How do you know when a spaghetti squash is bad?

Spaghetti squash is a type of winter squash that, when cooked, separates into noodle-like strands that resemble spaghetti. It has become a popular lower-carb and gluten-free alternative to traditional pasta. However, like any fresh produce, spaghetti squash can spoil and become unsafe to eat. Here are some tips on how to tell if your spaghetti squash has gone bad.

What are the signs of a bad spaghetti squash?

There are several clear visual and textural signs that indicate your spaghetti squash has spoiled and should be discarded:

  • Mold growth – Any fuzzy or slimy mold on the rind is a sign of spoilage.
  • Sunken, soft spots – These indicate microbial growth underneath the rind.
  • Shriveled rind – A severely shriveled, dried out rind signals dehydration and rotting of the flesh.
  • Brown or black mushy spots – Soft, watery areas that are discolored mean the squash has begun to decompose.
  • Strong fermented smell – A sour, unpleasant smell means the squash is rotting and should not be eaten.
  • Slimy or mushy flesh – If the inside of the squash is very soft and slimy, it has gone bad.

In general, any pits, growths, dark spots, or damage to the rind or flesh are signs that the spaghetti squash is past its prime and potentially unsafe to eat. Rots and molds can cause food poisoning.

How to tell if a whole, uncut spaghetti squash is bad?

With whole, uncut spaghetti squash, look for these signs of spoilage:

  • Soft or sunken spots on the rind.
  • Mold growth anywhere on the surface.
  • Punctures, cracks, or large bruised areas on the rind.
  • A very shriveled or dried out appearance.
  • Liquid oozing from any part of the squash.

Give the spaghetti squash a gentle squeeze. If it feels overly soft or collapsed, that’s a sign of rotting inside. Discard any whole squash that shows these signs of deterioration.

How to tell if cut spaghetti squash is bad?

Once a spaghetti squash is cut open, it is more vulnerable to spoilage. Signs that cut spaghetti squash has gone bad include:

  • Slimy, discolored flesh.
  • Mushy, translucent appearance.
  • Foul, sulfurous odor.
  • Mold growth on the surface.
  • Liquid oozing from cut sections.

The cut surfaces also dry out faster. If the exposed flesh is very dried out and shriveled, the squash is past its prime. When in doubt, discard cut spaghetti squash that is more than 5 days old.

How long does spaghetti squash last?

Properly stored, a whole, uncut spaghetti squash will generally last:

  • At room temperature – 2 to 3 weeks
  • In the refrigerator – 1 to 2 months

Once cut open, spaghetti squash will keep for:

  • In the refrigerator – 5 to 7 days
  • In the freezer – 10 to 12 months

Freezing lets you keep fresh spaghetti squash significantly longer. Thoroughly cook, cool, and drain the squash strands before freezing in airtight containers.

What happens if you eat bad spaghetti squash?

Eating spoiled, rotten spaghetti squash can cause foodborne illness. The main risks are:

  • Salmonella – A bacteria that causes diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps.
  • E. coli – Causes severe stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Botulism – Rare but dangerous paralysis from a toxin that attacks the nervous system.
  • Listeria – Causes fever, muscle aches, nausea, and diarrhea.

Other common symptoms are nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and dizziness. See a doctor right away if experiencing these after eating spaghetti squash.

Some molds that grow on spoiled produce also release toxins called mycotoxins. These can cause illness even if the mold is cut away. It’s unsafe to eat moldy spaghetti squash.

How to store spaghetti squash properly?

To extend the shelf life of fresh spaghetti squash and prevent premature spoilage:

  • Store whole squash in a cool, dry place. Avoid hot places like near appliances.
  • Do not refrigerate uncut winter squash. The cold damages the rind.
  • Wash just before cutting to limit moisture on the rind.
  • Use cut squash within 5 days. Refrigerate in a container or bag.
  • Cook squash strands before freezing. Drain well and freeze in airtight bags.
  • Do not can or jar spaghetti squash at home. The pH is unsafe for room temp storage.
  • Compost spoiled squash rather than eating it.

What do spaghetti squashes look like when they go bad?

Here are the distinct visual signs of spoiled spaghetti squash:

  • Mold – Fuzzy mold growing anywhere on the surface.
  • Shriveled – A severely shriveled and dried out rind.
  • Sunken – Soft, water-soaked spots sinking into the rind.
  • Bruised – Large brown or black battered spots.
  • Punctures – Holes, cracks, or splits in the rind from injury.
  • Ooze – Liquid seeping from the stem or rind.
  • Collapsed – Very soft, misshapen, or collapsed appearance.

The flesh inside a rotten spaghetti squash will be slimy, foul smelling, and discolored yellow, grey, or black. Never eat a spaghetti squash that shows these clear warning signs.

What does spoiled spaghetti squash smell like?

A rotten, spoiled spaghetti squash gives off an unpleasant, sour odor. Some descriptions of foul spoiled spaghetti squash smells:

  • Vinegar-like
  • Fermented
  • Sulfurous
  • Ammonia-like
  • Rotten eggs
  • Putrid
  • Alcoholic
  • Moldy earthiness

The stench of decay is a sure sign the spaghetti squash has begun to decompose and should be thrown away. Even a mild spoilage odor indicates it’s unsafe to eat.

Can you save a spaghetti squash that has begun to spoil?

It’s not recommended to try to save a spaghetti squash that shows any signs of mold, rotting, or other spoilage. The decaying process cannot be reversed, and the squash will continue deteriorating. Consuming any part of a spoiled squash is a health risk.

Partial spoilage also makes the entire squash questionable. Bacteria and toxins can spread from rotten spots into surrounding healthy-looking flesh. Erring on the side of caution, you should discard the entire squash if any part of it looks or smells bad.

What are the white spots on my spaghetti squash?

Small white spots on the rind of a spaghetti squash may be caused by one of two things:

  • Lenticels – Tiny natural pores on the squash rind for gas exchange.
  • Scarring – Scars from minor abrasions that healed over.

Both are harmless and do not affect flavor or indicate spoilage. Some lenticels or scarring is normal. However, deep or excessive scarring could mean insect damage. In that case, cut open the squash to check for rotting before eating.

Is it safe to cut out the bad parts of a spaghetti squash?

It is risky to try to salvage parts of a spaghetti squash showing any decay. The decay can spread quickly to the rest of the squash, even if moldy or damaged areas are removed. Bacteria and toxins from spoiled sections could contaminate the rest.

To be safe, you should discard the entire spaghetti squash if you notice any of the following:

  • Moldy spots
  • Soft, water-soaked areas
  • Foul odor
  • Slimy texture
  • Discolored flesh

Eating decayed squash can cause food poisoning. Don’t attempt to save partial pieces of a spaghetti squash once it shows signs of spoilage.

What do I do if my cooked spaghetti squash smells bad?

If your cooked spaghetti squash gives off a rotten, unpleasant odor, throw it out immediately. Bad smells mean potentially dangerous bacteria growth. Do not taste or eat cooked squash that smells foul.

Discard the entire batch of cooked squash, even if some strands look okay. Toxins and bacteria spread quickly through the dish once contamination occurs. The spaghetti squash likely was not stored properly after cooking and spoiled.

Wash anything the spoiled squash touched, like cooking tools, containers, and cutting boards, with hot soapy water. Be vigilant about food safety practices when handling and storing cooked squash in the future to prevent this waste.

Can you eat sprouted spaghetti squash?

It is unsafe to eat a spaghetti squash that has begun sprouting. Sprouting indicates the starch in the squash has converted to sugar, making it more prone to microbial growth.

Sprouts may also contain higher levels of dangerous toxins like cucurbitacins. These compounds give an unpleasant taste and can cause indigestion or worse symptoms.

Even sprouted squash without visible mold or rot should be discarded. Cooked sprouted squash can harbor more bacteria. Play it safe and compost overripe, sprouted spaghetti squash.

What does rotten spaghetti squash taste like?

Rotten, spoiled spaghetti squash has an unappetizing taste that immediately signals something has gone wrong. Some descriptions of the taste include:

  • Sharp, bitter flavor
  • Fermented taste
  • Acrid, chemical-like
  • Sour, vinegary
  • Ammonia-like
  • Putrid sweetness
  • Moldy earthiness
  • Burned rubber

The sharp, unpleasant tastes are your body’s warning not to ingest the toxins produced by microbes breaking down the squash. Do not eat bad tasting spaghetti squash in any form.

What are signs of mold inside a spaghetti squash?

Opening up a spaghetti squash to find mold inside means it’s too late to salvage any part of it. Signs of interior mold are:

  • Fuzzy growth anywhere on the flesh
  • White, grey, black, green, or blue fuzz
  • Cloudy, colorful discoloration
  • Dark watery spots
  • Soft or liquified texture

Any amount of mold, even a small spot, makes the entire squash unsafe. Internal mold growth is a sign of advanced decay. Discard the squash immediately without tasting if you notice these warning signs.

Is it safe to cook a spaghetti squash with bruises?

Minor bruising or scuffing on the rind of a spaghetti squash does not make it unsafe to cook. But deep, dark bruises or impact injuries should be closely inspected before cooking.

Cut into bruised parts and look for:

  • Soft, mushy consistency
  • Collapse of the flesh
  • Brown or grey discoloration
  • Off odors

Any evidence of tissue damage or rot means potential bacteria contamination. Discard the entire squash if the bruised sections show decay or mold.

Small, shallow bruises are generally okay if there’s no puncturing. Cut away large, deep bruises to be safe before cooking the rest of the intact squash.

Can you eat the seeds of a bad spaghetti squash?

Never eat the seeds from a spaghetti squash that is rotten or moldy. The decay bacteria and toxins very likely will have spread to the seeds as well. Consuming any part of a spoiled squash threatens your health.

In general, thoroughly cook any squash seeds before eating to destroy toxins. The best practice for safety is to remove seeds when carving and roast only fresh, healthy seeds from good squash.

Discard all parts, including seeds, from spaghetti squash that is damaged, smells bad, or shows any decay. Do not take chances with seeds from compromised squash.

What are signs of bacterial rot in spaghetti squash?

Bacterial rot in spaghetti squash will show the following distinct signs:

  • Water-soaked rind that sinks inward
  • Foul, fermented odor
  • Slimy, mushy flesh
  • Grey, brown, or black discolored areas
  • Seeds may be dark and mushy

Bacteria like Erwinia break down the squash tissues, creating unpleasant smells and liquefied sections. Any spaghetti squash displaying these clear markings of bacterial rot should not be consumed.


A spoiled, rotten spaghetti squash shows obvious signs of being unfit to eat. If you notice mold, dark sunken spots, foul odors, or an unusual appearance, err on the side of caution. When in doubt about the safety of a spaghetti squash, remember it’s not worth the risk of food poisoning.

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