Lettuce is delicate and goes bad quickly without refrigeration and proper handling. So, how long can lettuce sit out? Well, it won’t go bad immediately, but it usually doesn’t last long sitting on the countertop.
Leafy greens such as lettuce keep better in colder temperatures. Lettuce, in particular, will only remain fresh and crispy in the fridge.
Outside of the refrigerator, lettuce can only stay fresh for two hours. Any longer than that, and it will begin to wilt and spoil.
Lettuce is a crispy and delicious vegetable in salads, garnishes, and sandwiches. Learn how to store lettuce correctly to stay fresh and crisp for the longest time possible.
Here’s Why Lettuce Belongs In the Fridge
The shelf life of most items in the fresh produce section is fleeting. Of all perishables, leafy greens — like lettuce— have the shortest shelf life. That’s because they are mostly water.
The high water content in vegetables such as lettuce increases susceptibility to microbes such as bacteria, yeasts, and mold. The damage caused by the growth of these microorganisms causes them to go bad.
Microbes grow more rapidly in warmer temperatures. The low temperature usually inhibits or stops the growth and proliferation of microbes, which is why you should always refrigerate your lettuce.
The chill inside the fridge keeps your lettuce fresh for a longer period.
How Long Can Lettuce Remain In The Fridge?
Even when refrigerated, lettuce won’t last too long. Typically, loose-leaf lettuce can stay fresh and crisp for 7 to 10 days from the date of purchase.
A head of lettuce, when left intact and unwashed, will last longer in the refrigerator, usually up to three weeks.
However, the shelf life of lettuce in the fridge will vary depending on the lettuce type. Here’s a quick summary of how long you should expect different types of lettuce to last refrigerated.
|Lettuce Type||Shelf Life (Refrigerated)|
|Bagged Lettuce (Opened)||2 – 3 days|
|Bagged Lettuce (Unopened)||3 – 5 days|
|Loose Leaf Lettuce||3 – 7 days|
|Romaine||7 – 10 days|
|Iceberg Lettuce||Up to 3 weeks|
What’s The Safe Temperature for Storing Lettuce?
Lettuce and other perishable foods should be kept in the refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit and below.
The freezing temperatures turn the water in the lettuce to ice, which inhibits the growth of microbes and curbs the spoiling effect of microbial growth.
How Long Does Lettuce Sit Out?
Lettuce can sit out for a few hours (2 hours max) before putting it in the fridge. You still have to refrigerate your lettuce at some point.
The natural processes that cause lettuce to spoil kick off as soon you remove the vegetable from the fresh produce section.
However, your lettuce won’t go bad right away. That means you don’t have to put it in the fridge immediately after getting home.
What Happens If Lettuce Sits Out For Too Long?
You probably shouldn’t let lettuce sit out too long, but life happens. It’s possible to get distracted and forget your lettuce on the countertop.
Which begs the question, what happens if lettuce sits out for too long?
The warm surroundings will facilitate the lettuce’s faster growth of bacteria and other microbes.
After two hours, the lettuce will wilt and rot, eventually becoming unsafe for human consumption.
What To Do with Lettuce That’s Been Left out for Too Long
Your lettuce is probably spoiled if it’s been sitting out too long. In that case, you should discard it immediately. Don’t use lettuce that has gone bad for anything, not even for cooking.
You risk consuming bacteria such as Coli and Salmonella by using lettuce that’s been left out for too long.
However, if the lettuce hasn’t been out for too long, you can use it directly or for a salad. But you have to be able to tell for sure that the lettuce hasn’t gone bad.
How To Tell If Lettuce Has Gone Bad
Without proper refrigeration, lettuce goes bad pretty quickly. And even in the fridge, lettuce doesn’t stay fresh very long. So, how do you tell that lettuce has gone bad?
Whether dealing with lettuce sitting out for too long or lettuce that has stayed in the fridge for too long, it’s always easy to tell when lettuce has gone bad. Look for the following signs:
- Wilting. Fresh lettuce has a firm or crisp texture. Wilting is the first sign that lettuce is beginning to deteriorate. The leaves become wrinkly and soft. The lettuce hasn’t started to rot yet and may still be safe to eat.
- Discoloration. Fresh lettuce is usually light-green or yellow in color. The appearance of small brown and black spots on the leaves is a sign that your lettuce is beginning to rot. You can cut around them if the remaining leaf is still healthy.
- Rancid Smell. Fresh lettuce may have a delightfully faint, earthy fragrance from the soil it grew in, but there’s no detectable scent in most cases. A pungent odor means the lettuce rotates, and you should throw it out.
Here are the frequently asked questions regarding how long lettuce can sit out.
Why Does Lettuce Go Bad So Quickly?
Lettuce and other perishables have high water content. The moisture in lettuce allows bacteria and other microbes to grow rapidly. The rapid growth and proliferation of microbes causes the lettuce to spoil quickly.
How Long Can Lettuce Go Unrefrigerated?
Lettuce can safely sit out at room temperature for two hours. After that, the leaves will begin to wilt and rot.
Can You Eat Lettuce After It Goes Bad?
Wilted lettuce is safe to eat as long it’s not rotten. If it smells fresh and is not slimy, you can still eat lettuce, although it won’t be as enjoyable as crispy fresh lettuce.
If you were wondering how long can lettuce sit out before it goes bad, now you have your answer.
It’s not very long, two hours at best. Refrigeration and proper handling can increase the shelf life by a few days — or weeks — depending on the variety of lettuce.
Wayne J. is a writer and editor for Mybeautifulhaven.com. He is happy to put in the time and effort to conduct thorough market research to identify common issues faced by households concerning their plumbing systems and other household fixtures. His passion is to help you solve the most pressing issues you are facing in your home and recommend the best products available on the market.