How Long is Tuna Salad Good For?

My mother would routinely make tuna salad sandwiches for breakfast and lunch when my brothers and I were small. On a busy day, it’s a quick and simple dressing to prepare. However, one of this food’s shortcomings is how quickly it spoils.

Therefore, this post will provide you with answers to your question about how long your dish will survive until things worsen!

A tuna salad is what? There are two key ingredients in this dish: tuna and mayonnaise. Usually, it is precooked, canned, and then packed in water or oil. This dressing is made from a variety of common condiments, including onions, relish, pickles, onion, and celery. So you may prepare a tuna salad sandwich, you can opt to put the mixture over bread.

Related: How Long Does Canned Tuna Last?

What is the Lifespan of Tuna Salad?

According to the USDA, tuna salad will stay safe in the fridge for 3 to 5 days if stored correctly in airtight bags. Bacteria proliferate at temperatures ranging from 40°F to 140°F; hence, discard the salad if left out at ambient temperature for more than 2 hours.

Non-refrigerated salad containing dairy products like yogurt may appear and probably taste pretty bad after 2 to 3 days.

While tuna salad is not safe to eat after 5 days, you may have to throw it out earlier due to quality concerns. It all comes down to the ingredients!

Tips When Storing Tuna Salad in the Refrigerator

  1. For your salad to last long, store it in an airtight bag. This will prevent the dressing from causing an unpleasant smell in your fridge or absorbing odors from other foods.
  2. Use an airtight glass container or reserve one of your plastic storage containers solely for tuna. Their tightness will keep away moisture that may attract bacteria.
  3. Refrigerator doors move more than the shelves. Do not keep your salad in them. It is advisable to keep it on a shelf in a cooler part of the fridge.
  4. A fridge or freezer thermometer is essential to monitor the temperature of your refrigerator properly.

Why Must You store Tuna Salad Below 40F?

According to the USDA, you can store the dish in the refrigerator for up to 5 days; if kept at a temperature of 40F or lower.

The USDA affirms that the temperature range upon which bacteria multiply the fastest is between 40F and 140F. It’s known as the “Danger Zone“. To avoid it, store the food in the refrigerator at or below 40F.

What Duration Can you Keep Tuna Salad Out Of the Refrigerator?

When serving the meal for a special occasion that may take a longer serving time, it is best to prepare separate portions of the salad, then take it out when you need it.

The current recommendation from the government’s Food Safety website is to discard the dressing after it’s been above 40°F for more than 2 hours. You can only leave the tuna salad out for 2 hours after removing it from the refrigerator.

Mayonnaise and fish deteriorate quickly, and according to USDA standards, the salad must not be left out of the refrigerator for no longer than 1 to 2 hours. The time varies according to the surrounding temperature in which your food is stored.

Due to multiple food waste instances in my household, tuna salad automatically goes into the refrigerator immediately after it is made. It only comes out only when someone needs to shovel out a helping or make a sandwich.

Restoring a packet of tuna dressing will cost you much less than a visit to the hospital; hence it is not worth the risk.

Related: The Lost Art Of Cooking: Food Safety Tips & Tech

How Can You Tell if a Tuna Salad is stale?

Even when stored, tuna salad, like all meals, has a short lifespan. The dressing spoils gradually after it is made, to the point of being irrecoverable. The primary cause of spoilage is the warm temperature and the growth of bacteria such as E.Coli.

Evaluating if the salad has spoiled can be difficult. However, there are a few common signs of contamination that you can look out for.

Dispose of the salad if;

  • It doesn’t smell right. The smell means the dressing is stale.
  • The salad has been in the refrigerator for more than 5 days. It might not be spoiled, but it is no longer safe for consumption.
  • Mold grows on it such that you find dark or blotchy spots. If things have progressed this far, the dish has gone bad.
  • The flavor is off, or the quality is subpar. As I previously stated, some ingredients cause the salad to lose quality quickly. It’s pointless to force yourself to finish the dish if it has changed texture or tastes bad.

Is Freezing Good for Tuna Salad?

Another alternative for extending the longevity of tuna salad is to freeze it. When there is no freezer burn, it can last for about 6-8 months. When you thaw frozen tuna salads, you may notice a reduced quality, similar to when you thaw frozen chicken salads, pasta salads, or egg salads.

What if you have tuna salad blended with mayonnaise? In that case, I will not recommend freezing it because frozen mayonnaise can detach and decompose. Freezing would have a significant impact on the texture of your tuna.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is it necessary to refrigerate tuna salad?

To protect the food from being exposed to air and the microbes that live in it. These microbes land on meals and begin to snack and break them down. The waste materials from these microbes cause meals to go “bad” or “off.”

2. At ambient temperature, how long can a tuna salad sandwich last?

It can only last for less than 2 hours. If you leave the dressing out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours, it will go bad. If this happens, toss it in the trash, and remember to take the garbage out shortly after, before it starts to smell.

3. What bacteria is present in the old Tuna salad?

It could be pathogenic bacteria (the ones that make one sick) or “wastage” bacteria (the ones that cause food to spoil). Such bacteria can often be present without affecting the texture, taste, or smell of your food.

4. What happens if you eat contaminated tuna?

You may get Scombroid food poisoning, also known as scombroid. It is a food-borne disease that is usually caused by eating stale fish. Flushed skin, headache, itchy skin, dizziness, stomach cramps, and diarrhea are possible symptoms.


A delectable dressing that is simple to prepare and ideal for meals throughout the day is tuna salad. However, it is not a food that keeps well. Following preparation or purchase, tuna salad should be chilled within two hours.

Before eating, always check and smell the dressing. Before serving, if it seems and smells excellent, take a little mouthful to check the flavor. You want to avoid becoming sick as much as possible if you consume rotten tuna.

Therefore, if you were wondering how long tuna salad keeps, this article has given you the knowledge you need to adjust your tuna dressing and preserve it for later use.

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