How Long Before Coleslaw Goes Off?

Coleslaw is one of those foods with its roots buried deep in American history. Yet, ironically more than half the population refuses to contend with it, per Tastewise. Broaching the topic among those who love it will offer no accord either, as they are fragmented into pro-vinegar and pro-mayo factions, as seen on Reddit.

Irrespective, Uncle Sam chops away at the cabbage, dispensing this iconic salad at meals like it is no one's business, and true to the relationship between excess and enthusiasm, there is often a bit of the cabbagey concoction left over. "But not to worry, we can have it tomorrow at lunch and on our sandwiches, the day after because coleslaw is cabbage that has a lifetime of eternity, right?"

True, cabbage is one of the hardiest vegetable categories. It has been around for 6,000 years (per Vegetable Facts), and whether the latter is the cause or the result, the dense, round, leafy cruciferous head can remain fit for human consumption for up to two months, per Cedar Circle Farm and Education Center. Be that as it may, once cabbage is cut (even more so when shredded), the lifespan is curtailed. So no, coleslaw does not have a lifetime of eternity.

The lifespan of coleslaw

The first factor that influences the longevity of coleslaw is temperature. Bacteria generally grow between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, says Still Tasty. For this reason, coleslaw's lifespan will shorten drastically outside the refrigerator. Coleslaw should be thrown away if it is left out at room temperature for more than two hours, they advise.

The next aspect influencing its lifespan is the salad dressing. Vinaigrette dressings last for about a week (per Tips Bulletin), while mayo, on the other hand, will hold its usability for over two months after opening — provided it remains refrigerated. Irrespective of the longevity of these dressings, if bacteria compromise them or they are near their end, it is logical they will inflict their swiftly shortening life spans on the coleslaw they dress.

With this said, if you refrigerate coleslaw it generally lasts between four and five days, per Still Tasty. Store-purchased coleslaw has a shorter lifespan than homemade coleslaw and will last for two to three days after opening, per Go Bad Or Not. But the safest rule when dealing with store-purchased coleslaw, as with all products, is that one consumes it before its use-by date. 

According to Still Tasty, if coleslaw has an off odor or appearance or contains mold then it has gone bad and should be discarded.