Does Salad Dressing Go Bad?

When it comes to dressing a salad, the possibilities are almost endless. Whether you choose a tangy vinaigrette or a creamy ranch, you are probably wondering if that dressing goes bad. Let’s find out.

Salad dressing does go bad. How fast it goes bad depends on the ingredients in the dressing and whether or not it has been opened. Each bottle comes with a “best-by” date and that is your best indicator of when you will get the best quality from the product. Both opened and unopened dressings can last for 1 to 4 months after the best-by date. This varies slightly depending on the type of dressing. Vinaigrette dressings last a little longer than creamy dressings such as ranch.


With so many types of salad dressing available, you may have some questions about how to best maintain the quality of your favorite salad dressings for as long as possible. Read on to find out how.

Does Salad Dressing Go Bad? How Long Does Salad Dressing Last?

Salad dressing is sold at room temperature but always says refrigerate after opening. This may be confusing so I have included how long salad dressing can last when stored three different ways.

How Long Does Salad Dressing Last Outside?

Salad dressing that is sold unrefrigerated and has been unopened can remain good in the pantry for 1 to 4 months past the sell-by date.

The shelf life in the pantry depends on the type of dressing. Vinaigrette type dressings last longer than creamy dressings like ranch and blue cheese.

Proper storage is imperative to extending the shelf life of the unopened salad dressing. Keep it in a pantry or cupboard away from light and heat.

How Long Does Salad Dressing Last In The Refrigerator

Salad dressing should be stored in the refrigerator once it has been opened. In the fridge, it will retain good quality for about three months.

If it has expired, it can still be good for a month or two after the expiration date if it has been properly stored.

Store it in the original container and make sure the lid is on tight. If the lid has been cracked and the dressing is exposed to air, it may go bad faster.

How Long Does Salad Dressing Last In The Freezer

Salad dressing can be frozen and some freeze better than others. However, freezing them does not necessarily increase the shelf life so there is not much need for freezing dressing.

Oil-based salad dressing does okay in the freezer but you may see some separation upon thawing. If that happens, give it a quick shake or whisk it well once thawed and it will be good to go.

Dairy-based salad dressings freeze but do not thaw well. When it is thawed, it separates and sometimes curdles and no amount of whisking will fix it.

Storing unopened salad dressing on the counter is perfectly acceptable and storing it in the refrigerator after opening is a must. Freezing salad dressing is not the best option especially when it comes to creamy dressings.

How To Tell If Salad Dressing Has Gone Bad/How To Know If Salad Dressing Is Fresh

The best indicator that your salad dressing is good is taking a look at the “best by” date printed on every bottle of salad dressing. If it’s been opened and you’re unsure if it has gone bad, there are some things to look for to help you determine whether or not it is safe to eat.

Smell it: Dressing that has gone bad will have an odor. Blue cheese dressing will smell noxious. Oil-based dressings may smell rancid. Other dressings may just smell off or develop an unpleasant odor. If you notice any of these, throw them out.

Look at it: If your blue cheese dressing has developed a slimy, fuzzy, pinkish layer, it is no good. If your creamy dressings look different or develop mold, get rid of them. Bad vinaigrette dressing can also present mold. If you can’t tell by look alone, try another method or err on the safe side and throw it out.

What if it’s separating?: Salad dressing can begin to separate. If it is an oil-based dressing, some separation is normal and you just need to shake it and serve. Dairy-based dressings, separation is a sign of degradation of quality. You can try to shake/stir it but if it still doesn’t look right, throw it out.

How To Store Salad Dressing:

Salad dressing has different storage needs based on whether or not it has been opened and if it was bought unrefrigerated or not.

Bought unrefrigerated and unopened: Salad dressing that is bought unrefrigerated and unopened can be stored in a cool dark place such as a pantry.

Bought unrefrigerated and opened: Salad dressing that was bought unrefrigerated but has been opened, needs to be stored in the refrigerator with the lid tightly sealed.

Bought refrigerated: If it was bought from the refrigerator section then it needs to be kept in the refrigerator regardless of if it has been opened or not.

Can You Freeze Salad Dressing?

As previously mentioned, it is not necessary nor is it ideal to freeze salad dressings.

Oil-based dressings: Oil-based salad dressings do alright in the freezer. When the dressing begins to thaw, the oil and vinegar may separate. Given a good shake, or by using a whisk, the ingredients should recombine into a usable salad dressing.

Dairy-based dressings: Dairy-based salad dressings freeze as anything else would but the problem comes with it is time to thaw it. The ingredients separate when it is thawed and it is impossible to get them to recombine. Also, the dairy dressing can curdle ruining the whole bottle.

How To Thaw Salad Dressing

The only dressing that can be frozen is an oil-based dressing such as vinaigrettes can be frozen. If you choose to freeze some, here is how to thaw them out.

In the refrigerator: You can thaw out your frozen oil-based dressing by placing it in the refrigerator overnight.

On the countertop: This method will thaw it out a little faster. Simply take the bottle and sit it on the countertop away from hot appliances and out of the sunlight.

In a warm bath: You can place the bottle of salad dressing in a bath of warm water to help it thaw a little faster. This will also help warm the oil to help the ingredients recombine in case they separate.

Frequently Asked Questions About Salad Dressing’s Shelf Life

I left my dairy-based dressing out overnight. Is it okay to use?: Dairy-based or cream-based dressings such as ranch, blue cheese, Greek yogurt dressings, and Caesar should be thrown away after being left out for over two hours. Dairy-based dressings that have been left unrefrigerated for over two hours can run the risk of giving you food poisoning so it would be best to throw it out.

I left my oil-based dressing out overnight. Is it okay to use?: Oil-based salad dressings such as Italian and vinaigrettes contain natural preservatives that help keep them safe to eat for several hours if they are left out. If the dressing does not contain vegetables, fruit juice, cream, or mayonnaise, it doesn’t need to be refrigerated and can be used if left out.


There are several types of salad dressing available and they have different lengths of shelf life depending on their ingredients. I hope this article gave you the information needed to keep your dressings as fresh as possible.

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