Food conservation

How to Tell if Lettuce Has Gone Bad

Elsie Goycoolea
By Elsie Goycoolea. Updated: January 20, 2017
How to Tell if Lettuce Has Gone Bad

Lettuce is a green leafy vegetable that is often consumed raw in salads. Fresh lettuce is a popular ingredient high in vitamins, minerals and water content that you can use to make refreshing and nutritious salads. Since it is a food that can easily turn bad it is helpful to know if the lettuce bag in your fridge is still edible.

In this OneHowTo article we will tell you what are the key signs to look for in a lettuce that has gone bad.

Steps to follow:


To know if lettuce has gone bad, the first thing you notice is that its leaves will lose its vibrant coloring and turn brown, gray or black. Different varieties of lettuce have distinct colors. For instance, Romaine and Iceberg lettuce are light green to yellow and Radicchio lettuce tends to be mild to strong purple color. Other varieties such as Red Coral lettuce will have a combination of green and purple tones.


Fresh lettuce will smell earthy and sometimes aromatic. If it has gone bad it will start smelling strong and very unpleasant. Lettuce doesn’t naturally have a strong smell so any nasty smell is a strong indicator. Storing lettuce in a well-ventilated and cool place, preferably in the fridge, will help to prevent lettuce going bad.


Lettuce leaves that are sticky, bending and soft will probably have gone bad. Buying pre-washed lettuce bags that have not been dried appropriately can easily make your lettuce lose its crispiness and firmness.



Lettuce leaves are usually mild and taste very watery. Take a leave that looks edible and try it. If leaves taste rancid and sour you must discard it. Some lettuce such as Endives or Arugula will taste highly bitter due to having less water content. That is normal and you are good to enjoy them in your salad.

How to Tell if Lettuce Has Gone Bad - Step 4

A full head of lettuce will last no more than 10 days in the fridge. Pre-cut lettuce leaves will usually spoil faster and will not last more than 3 to 4 days. Keeping a record of when you bought the lettuce will give you an indicator of how soon you must eat it to enjoy its full on nutritional qualities. Buying a head of lettuce is usually the best option to have fresh leaves for a longer period.

How to Tell if Lettuce Has Gone Bad - Step 5

Lettuce that is not stored in the fridge will rot precipitately. As soon as it is purchased it must be thoroughly washed, preferably dried with a salad spinner to remove excess moisture and stored in a plastic bag with a paper towel in the fridge. Washing will reduce any bacteria and pathogens that may cause food borne illnesses.

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You may also be interested in identifying other foods that may go bad such as eggs, seafood or meat.

If you want to read similar articles to How to Tell if Lettuce Has Gone Bad, we recommend you visit our Food & drink category.


  • The best place to keep your lettuce to prevent it from going bad is in your fridge's vegetable drawers.
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How to Tell if Lettuce Has Gone Bad