When does Lettuce go Bad (How to tell if Lettuce is Bad )? Signs and Tips

Do you struggle to keep your lettuce fresh in your refrigerator? What seems crunchy and just-picked-from-the-farm vegetables at the supermarket takes only two days to get all sloggy at home. 

Lettuce is a delightful summery food that takes the prime spot in all your salad preparations. It is healthy, hydrating, and packed with Vitamin K and A.

But, preserving this vegetable at home for a long is not quite simple. Whether you buy pre-cut lettuce leaves or full heads, they seem to turn into sludge quickly. But can you eat them anyway? How to tell if the lettuce is bad? Is there a way to store it properly?

Well, we will guide you with some telltale signs that indicate that lettuce has gone bad. This article will also share tips and tricks on storing lettuce properly for longer. 

How to Tell if Lettuce is Bad

When does Lettuce go Bad

First things, first! If you have lettuce lying in your fridge, you should know how to tell if the lettuce is bad or good. There are many factors to keep in mind while identifying decaying lettuce:

  • Brown or Black Leaves

If you notice brown or black leaves in a bunch, it is an indication of rot. Likewise, discoloration in leaves indicates that the vegetable is not fresh anymore. 

Fresh lettuce typically has light-green or yellow leaves. However, some varieties like Red Coral will have bright purple leaves when fresh. These may turn dark purple or brown when rotten. 

Discoloration of leaves is the first sign that lettuce has gone bad. It may also feel slimy to touch and emit a foul odor. 

If you find brown spots on some leaves and the rest appear healthy, you can still eat them. These brown spots are not harmful if eaten.

When does Lettuce go Bad

  • Strong, Rancid Smell

If it is emitting a strong, rancid smell, then it is an indication that the lettuce has gone bad and needs to be thrown. Fresh vegetable usually has no smell. Lettuce emitting a pungent smell is also rotten. 

It is quite easy to detect rotten lettuce from its bad smell. However, you may also find discolored and slimy leaves along with a foul smell.

  • Wilting Leaves

Aging lettuce will not have firm or crisp leaves. Instead, the leaves will appear droopy, soft, and wrinkled. Aging lettuce may not have rotten yet, but the wilting leaves indicate it is not fresh anymore and almost spoiling. 

Before turning brown, its leaves will first wilt. You can either use it right away or discard it. But, if you store it for a day more, it can rot. 

Wilted lettuce is safe to eat. However, to restore some of the lost crispiness, you can soak it in ice water for half an hour.

  • Wet Leaves

If the leaves are wet or have a sticky or slippery substance on them, it indicates the decaying process. You will find moisture on the leaves, and the texture may be slimy.

Wet leaves are still safe to eat, but they may not taste delicious. 

  • Swollen or Puffy Bags of Lettuce

If you have stored lettuce leaves in bags that appear swollen or puffy, it indicates that the lettuce is rotting inside. This is because the moisture escaping the leaves will settle on the bag’s insides, and the bag will be wet when you open. 

The moisture inside the bag creates the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and mold. Therefore, you should discard the lettuce right away and not eat it, even if it does not smell bad.

  • Sour Taste

If all seems fine, taste the lettuce if you are doubtful. If it tastes bad, then the lettuce has gone bad. You may get a nasty and rancid taste and might want to spit it out. 

Do not eat the lettuce if it tastes sour. Throw it away at once.

The above are some telltale signs that lettuce is bad.

How to Store Lettuce Properly?

Fresh lettuce, when stored properly, usually stays put for 7 to 10 days in the refrigerator. However, if you often struggle to store your lettuce properly, here are some tips on enhancing the lifespan of your lettuce leaves.

  • Store lettuce in the fridge keeping the heads intact

You might want to chop off the heads of lettuce while storing them in the fridge. But, keeping the full heads intact ensures longer life than storing individual leaves.

This way of storage is quite easy as you don’t need to do anything. Just leave the lettuce intact and place them in a dry spot in your refrigerator. You will be able to store your leaves for ten days this way.

Place the leaves in a vegetable crisper or vegetable drawer to ensure freshness. 

Another option is to wrap the leaves in a paper towel to absorb any moisture.

Also, keep lettuce away from bananas and tomatoes, as these fruits produce ethylene that can damage the leaves.

  • Store loose leaves in a paper-lined plastic container

A great way to store lettuce in the fridge is to place 2 to 3 layers of paper towels inside a plastic container and store the leaves in-between the paper towels. 

The paper will absorb damaging moisture and ensure freshness for a long. Seal the plastic container with a lid to keep the moisture and gas from damaging the leaves.

This option is better for pre-cut leaves. If you do not have a plastic container, you can store it this way in a plastic bag lined with a paper towel. 

  • Storing in the Refrigerator Properly

Ensure that you store your lettuce in a dry spot in the refrigerator away from ethylene-producing fruits such as tomatoes and bananas. 

Also, do not store lettuce in the back of the refrigerator as the cold from the freezer can damage the leaves. 

You may place your lettuce in the freezer as well. Although it will not remain crisp, it can still be consumed for cooking.

  • Replace Paper Towels Daily

When you have stored lettuce leaves in a plastic container or plastic bag lined with paper towels, you will have to replace the paper towels daily. This is because the moisture emanating from the leaves will be damp, and damp paper will not keep the lettuce fresh. This will help to keep your lettuce fresher for longer.

  • Dry the leaves completely before storing them in the refrigerator

If you have leftover lettuce leaves, they need to be free from moisture before placing them in the refrigerator again. 

If you have a salad spinner, place the leaves in the spinner until they are dehydrated and store them in the fridge.


So, this was all about lettuce storage and how to tell if it has gone bad. Keep these points in mind to know whether you can consume the lettuce lying in your fridge or not. These tips will help you prevent wastage and eat fresh.

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