How Long is Pasta Salad Good For in the Fridge?

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If you’re familiar with my recipes, you know I’m a big fan of pasta and recently I’ve been on a pasta salad kick.

After all the recipe testing and developing I was left with too much pasta salad to eat and most of it ultimately ended up in my fridge. But how long is pasta salad good for in the fridge before it goes bad?

how long does pasta salad last in the fridge

Knowing how long pasta salad will last is a must for anyone who finds themselves with too many leftovers. I’ll not only explain what you need to know for proper storage, but I’ll also give some additional tips and best practices too.

How Long is Pasta Salad Good For in the Fridge?

First, let’s assume we’re talking about homemade pasta salads. Any salad that is store bought will have an expiration date sticker already on it.

But when you choose to make your own pasta salad there are times we need to keep it in the fridge, either to make it ahead of time or if we’re storing leftovers.

There are two main factors that impact the length of time you can keep a pasta salad refrigerated without going bad.

  • Ingredients used in the salad
  • Type of container for keeping your pasta salad fresh in the fridge

Let’s first talk about the ingredients.

What Ingredients Affect Storage and Shelf Life?

mayo and eggs in pasta salad

Pasta salads that contain mayonnaise will have a shorter life span due to the eggs and dairy used. You should not keep these types of salads in the fridge for longer than 2 days. None of my Italian pasta salads use mayo.

However, I’ve made the classic mayonnaise macaroni salad and certainly had leftovers where I needed to remember these guidelines. 

That doesn’t mean you’re off the hook even if your pasta only uses Italian dressing. Ingredients like ravioli will still contain cheese which is dairy. So, you still need to follow the guidelines.

If your pasta salad doesn’t have mayo or dairy but has meat or tuna such as my pasta salad with tuna recipe, then it will be good for 3 to 5 days.

However, if your pasta salad is meatless and uses fresh vegetables which most of my recipes do, then it can last for 5 to 7 days in the right container.

What if the pasta salad was left to sit out?

Many times, when we’re at picnics or get-togethers, we let our pasta salad sit out for an extended period of time. If it’s left to sit out in the heat, I would not recommend saving any of the leftovers.

How long can pasta salad sit out?

Bacteria grows quickly in the heat and especially with mayo-based pasta salads that are left out. The FDA recommends that foods needing refrigeration shouldn’t be left out for more than 2 hours. They stress this particularly for foods with meat, poultry, seafood, eggs or produce.

The FDA also warns that if the temperature is above 90F, then the time should be reduced to one hour. So, keep a close eye on how long you’re letting your pasta sit out.

What to do?

If you have a lot of pasta salad, don’t put it all out at once. Instead take out some and keep the rest refrigerated. Then as you need more, replenish the serving bowl with what you have in the fridge.

Secondly, if you’re where you don’t have access to refrigeration, such as at a park, then I’d recommend making sure you bring along a good cooler with ice to keep your ingredients safe from spoiling.

Signs of Spoilage

Just like any pasta recipe, warm or cold, always look for signs of spoilage before you decide to eat it as leftovers.

  • Smell: A sour or unpleasant odor is obviously a sign the pasta salad is starting to spoil. Remember that food can go bad without ever giving off a bad smell. So, while this is an indicator it’s not the only one.
  • Color: Changes in color, such as graying or browning, mean your pasta salad is spoiling.
  • Flavor: If the taste is off or not as expected, it’s best to play it safe and not eat the salad.
  • Mold or bacteria: Visible mold or a slimy texture are strong indicators that your pasta salad is no longer good to eat.

I use this saying all the time in our house, “If in doubt, toss it out”. It’s not worth the stomach aches, food poisoning, or a trip to the hospital.

How to Store Pasta Salad in the Fridge

We’ve talked about how long pasta salad is good for in the fridge, but what about how to store it in the fridge? I used to store my food in BPA-free containers, even using yogurt containers.

But over the years we’ve moved to using air-tight glass containers. Here’s a link you can use to check them out at Amazon.

I found that glass containers are not only better at keeping odors out, but they also keep the food fresher longer. The difference between pasta salad stored in a plastic container vs a glass container will be noticeable for these reasons.

I should also mention that glass containers keep the moisture from seeping out unlike plastic containers. If you’re not using glass storage containers, I strongly recommend making the switch. Your food will thank you!

Tips for Making and Enjoying Refrigerated Pasta Salad

To be extra safe, write the pack date on your refrigerated pasta salad.

Here are some helpful tips for making sure you pasta salad lasts as long as possible and remains good and safe while in the fridge.

  1. Non-mayo dressings such as Italian dressings will last longer inside and outside of the fridge.
  2. Avoid exposure to hot temperatures, especially outside.
  3. Storing the pasta salad overnight before use can help make the salad taste even better, as it sits in the Italian dressing and Italian herb marinade.
  4. If you want to serve with garnishes on top like fresh basil or parsley, add these when serving, but don’t omit them from the dressing due to reason #4.
  5. Cool the pasta completely before adding any mayo or dairy. This will avoid accidentally speeding up any bacterial growth.
  6. Mark the date when storing leftovers. Just like a store will mark their dates on their packaging, you can do the same if you’re not going to use up the leftovers quickly.

Can You Freeze Pasta Salad?

Yes, you can freeze pasta salad just as you’d freeze spaghetti. It’s not what I like to do, however. When freezing pasta salad, the texture can change depending on the type of pasta you’re using.

I’m not a food biologist, but I’ve done enough freezing of foods to know that freezing homemade pasta salad is not the best idea.

How Long Can You Freeze Pasta Salad?

If you absolutely need to store your pasta salad for an extended period, a good way to do so is freezing it in a freezer-safe container or a Ziploc freezer bag.

Also, according to the FDA, food can be stored indefinitely at 0 F, but understand that the quality of the food will decrease, such as flavor, aroma, and color.

If you’re freezing the pasta salad in preparation for an event, then I’d only partially freeze the pasta salad with ingredients that are not impacted by the freezer. But honestly, you might as well not freeze it and just make it ahead of time and refrigerate it a day or two before the event.

Also consider that if your salad has fresh vegetables such as zucchini or tomatoes, these will most certainly become soggy and mushy after being frozen and then thawed.

Can You Reheat Leftover Pasta Salad?

how to reheat pasta salad
This is my pasta salad with sausage that I reheated.

If the pasta salad is a warm pasta salad, then reheat over a stove on low heat with a drop of water. I reheated my sausage and pasta salad over the stove when I ate it the next day. See image above. It was delicious!

The only type of pasta I’ve had luck with, when reheating in a microwave, is pasta covered in my easy homemade spaghetti sauce. You can use the microwave for a minute or two. Just check that the pasta doesn’t dry out and become rubbery.

If you’re talking about a cold pasta salad, then you don’t need to reheat it, just let it sit out for about 15 minutes after taking it out of the fridge.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and that you’ve learned not only how long pasta salad is good for in the fridge but how to properly store it and keep it safe.

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How Long is Pasta Salad Good For in the Fridge?

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