for you. Read on.

Note

This article goes over general rules that apply to all sorts of macaroni salads. Hundreds of salad recipes feature elbow pasta, but the basics like when and how to store it and when to toss it stay the same.

Mixed macaroni salad

Table of Contents

How Long Does Macaroni Salad Last?

Refrigerator
Macaroni salad3 to 4 days

Macaroni salad lasts 3 to 4 days in the fridge. But if any of the ingredients loses quality faster, or the dressing starts to separate after 1 to 2 days, the salad will deteriorate even sooner.

The 3 to 4 days recommendation is the same for other salads, so if you’re wondering how long does egg salad last or how long is tuna salad good for, I’ve spared you some googling.

Obviously, the salad might retain quality for an extra day or so, but any more than that, and you’re playing with fire. Unfortunately, one can’t always notice the first signs of spoilage, so it’s better to err on the side of caution here.

Tip

If you’re using a recipe you found online, read the author’s notes on storage. If the salad doesn’t retain quality for the usual 4 days, the author will surely mention that.

Salad dressing is another thing to keep in mind.

If you’re using a store-bought dressing, they keep texture quite well. But, what’s more probable, you’re making it from scratch. And if it’s one of those dressings that separate quickly, consider storing the salad without it and whipping more as you go.

Macaroni salad ingredients

How Long Can Macaroni Salad Sit Out?

Discard macaroni salad that sits at room temperature for more than 2 hours. That’s because bacteria multiply rapidly at temperatures between 40°F (5°C) and 140°F (60°C), and leaving food unrefrigerated for that long can lead to dangerous levels of bacteria that could cause illness.

Furthermore, if the temperature is above 90°F (32°C), that period shrinks to 1 hour.

What if you want to bring that macaroni salad to a picnic?

Well, you can take it out from the fridge right before leaving and eat it really soon, or use a portable refrigerator that’ll keep the salad nice and chilled for as long as you need.

(The same is true for other salads, so if you’re wondering how long coleslaw lasts out of the fridge, you now have the answer..)

Just cooked macaroni for macaroni salad

How to Store Macaroni Salad?

Store your macaroni salad in a sealed, airtight container in the fridge. If it’s in a big bowl, you can cover it with a lid, or simply wrap the top with aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Or figure out any other way that’ll keep the salad sealed.

When plating the salad, always use clean cutlery, especially if you expect leftovers that need to last for a few days. Double-dipping is out of the question as well.

If you’re serving the salad for dinner and expect leftovers, ask everyone to grab as much as they want and refrigerate the rest. You can always take the bowl or container from the fridge for additional helpings.

That’s especially important if you like to take your time during dinner or tend to leave food and plates on the table before you muster the motivation to clean up everything an hour later.

Last, if you forgot to rinse the pasta with cold water after cooking it (been there) and made the salad warm, wait until it cools to about room temperature before refrigerating it.

(The same is true when storing pasta salad.)

Now, let’s tackle whether freezing macaroni salad is an option.

Macaroni salad bowl wrapped with aluminum foil
If the salad is in a big bowl, wrap the top with aluminum foil

Can You Freeze Macaroni Salad?

You can freeze macaroni salad, but it doesn’t freeze well.

Typical ingredients of a macaroni salad, such as elbow pasta, fresh veggies, and a mayo-based dressing, all change texture after freezing. That’s why a thawed macaroni salad is a far cry from a fresh one.

If you take a typical macaroni salad recipe like this one, probably the only ingredient that freezes well without any extra prep is cooked egg yolks. The rest doesn’t.

Cooked pasta sticks together unless tossed with olive oil, fresh veggies go limp if not blanched, and mayonnaise or a dairy-based dressing separates. That’s just not a good mix.

Tip

If you cooked too much macaroni, make macaroni and cheese. Cooked mac and cheese doesn’t last long, but at least you have some variety and don’t have to eat macaroni salad four days in a row.

How to store macaroni salad container
A small container is great for leftovers

How to Tell If Macaroni Salad Is Bad?

Discard macaroni salad if:

  • It’s moldy. If you notice any white or grey fuzz on the surface, the salad is done for. Scraping the mold is a terrible idea.
  • It smells “funny” or off-putting. A salad that smells off is no good.
  • It sits in the fridge for more than 4 – 5 days.
  • It tastes bad. If everything else seems fine, it’s time to assess the flavor. Eat a small amount and decide if it’s good enough to eat or not.

As with other food products, if something about the salad seems off, trust your gut instinct and throw out the salad. Better safe than sorry.

Macaroni Salad Shelf Life and Spoilage Summary

Thank you for reading this short guide on macaroni salad. Here’s a brief recap of what we’ve covered above:

  • How long does macaroni salad last? Macaroni salad typically keeps for 3 to 4 days in the fridge. The only situation the shelf life is shorter is when some of the ingredients or the dressing lose quality sooner.
  • Can you freeze macaroni salad? Not really. Almost all of the usual ingredients don’t freeze well unless you specifically prepare them for freezing, and so does the mix of those ingredients.
  • When is macaroni salad bad? Toss macaroni salad that’s moldy, smells funny, or sits in storage for more than 4 to 5 days. If neither is true and the salad seems fine, eat a little and decide if it’s okay to eat based on that.