Does Salad Dressing Go Bad?

Does salad dressing go bad or not? Obviously, it does, but how do you tell? It depends if it's dry mix, unrefrigerated or refrigerated salad dressing.

Have you stocked up on salad dressing with a plan to be super healthy, only to have accidentally forgotten all about that half-open bottle?

Don’t worry – we’ve all been there, and today, we’re running through all the different types of salad dressing, how to store them, and how to tell if they’ve gone bad.

What’s the deal?

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The Different Types Of Salad Dressing: How To Tell If They’ve Gone Bad

homemade salad dressing

There are loads of different types of salad dressing. From Caesar to vinaigrette to French to Italian.

Here’s the good news: for storage purposes and telling if they’ve gone bad, there are basically only three categories you have to worry about.

How To Tell If Dry Mix Salad Dressing Has Gone Bad

Dry mix salad dressing is the stuff you need to mix with water before you pour it over your salad.

If you’ve opted for a dry mix salad dressing, this should be fine as long as water hasn’t gotten in. If it has, you’ll see clumps and maybe even mold. Those are signs you should chuck your dry mix immediately.

How To Tell If Unrefrigerated Salad Dressing Has Gone Bad

salad dressing brands

It’s really easy to tell if your dressing is classed as unrefrigerated. Basically, if it’s not sold in the chilled section of the grocery store, and the storage instructions don’t say you need to refrigerate it, then it’s unrefrigerated salad dressing.

You need to check for any changes in appearance, smell, and taste – in that order. Look for mold, and check for any changes in odor. If those both look fine, you should be fine to give it a little taste.

If your unrefrigerated salad dressing has gone bad, it might not taste nice, but trying a little is unlikely to do you any harm.

One thing to note: separation in unrefrigerated salad dressing that has oil and balsamic vinegar in is completely normal. It’s not a sign of going bad or rancidity.

How To Tell If Refrigerated Salad Dressing Has Gone Bad

You might have guessed – refrigerated salad dressing is the type you’ll find in the chilled section of the supermarket.

This stuff is refrigerated, usually because it has fewer preservatives, so it keeps for less time. Therefore, you should be extra vigilant in checking for problems. Here’s what you should check for:

  • Mold
  • Separation: In refrigerated, dairy-based salad dressings, like blue cheese dressing, separation is an indication that the dressing is old, though not necessarily bad. Give it a mix and have a taste to make sure!
  • Changes in smell
  • A rancid taste: Rancidity is a term used to describe food with oils and fats in that have oxidized with the oxygen in the air. This causes a bitter taste and smell. While rancid foods aren’t unsafe to eat, they’re definitely not tasty!

How To Store Your Salad Dressing

pouring salad dressing into salad

You should store dry mix dressing in the pantry or kitchen cupboard and seal tightly after opening. Leftover dry mix is fine to stay in the cabinet, but you may need to transfer it to an airtight container.

As for leftover salad dressing made from dry mix, keep it in an airtight container or resealable bottle in the refrigerator.

Bottled unrefrigerated salad dressings should be kept in a cool, dry, dark place, away from light or heat sources. Especially if your dressing is in a clear bottle, it should be kept away from light.

Once you’ve opened your previously unrefrigerated salad dressing, you should reseal the bottle and store it in the refrigerator.

You guessed it – refrigerated salad dressings should be stored in the refrigerator. If you’re ever in doubt whether your salad dressing is refrigerated or unrefrigerated, storing it in the refrigerator won’t do either salad dressing any harm!

Now: you shouldn’t freeze salad dressing, as the texture will change after thawing. That said, feel free to freeze salad dressing that’s in a dish – like marinated meat.

One last thing – if you’re salad dressing isn’t a squeezy bottle, and you need to use utensils to scoop it out, then don’t double-dip, and always use clean utensils.

Salad Dressing Storage Periods

different salad dressings

As for all salad dressings, you should go by the best by and expiration dates on the packaging to be completely confident your dressing is safe and delicious.

That said, dry mixes will degrade in quality after the best-by date but should be good for at least three months.

Unopened unrefrigerated salad dressing will last at least two weeks after its expiration date. Once it’s open, you should use it within 3-6 months.

Refrigerated salad dressing lasts between two weeks and two months. The variance in storage periods is due to different ingredients and preservatives being used.

Although refrigerated dressings don’t last ages, the good news is that opening them doesn’t make them degrade any faster.

If you’re making your own salad dressing, expect it to last about 3-5 days in an airtight container or bottle in the refrigerator. As for dressing made from dry mix, it will last one week in the refrigerator.

The Round-Up On Salad Dressing

There are lots of different types of salad dressings out there, but for storage purposes, you only need to know about three categories:

  • Dry mix: Keep this in the pantry or kitchen cupboard, whether opened or unopened. Just make sure you reseal the packaging after!
  • Unrefrigerated salad dressing: Keep it in the pantry before opening it and in the fridge after, where it will last for 3-6 months.
  • Refrigerated salad dressing: Go by the expiration or best-by date here because there’s a huge variance in ingredients, manufacturing processes, and preservatives. However, in general, you can expect these salad dressings to last two weeks to two months in the refrigerator.

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Alisa Shimoyama

Alisa eats her way around the world on her travels and likes to have good food ready and waiting for her when she gets back.