How Long Does Coleslaw Last? How To Tell If It Go Bad?

Coleslaw is a famous vegetable that is widely known for its fresh, juicy taste, such as sandwiches or Tacos. Therefore, the food is usually bought or made homemade in bulk and stored in the refrigerator for further use.

However, there is one big disadvantage of coleslaw: it can turn spoiled quickly. It takes time and effort to lengthen the longevity of the greens.

Hence, in this post, let’s dive deep into the question “how long does coleslaw last” , as well as how to use and store it!

How Long Does Coleslaw Last?


Technically, coleslaw should be consumed within 2 hours after buying from the store (or making a homemade one) to keep the best taste. But you can extend its shelflife to max. 5 days by keeping it in an air-tight container, then put it into the refrigerator.

However, Coleslaw serves best when it is fresh, raw, and just harvested. The longer you keep the food, the higher chance it turns spoiled. Even though the low temperature, airtight, and preservatives can help lengthen the expiry date of the food, it will gradually lose the origin, authentic juiciness, and nutrition.

Therefore, you should use coleslaw as fast as possible. If you see discoloration, mold, or weird odor from the plant, please discard it immediately. For further information on “How to tell if shredded cabbage is bad?”, let’s discuss this in the third section!

Store-bought vs. Homemade

First, let’s discuss the difference between homemade and store bought coleslaw. Such a difference is also why we have to break the producing method of the coleslaw into one separate part.

Regarding the store-bought coleslaw, there will be two types: mass-produced coleslaw, which was sealed in boxes with preservatives. The second type is store-made coleslaw, which is usually made some hours before selling.

For the mass-produced one, the coleslaw contains a high amount of preservatives since it was designed by large corporations to sell for a long time, and they want to ensure that their product, no matter how long it is stored, can remain of good quality.

The store owners produce the store-made vegetables without preservatives. Thus, if you buy this one, you have to use it 1-2 days after the making. Otherwise, the food will turn spoiled.

Next, how long does homemade coleslaw last? In terms of homemade coleslaw, the feature is quite similar to store-made ones. They are fresh, raw, without preservatives. They all have a high chance of spoilage.

However, you can store the homemade coleslaw longer than the store-made since you can freeze, refrigerate, pickle the coleslaw to keep it longer. For the store-made one, you cannot freeze it to lengthen the longevity, right?

Opened vs. Unopened

Considering whether the coleslaw container is opened or not is also an important factor for evaluating the answer to the question “how long can you keep coleslaw”. In fact, when opening the container, you start getting the food exposed to air and the bacteria in the air.

There are lots of microorganisms and bacterias in the air, and also the debris. And the coleslaw, after being exposed to air, will be influenced by those external factors. Therefore, it will quickly turn spoiled in a short time.

To be specific, the mass-produced ones will decrease the longevity from (approximately) 7 days or half a month to 3 days. Meanwhile, the store-made or homemade can become inedible in 1 day.

Please keep in mind that the below figure is approximately estimated.


As mentioned above, there are three types of coleslaw. For the mass-produced ones, it is simple to know their expiry date: just look at the information at the bottom of the can or on the lid. Then, strictly follow the date as throwing the can after three days of expiring.

For the store-made and homemade coleslaw, it will last for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator. That is the period available for coleslaw if the temperature inside the fridge always remains between 35° and 38°F (or 1.7 to 3.3°C).

If you turn the heat to a higher range, then the expiry date can be one day earlier. In contrast, if the temperature range gets lower, you can use the coleslaw for 1 or 2 days later.

You may wonder, “How long is coleslaw good for at room temperature?”. Based on our experience, in typical conditions, the temperature inside a room will vary from 20–22 degrees Celsius (68–72  degrees Fahrenheit).

That being said, how long does coleslaw last? Unfortunately, we have to inform you that the coleslaw will last for a maximum of 2 hours if left in that condition. The bacteria will quickly multiply, and after 2 hours, the amount of microorganisms reaches the level that the food is inedible.

How To Tell If Coleslaw Is Bad?


Typically, coleslaw does not have a strong smell. Based on our experience, it doesn’t even have a smell. For the one that is refrigerated or frozen, the moist evaporates, so does the smell.

Hence, if you can figure out the smell from the coleslaw, then there must be something off with the food. This is typical logic, right? There is a change in the food, so there is a change in smell.

You have to check the food then. Carefully seek spoiling signals such as mold, changing colors, etc. Most of the time, we advise you to throw away the food if you hear any weird smell.


The “normal” coleslaw has a mix of white-light green colors. There is a coleslaw variant with the purple-white mix, too. If you see the coleslaw has any color except these two combinations, then the greens definitely have some problems.

Most of the time, the vegetables will turn from light green to yellow when they are older. The older, the more yellow. In this case, the coleslaw is still edible.

Suppose that your coleslaw has some dark brown or black spots, then don’t mistake that it is just old. That is the sign of stinking or bacteria infection. For those vegetables, you must throw them away immediately!


Like other greens, when the coleslaw is spoiled, the mold will slowly appear. It is easy to spot the mold because they usually appear as a big, black, or gray heap at the corner of the leaf.

When the mold appears, the food is now inedible. Not only it loses the original taste, but also it gets infected by bacteria. You have to throw the coleslaw with mold decay; otherwise, if others eat it, they will have a serious stomachache or even food poisoning!


How To Tell If Coleslaw Is Bad

How Should I Store Coleslaw?

Coleslaw is a delicate green with short longevity. Hence, just like any other fragile plant, please keep it in a cool environment as fast as possible. The ideal place to keep the coleslaw is in a refrigerator at 35 degrees Fahrenheit.

Additionally, if your coleslaw is creamy-based or vinegar-based, you must keep them at a lower temperature immediately after making it. The less you expose the food to air, the longer it stays.

Typically, we will keep the coleslaw in sealed containers or airtight bags to prevent bacteria and air exposure.

Can I Eat Old, Spoilt Coleslaw?

We always recommend you to eat coleslaw after buying it to remain the best, original flavor. However, suppose that you, unfortunately, let the food spoiled, then, is it edible anymore?

The coleslaw, even after its expiry date, is edible. But that period is quite short, about 1 – 2 days. However, its taste is not as tasty and fresh, or original.

After that range, please throw it in the trash since the food can start developing harmful bacterias, and there will be strange odors.

Can You Freeze Store Bought Coleslaw?

Yes, you can! The coleslaw, originally, has a fresh and sweet flavor. Its texture is delicate and watery, which you should serve when raw. Thus, we did not recommend you to freeze the coleslaw as its unique juiciness will be lost.

However, in fact, you can freeze the coleslaw. It is still edible, but the taste changes. In case you have to freeze the coleslaw, then we advise you to serve frozen coleslaw with mayonnaise or vinegar-based dressings.

What Can I Do With Spoilt Coleslaw?

We always want the coleslaw we have bought to be fresh, edible, and tasty. However, if we accidentally store it improperly, and the coleslaw turns spoiled, what should you do then?

As mentioned above, you can eat the old coleslaw when it does not expire for more than two days. However, if the old, less-than-2-day expired plant has a weird odor and mold, please discard it immediately.

When the coleslaw has been spoiled for more than two days, then it’s a must to throw the plant away. It is inedible, harmful, and toxic at the same time.

If you are planting, then you can use the spoiled coleslaw as compost manure.

Bottom Line

Through this article, we have found out the answer to the question “how long does coleslaw last” and how to store it properly. Please remember that the coleslaw can last for a short time and turn spoiled quickly at room temperature, so consider this point when keeping your fresh, raw coleslaw.

All the figures mentioned above are just approximate since the unexpected incident can happen anytime and affect the status of the coleslaw.

Hope this post provides you with resourceful insights on cooking. Good luck and enjoy your cooking!

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