Does Salad Dressing Go Bad? How Long Does It Last?

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So you’ve decided to turn on a new leaf for the new year. You pledge on saying goodbye to junk food and welcome more salads in your life.

Upon checking your fridge and pantry, you found a few bottled dressings that you purchased to accomplish your resolutions last year. Some are already opened and used until, well, you decide to go back to your junk food diet.

No worries, no shame. We’ve all been there.

We’ve been there too many times that we already know the drill.

But let’s forget about that as more pressing matters are on hand—should you use that bottled dressing or buy a new one?

Does salad dressing go bad?

Short answer: Unfortunately, salad dressing can go bad.   

But how would you know if your salad dressing has spoiled already? And how long does salad dressing last?

Unfortunately, this question can’t be answered by just a simple sentence since it comes in different types, with each having other signs of spoilage.

That’s why we’ve created this article specifically devoted to helping you discover everything you need to know about handling, storing, and consuming the sauce safely and properly.

Some of the other topics we’ll talk about are:

Are you ready to leave no dressing unturned? Then, let’s get it on!

What are the Different Types of Salad Dressing?

We’ll be honest with you. There are way too many types of dressings to talk about that we can’t possibly cover in detail in this article. (*)

So the next best thing that we can do is divide them into different types and try to provide you with as much information as possible about these types.

With that said, salad dressings come in four different types — bottled, homemade, and dry mixes. Let’s talk about them below:

Store-bought Bottled Dressings

If you’re in a hurry and have no time to whip up your dressing, you most probably have bought a bottle of dressing in your favorite grocery store at some point.

Commercial dressings can be further divided into two types—refrigerated and unrefrigerated. You can quickly identify them by checking out how they’re stored in the grocery store.

Compared to homemade, this has a longer shelf life since it will most likely contain preservatives.

Homemade

If you have lots of time on your hands, making homemade dressing is highly recommended. In this way, you can determine the type and amount of ingredients that will go into your dressing.

With this, it can be easy to control your calorie consumption. But of course, this has the shortest shelf life of the three since it doesn’t contain any artificial preservatives.

Dry Mixes

If you have enough time to create the sauce but don’t have the culinary know-how, dry mixes will be super convenient option for you.

Dry mixes are generally a blend of dry spices that you can add to water or other plain dressings (like mayonnaise) to create a delicious dressing for your dishes.

Since these contain dried ingredients, this has the longest shelf life among the three types.

How Long Salad Dressing Lasts?

For all salad dressings, you should always pay attention to the date printed in the bottle or packaging to ensure that they are still safe for consumption.

Good news: The date printed on the packaging is either the best by date or expiration date, so, likely, you can still enjoy the dressing past the expiration dates.

With that said, it’s recommended that you keep in mind the following shelf life guidelines for dressings:

What is the Shelf Life of Bottled Salad Dressing?

When determining the shelf life of bottled salad dressings, you also have to consider the dressing’s current state—whether it’s unopened or opened. To make things a lot simpler, here’s a summary of the shelf life of bottled salad dressings:

Unrefrigerated:

  • Best by date + 3-6 months (unopened)
  • Best by date + 1-2 months (opened)

Refrigerated: Use by date + 1-2 weeks

What is the Shelf Life of Homemade Salad Dressing?

Generally, all homemade dressings will only have 3 to 5 days to about a week of shelf life. But of course, it’s still best that you check out the best by date or expiration date guidelines provided in the specific recipe you’ve followed.

What is the Shelf Life of Dry Mix Salad Dressing?

Beyond the sell-by date, dry mix is still safe for consumption. However, its quality and flavor will start to deteriorate by then. If you want to enjoy dry mix at its best quality, you can still eat the dressing a few months (3 months) after the best by date.

How to Tell if Salad Dressing Has Gone Bad?

But of course, salad dressing can go bad faster than expected when it’s not stored correctly. This is why it’s a must that you inspect the salad dressing first to prevent food poisoning. Here are the signs that tell if salad dressing has already spoiled:

Dry Mix Salad Dressing

Since this is a dry product, it’s still safe for consumption if you don’t see any clumps or mold growth. But as mentioned, it can become bland when stored for far too long.

Pro Tip: The best way to test if the dry mix dressing is still flavorful is to prepare the sauce and have a taste.  

Unrefrigerated Salad Dressing

When it comes to examining dressings sold unrefrigerated, there are three things that you can do: inspect, smell, and taste.

If the sauce exhibits any of the following signs, discard it right away:

  • Mold growth and discoloration
  • Vinegar-like and weird smell
  • Off and sour taste

Pro Tip: Separation is considered normal and not a sign of spoilage for oil based salad dressings.

If your oil-based dressing has separated, a good stir or shake is just what it needs.

Refrigerated Salad Dressing

All dressing stored in the refrigerator section, regardless of homemade or commercial, have a short shelf life and are not that stable, so you should be extra vigilant when examining these types. Same with the dressings sold unrefrigerated, you should look out for the following signs: changes in smell, mold growth, and a rancid taste.

But here’s one additional sign to watch out for– separation. If you have dairy-based salad dressings, separation indicates degradation quality. This isn’t necessarily bad, but there’s a high chance that the sauce no longer tastes good.

You should check the manufacturer guidelines before using it. If there’s none, you can try tasting just a small amount of the dressing to see if it’s still worth anything.

How to Store Salad Dressing?

Storing salad dressing is not rocket science. Everything you need to know about food storage is simply stated in the dressing’s packaging. With that said, we still added a few tips which we think could help preserve the dressing’s quality:

1. To ensure that your dressing is stored correctly, follow how the sauces are stored in the grocery store.

If the bottled dressing is in the grocery store’s refrigerator section, store yours in the fridge too. This goes the same with homemade sauces.

On the other hand, store the dressing sold unrefrigerated in a dark, dry, and cool place far from heat sources like an oven and stove if the bottle remains unopened. For half-open bottles, you may need to store them in the fridge.

Once Lastly, you can keep dry mix salad dressings in your spice drawer.

2. Keep the packaging sealed tightly.

Once you’ve opened your dry mix dressing, make sure it’s sealed un between uses tightly. If you have an airtight container or spice bottle, you can transfer the remaining mix there.

Regarding bottled and homemade salad dressings, make sure that you screw its top tightly after every use.

3. To prevent contamination, avoid double-dipping.

Only use clean utensils in collecting the dressing. Never use your fingers or used utensils. Similarly, never pour leftover dressings back into the container and make sure to clean the bottle’s cap to get rid of flaking and dried residues.

Frequently Asked Questions About Salad Dressing

Final Words

To put it simply, salad dressing will go bad eventually. How long it will last depends on the type of dressing you have.

While there are many salad dressing types available, categorizing them into three types (refrigerated, unrefrigerated, and dry mix) can help you determine the proper storage and shelf life that you need to know.

We’ve shared all the information you need to know on retaining good quality of your dressing. Now, it’s up to you to follow the food storage tips in this article (and stick to your healthy diet). So best get started with it.

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