Spinach is a leafy green vegetable that is packed with nutrients like vitamins A, C, K, iron, magnesium, and folate. It’s a versatile ingredient that can be eaten raw in salads or cooked in soups, pastas, quiches, and more. But like all fresh produce, spinach is perishable and has a limited shelf life.
Uncooked spinach will generally last 5-7 days when properly stored in the refrigerator. The best way to store spinach is in an airtight container or storage bag in the crisper drawer. With proper storage, fresh spinach should remain fresh and usable for a week before it starts to wilt or spoil.
How to tell if spinach has gone bad
There are a few obvious signs that spinach has spoiled and is past its prime:
- Wilting, soggy leaves
- Discoloration and slimy texture
- Unpleasant sour or rotten smell
- Mold growth
If your spinach exhibits any of these characteristics, it’s best to throw it out. Moldy, rotten and smelly spinach should never be eaten.
Proper storage for maximum freshness
To get the most out of your spinach and extend its shelf life, proper storage is key. Here are some tips for keeping spinach fresh longer:
- Remove any rubber bands, twist ties or packaging when you get home from the store. This prevents moisture buildup.
- Rinse leaves gently under cool water to remove any dirt or debris. Dry thoroughly with a salad spinner or paper towels.
- Wrap spinach in paper towels then seal tightly in a plastic bag or airtight container. This absorbs excess moisture.
- Store in the crisper drawer of your fridge, which is the coldest part. The ideal temperature is 32-40°F.
- Try not to store spinach near ethylene-producing fruits like apples, pears and bananas. The ethylene gas can accelerate spoilage.
- Use spinach within 5-7 days for maximum freshness and nutrient retention.
Can you freeze spinach?
Yes, spinach can be frozen to extend its shelf life even further. To freeze spinach:
- Rinse and dry spinach thoroughly.
- Chop or tear spinach leaves into pieces.
- Blanch the spinach quickly in boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Shock in ice water to stop the cooking process.
- Drain and squeeze out all excess moisture.
- Pack spinach into freezer bags or airtight containers, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
- Label bags with the date and contents.
- Freeze for up to 8 months.
Freezing prevents the growth of microbes that cause spoilage. Blanching helps preserve the color, texture, and nutrients. Frozen spinach is great for cooked dishes like quiches, sautés, soups, and casseroles. Thaw in the refrigerator before using.
Does pre-washed bagged spinach last longer?
Pre-washed and bagged spinach has typically been processed and packaged in a way that can maximize shelf life. Factors like these can extend the usable life:
- Sanitization to reduce microbes
- Packaging that protects from light, air, and moisture
- Cool temperature control during transport
Even pre-washed spinach should be used within the date on the package, which is usually 5-7 days from the harvest date. Do not use bagged spinach past the use-by date or if the bag puffs up with air, which indicates spoilage.
Tips for pre-washed spinach
- Check use-by date and choose bags furthest from expiration
- Check for puffiness, sliminess, or odor when opening
- Rinse leaves before eating to freshen up
- Remove from bag and store in crisper to maximize life
- Use within the use-by timeframe
Cooking spinach effectively can help preserve nutrients and shelf life. Here are some tips:
- Use fresh spinach within 3-5 days for cooking. Older leaves lose moisture.
- Trim away thick stems which can be fibrous when cooked.
- Add handfuls of spinach to soups, pastas, and curries at the end to gently wilt.
- Sauté briefly in olive oil over medium heat until just wilted.
- Add to quiches, frittatas, and bakes to draw out moisture.
- Steam or microwave just until wilted to retain nutrients.
- Freeze cooked spinach in portions to preserve for later use.
Other signs spinach has spoiled
In addition to wilting, sliminess, and mold, there are some other early indicators that spinach is past its prime:
- Appearance: Leaves are limp, faded or discolored
- Texture: Leaves are slimy or mushy
- Smell: Unpleasant sour, rotten odor
- Taste: bitter, sour, unpleasant flavor
If your spinach shows any of these signs of spoilage, it’s best to discard it. Eating spoiled spinach can potentially cause foodborne illness.
How to maintain freshness
It’s easy to keep spinach fresh and extend its shelf life. Here are some tips:
- Start with fresh, crisp spinach without signs of spoilage.
- Rinse gently under cool water and dry thoroughly.
- Wrap in paper towels and store in an airtight container.
- Keep in the crisper drawer at 32-40°F.
- Avoid overcrowding the crisper, which reduces air flow.
- Use spinach within 5-7 days for maximum quality.
Best practices for handling spinach
Proper handling of spinach helps prevent contamination and foodborne illness.
At the grocery store
- Check use-by dates and choose spinach furthest from expiration.
- Make sure leaves look fresh, not wilted or slimy.
- Avoid bags with moisture or puffiness.
- Purchase spinach last at checkout and head straight home.
- Refrigerate spinach immediately.
- Rinse leaves just before use under cool water.
- Sanitize countertops and utensils before and after handling.
- Keep spinach separated from raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
- Cook spinach thoroughly when using in recipes.
Safe spinach storage
Here are some key tips for safely storing spinach:
- Always refrigerate spinach promptly after returning from the store.
- Store in perforated plastic bags or containers that allow air flow.
- Keep spinach in the coolest part of the fridge, around 32-40°F.
- Rinse spinach just before eating to remove dirt and microbes.
- Sanitize countertops, cutting boards, knives before and after use.
- Consume spinach within the recommended 5-7 day timeframe.
Following safe storage methods reduces the risk of contamination and foodborne illnesses from bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella. Discard spinach past its prime or showing any signs of spoilage. When in doubt, throw it out.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does my spinach go bad so quickly?
Spinach leaves have a high water content, so they can go bad quickly without proper storage. Heat, moisture, and exposure to ethylene gas from other produce can also accelerate deterioration. Store spinach in an airtight container in the crisper drawer at 32-40°F to maximize freshness. Use within 5-7 days.
Can I use spinach after the use-by date?
It’s not recommended to use bagged spinach past the printed use-by or expiration date, even if it still looks and smells okay. These dates indicate the last day the product is at peak freshness and flavor. Eating past this date increases risks of spoilage and foodborne illness.
How long does spinach last in the freezer?
Properly stored spinach will maintain best quality in the freezer for about 8 months, although it remains safe indefinitely. To freeze, blanch spinach first, then squeeze out moisture and pack into airtight freezer bags or containers. Label with the date and use within 8-12 months for best flavor and texture.
Should I wash spinach before storing?
It’s best to dry spinach thoroughly before storing it, but don’t wash it until right before eating. Washing too early can cause moisture to build up, accelerating spoilage. Gently rinse leaves just before use to remove any dirt or microbes.
Can I use spinach with spots or slimy texture?
No, sliminess, spots of mold, foul smell or any signs of spoilage mean spinach should be discarded. These are signs that potentially harmful bacteria may be present, so it’s not worth the risk. When in doubt, throw it out.
Uncooked spinach will keep fresh in the refrigerator for 5-7 days if stored properly in airtight containers or bags. Always check for signs of spoilage like wilting, discoloration, sliminess and odor before use. Rinse leaves just before eating and use cooking methods that preserve nutrients. With optimal storage conditions and careful handling, spinach can retain its freshness and flavor for close to a week past the purchase date. Freezing also expands the shelf life for several months. Following proper storage times and methods reduces the risks of foodborne illness.