Does Coleslaw Go Bad? How Long Does Coleslaw Last?

Although coleslaw may be a delightful summer salad, it does not stay good for very long, meaning that you have a somewhat brief window of time to eat it.  This begs the question, exactly how long does coleslaw last?

Quick Answer

Coleslaw tends to go bad somewhat quickly.  Its exact shelf life depends on a couple of things.

  • Homemade coleslaw and opened store-bought coleslaw will last in the fridge for three to five days.
  • Unopened store-bought coleslaw will last in the fridge for a day or two past its best-by date.
  • Frozen coleslaw will stay good for about three months.
  • Coleslaw left at room temperature will go bad within two hours.

Regardless of how you store it, coleslaw has a pretty short shelf life.  This means that if you have coleslaw to store, you should learn how to store it right.

Does Coleslaw Go Bad? How Long Does Coleslaw Last?

Coleslaw goes bad somewhat quickly, but exactly how quickly depends on where you store it.  Storage conditions play a big part in any food’s shelf life.

How Long Does Coleslaw Last Outside

You should avoid having your coleslaw at room temperature as much as possible, as it will spoil quickly.  Coleslaw can only last up to two hours at room temperature.

Coleslaw is meant to be eaten cold, and for good reason.  The ingredients spoil rather quickly at room temperature, meaning that within just a few hours it can become unfit for consumption.

If you aren’t going to eat your coleslaw right away, you should always refrigerate it as soon as you’ve finished making it, or as soon as you get home if you’ve purchased it.  Leaving it out can cause it to degrade quickly.

How Long Does Coleslaw Last in the Fridge

The best place to store coleslaw is in the fridge.  Even so, it won’t last very long.  Coleslaw tends to only last for three to five days when refrigerated, whether it’s homemade or opened store-bought coleslaw.

If you have store-bought coleslaw that hasn’t been opened yet, your best bet is to go by the best-buy date.  While it may stay good for a day or two beyond that, it won’t be good much longer.

For best results, refrigerate your coleslaw right away, and keep it in an airtight container to prevent it from picking up odors from other foods, and from drying out.

How Long Does Coleslaw Last in the Freeze

If you have way too much coleslaw, or if you just need to keep it good for a long time, you may be able to freeze it.  Frozen coleslaw can last up to three months.

Of course, whether you can freeze coleslaw will depend on what exactly is in it (see “Can You Freeze Coleslaw?  How?” below).  Even if you can freeze it, the quality is likely to degrade.

Although coleslaw frozen for longer than three months will most likely still be safe for consumption, the ingredients may separate and become watery, meaning that there is a good chance it won’t be very good.

As delicious as coleslaw can be, it does not store very well, so it may be in your best interest to eat it right away.  Otherwise, you will have to take care to store it correctly.

How To Tell If Coleslaw Has Gone Bad / How To Know Coleslaw is Fresh

If all this talk of coleslaw’s short shelf life has you worried, you may be wondering how you can tell if your coleslaw has gone bad.  Fortunately, there are a few ways to tell if it is spoiled:

Mold.  As soon as you see mold, the whole salad has to go.  This is a very clear sign of spoiled coleslaw.

Discoloration.  Dark spots or any other sign of discoloration can indicate spoilage.  If you see any, you should throw it out.

Odor.  Some coleslaw has a naturally sour smell due to the ingredients.  However, if the smell changes or is noticeably off, you should throw it out.

Age.  If your coleslaw has been stored for a long time, or has been left at room temperature for a long time, it should probably be thrown away.

Taste.  If you’ve checked everything but still can’t tell if your coleslaw has gone bad, you can taste a little bit to determine whether you still want to eat it.

There are a few other changes that coleslaw will inevitably go through.  It’s important to note that the following do not mean it has gone bad:

Watery salad.  Coleslaw will become watery after some time, but that does not mean it has gone bad.  It is still safe to eat, although it may not be very good.

Wilted veggies.  The vegetables in coleslaw won’t stay fresh for very long.  They may wilt quickly, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad.  You can still eat them.

How to Store Coleslaw? 100+ words

Now that we know coleslaw has a short shelf life, it’s important to determine how to keep it good for as long as possible.  Here are some things you should always do:

Keep it in the fridge.  The fridge is the best place to store coleslaw, as it will go bad quickly at room temperature, and frozen coleslaw may degrade in quality.

Use an airtight container.  Storing your coleslaw in an airtight container can prevent possible contamination and keep it from drying out.

Here are a few suggestions to keep your homemade coleslaw good longer:

Pre-wilt your vegetables.  With minimal research, you can find some very easy ways to wilt your veggies before you make your coleslaw, which will prevent them from becoming watery later.

Store the veggies and dressing separately.  If you’re preparing coleslaw for a meal you want to have later, try storing your veggies and dressing separately and mixing them just before serving.

Can You Freeze Coleslaw? How?

Thinking of freezing your coleslaw?  Here’s what you should know:

Mayonnaise doesn’t freeze well.  If your coleslaw is made with mayonnaise, you may not want to freeze it.  Mayonnaise is not known to freeze well and is likely to separate.  While you can still freeze it if you  want to, it may not be very good.

Oil and vinegar freeze well.  Unlike mayonnaise, oil and vinegar tend to freeze well without issue.  If your coleslaw is made with oil and vinegar instead of mayonnaise, you should be fine to freeze it.

Use an airtight, freezer-safe container.  Coleslaw should always be stored in an airtight container.  You should also make sure that whatever container you use is freezer-safe.

A freezer bag is best.  It is recommended that you use a freezer bag to freeze coleslaw, so that you can squeeze the extra air out of it before freezing.

Store for up to three months.  Frozen coleslaw tends to stay good for up to three months.

How to Thaw Coleslaw?

To thaw frozen coleslaw, just put it in the fridge and allow it to thaw overnight.  Thawed coleslaw will stay good for about two to three days, and will likely be pretty watery, so you may want to drain the water.

Alternatively, you can try eating frozen coleslaw!  Some people really like it, so it may be worth a try if you haven’t had it before.

Frequently Asked Questions About Coleslaw’s Shelf Life

Since coleslaw can be somewhat particular when you store it, there are some questions you may still have about its shelf life.

Can you freeze dry coleslaw mix?  Yes, you can freeze dry coleslaw mix.  The process for this is the same as freezing other coleslaw.  Transfer it to a freezer bag, squeeze the air out, and put it in the freezer.  Let it thaw in the fridge overnight and use it within two to three days of thawing.

Can you freeze fast-food coleslaw (like KFC)?  Some fast-food restaurants have good coleslaw.  KFC in particular is known for their coleslaw, so some people like to try to store their leftovers.  Yes, fast-food coleslaw can be frozen using the same processes already discussed.  Be sure to transfer it to a freezer bag, as the container it comes in is not suitable for the freezer.

Wrap Up

Coleslaw is a summer-time favorite with a very short window to enjoyment.  Be sure to eat it as quickly as possible, and if you can’t eat it right away, take care to store it properly and keep it cold.


Leave a Reply