How Long Does Lettuce Last? Keep Them Fresh Longer

For many salads, lettuce is the main ingredient used.  Besides salads, lettuce is great for making sandwiches, soup, and layered into spring rolls and wraps. Since it is very versatile, most people will buy a lot of lettuce at the store or grow them in the garden. Like other leafy greens, lettuce don’t last very long once it’s harvested.

So how long does lettuce last? It depends on the type of lettuce.  Butter lettuce lasts about 5 days.  Leaf lettuce lasts up to 7 days.  Iceberg and romaine lettuce last the longest, between 7 to 10 days.

However, the above is only an approximation and a general guideline of their shelf life. Lettuce can last shorter or longer depending on other different factors. When it was harvested, how long it sat on the shelf, and how it was stored before and after you’ve bought it.

In this short guide, we will go through shelf life, storage, and signs of spoilage of the most popular kinds of lettuce used everyday: butter, leaf (looseleaf), iceberg, and romaine.

Types of Lettuce

Butter Lettuce

Butter lettuce, or butterhead, is one of the four main types of annual lettuce that is widely available in the United States. It gets its name from having a soft “buttery” texture.

The USDA indicates that butter lettuce is low in sodium, a good source of calcium, iron, and vitamin A.

The sweet, tender leaves of butter lettuce are known for making great salads, but its use is great for making other food as well. Butter lettuce is great for using as layers in spring rolls and wraps.

Leaf Lettuce

Leaf lettuce or referred to as “looseleaf” lettuce is widely used in sandwiches and salads.  This lettuce has a large, loose head of bright green, curly leaves with a buttery flavor to it.

Leaf lettuce is high in nutrition, especially the greener the leaf is. Out of all the four kinds of lettuce listed here, leaf lettuce is the most nutritious variety.

Iceberg Lettuce

Iceberg is a variety of lettuce with crisp leaves that grows in a spherical shape. This lettuce has a sweet taste and is great to use on burgers and sandwiches.

When it comes to nutritional value, iceberg lettuce has very little nutritional value. It provides some calcium, potassium, vitamin C, folate, and fiber. Although it’s low in nutrition, it has high water content. Therefore, iceberg lettuce is great to eat during hot weather.

Romaine Lettuce

Romaine lettuce is also referred to as “cos lettuce” and this variety of lettuce grows in a tall head with sturdy dark green leaves.

Romaine lettuce is low in fiber but has a high content of minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium. As for vitamins, it’s packed with vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate.

Unlike other lettuce, romaine lettuce is not used in sandwiches and burgers. Due to their thick leaves, romaine lettuce is more commonly used for grilling, stir-fried, and cooking meals.

Lettuce Expiration Date

(Unopened/Opened)PantryRefrigeratorFreezer
Past Printed Date
Butter Lettuce lasts for2 Hours3-5 Daysn/a
Leaf Lettuce lasts for2 Hours7-10 Daysn/a
Iceberg Lettuce lasts for2 Hours7-10 Daysn/a
Romaine Lettuce lasts for2 Hours7-10 Daysn/a
Chopped or Loose Lettuce lasts for2 Hours3-5 Daysn/a

How Long Does Lettuce Last?

How long lettuce actually last will be determined by the quality of it when you’ve purchased it. Lettuce sold in grocery stores is usually handled by large companies.  They harvest and process thousands of lettuce each day. The time it was harvested and packaged could be a couple of days or even a week before the lettuce is made to the grocery store’s shelves. Once it’s harvested, the quality of the lettuce will start to decrease slowly.

Therefore, once it’s at the grocery store, you should thoroughly inspect them to make sure it’s the best quality lettuce.  Once you bring the lettuce home, how long it will last will depend on how you store it.

How Long Does Lettuce Last In The Fridge?

For most types of lettuce, the fridge is the best place to make them last the longest. Most kinds of lettuce can last up to 10 days in the refrigerator. How it’s stored also can impact how long they last.

For butter lettuce, store them in a sealed plastic bag or in a crisper drawer in the fridge. Doing so could keep the butter lettuce to last up to 5 days.

For loose leaves lettuce, they can last up to 10 days in the refrigerator. Make sure it’s placed in a sealed container or bag.

For iceberg lettuce, due to its high content of water, it can last up to 10 days with good storage. This kind of lettuce will go bad fast if it’s not properly stored.  If your fridge is opened and closed often, the iceberg lettuce shelf life will be shortened by a lot.

How Long Can Lettuce Last Unrefrigerated?

All kinds of lettuce will not last very long outside the fridge.  Lettuce will usually last for about 2 hours before going bad. After 2 hours, the leaves of the lettuce will start to go soft and wilt. Browing of the leaves may also start to appear. This applies to the room at normal air temperature.

If it’s really hot outside, the lettuce may not even last an hour. Therefore, depending on what you’ll be using it for, any lettuce that’s not going to be used within 2 hours should be put into the fridge right away.

How To Store Lettuce?

Storing lettuce is the most important factor in keeping the lettuce for a long time. Most kinds of lettuce will need to be stored in a cool place like the refrigerator.  Lettuce has a high content of water in them and when it’s exposed to the air, they will start to lose their water content quickly.  When they do, the leaves will start to go soft and wilt.

Below are a couple of methods for storing lettuce:

Storing Lettuce Outside The Fridge

Leaving lettuce out in the kitchen isn’t recommended for storing any types of lettuce. They will usually go bad within a couple of hours. The warmer the air temperature is, the faster it will go bad. When it goes bad, the leaves of the lettuce will start to wilt.

The only time when they should be outside of the fridge is when you’re preparing a meal. Otherwise, it’s best to leave the lettuce in the fridge.

Storing Lettuce In The Refrigerator

The refrigerator is the ideal storage location for all types of lettuce. The leaves of the lettuce have a high content of water, especially the iceberg lettuce.  When it’s in the fridge, the cooler temperature prevents the water in the lettuce from evaporating. On the other hand, if it’s left outside at room temperature, the leaves will start to wilt in an hour or so.  This is caused by the leaves losing moisture.

To store the lettuce in the refrigerator, put them in the crisper drawer with paper towels to absorb moisture. If you don’t have a crisper drawer, you can simply put them in a sealed plastic bag. Also, make sure to never wash the lettuce before storing it. The extra moisture could cause the lettuce to go bad quickly.

Storing Lettuce In The Freezer

Since lettuce is very high in water content, freezing is generally not recommended. Once they are frozen and then taken out, the leaves will become extremely soggy due to the water in the lettuce. Lettuce such as iceberg lettuce can be frozen if you’re going to use them for cooking or making a drink.

The only exception to this is shredded lettuce. For the same reason, we usually don’t freeze salads. However, if you use shredded lettuce in a cooked dish, you can freeze them.

Related Article: Can You Freeze Iceberg Lettuce?

fresh lettuce

How Can Lettuce Last Longer?

To get lettuce to last longer, it will start when you’re at the grocery store. When buying lettuce, look for the one that is the freshest. Fresh lettuces are usually just harvested and brought to the stores. These will give them the best chance to last longer. Inspect the lettuce for any bruises and color changes. Also, make sure that the leaves are not wilted. It should be firm and crisp.

Once they are brought home, cut the portion of the lettuce you’re planning to prepare the meal with. The rest should be stored in the refrigerator right away.

How To Tell Lettuce Is Bad?

When lettuce sits in the fridge, it will slowly start to go bad. If the head of the lettuce starts having leaves with bruises and color changes, just discard those leaves.

Another thing to look for is the smells. Lettuce that goes bad will have a smell to it. Lettuce shouldn’t have any smell to it. If it does have a funny smell to it, get rid of it.

Sometimes, the lettuce is left in the fridge too long and starts to become slimy and mushy. If that happens, it’s best to just throw out the entire lettuce.

Lastly, lettuce over 2 weeks old are generally past its prime and should go directly into the dumpster or used in the garden as compost.

Conclusion

Lettuce is a great addition to many kinds of food.  Not only are they delicious to eat, but they are also packed with a high content of vitamins and minerals.  Since they go bad quickly, it’s important to know long each kind of lettuce last and how to properly store them so they can last as long as possible.

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