Fresh spinach is one of the more mildly flavored yet still highly nutritious types of leafy green, but it does tend to go bad quite quickly.
If you love having spinach in your daily salad but hate shopping for this green veggie daily, you’ll need to learn a few tips for storing spinach to keep it fresh as long as possible.
How do you store spinach? The best way to store spinach is in the refrigerator in an airtight bag or container for up to 7-10 days. It’s best not to wash spinach before you store it, but instead when you are ready to use it. You can also freeze spinach for 2-3 months.
In this article, we’ve curated our best practices and tips for keeping your spinach fresh for up to 10 days, as well as a simple guide to freezing spinach for longer-term storage and even proper storage for cooked spinach.
Best Way to Store Spinach
If you’ve ever bought spinach and forgot about it for a few days in your fridge, you may have noticed that this healthy, nutritious, delicious leafy green vegetable has a nasty habit of going bad really quickly.
Why does spinach go bad so quickly compared to all your other vegetables and produce purchases? Spinach leaves are surprisingly delicate and, when they come into contact with even the most minute amount of moisture, the leaves can go soggy and slimy very quickly.
If one single spinach leaf has a drop of water on the leaf that spreads to become a slimy mess, it will create a moisture problem for all the surrounding leaves. This damage can spread quickly, ruining an entire batch of spinach surprisingly fast if you’re not careful.
Luckily there are a few storage tips that we’re going to share to help you maintain fresh, crisp spinach for as long as possible.
How to Tell if Spinach is Bad
Detecting bad spinach is very easy and there are a few, progressively less pleasant signs:
- Individual limp, slimy leaves that are a darker color than the rest of the bunch
- Clumps of slimy spinach leaves that look like they have melted into each other
- Brown liquid resting at the bottom of your container or bag
- A very unpleasant smell coming from your container or bag
If you have discovered your spinach turning bad but you’re only at stage 1 or 2, you may be able to salvage unaffected spinach leaves, but you should do so quickly.
If you see a brown liquid or smell the smell, it’s probably better to simply compost the entire batch.
How to Wash Spinach
If you have purchased spinach in a container or a bag, read the print to see if it has been pre-washed. Commercial facilities have special washing and drying techniques that clean all the dirt and bacteria off of your spinach without damaging the leaves.
If your spinach says it’s pre-washed and is sealed inside a bag or container, there’s no reason to wash it again.
If you’re buying or harvesting fresh spinach, however, you will need to clean it to remove the dirt, girt, and any potential bacterial contamination.
It’s best to wash spinach only before you’re ready to use it, rather than to try to wash and store it. There is less chance of it going bad if you wash it right before consumption.
To wash spinach, follow these steps:
- Fill a large bowl with cold water and fit a colander inside that bowl.
- Place your fresh spinach leaves inside the colander and let them soak in the cold water for just 1–2 minutes.
- Carefully use your hands to lift and swish the leaves, allowing any sand or grit to sink to the bottom and through the holes of your colander.
- Remove the colander with the spinach from the water and gently shake to remove as much water as possible.
- If you’re cooking the spinach, you can prepare it immediately.
- If you’re using the spinach fresh, spread it out over a clean kitchen towel and use another clean kitchen towel to blot it dry as much as possible.
- You can also use a salad spinner to remove much of the leftover water and keep the leaves from wilting before you’re ready to serve.
How to Store Spinach in Fridge
If you’ve got a fresh bunch of spinach that you want to store so that you can eat it fresh, the best option is to keep it in the fridge.
You will want to take a few steps from the grocery store to the refrigerator, however, for best long-term results when storing spinach:
- Choose a container that is large enough to hold all your spinach gently, without crushing it, and has a lid.
- Line the bottom of the container with dry paper towels or a clean, highly absorbent kitchen towel like these Swedish dishcloths – this will help attract and contain any moisture before it can damage your spinach.
- Loosely layer your very dry spinach leaves on top of the towel.
- If you have a lot of spinach and a very large container, you can also add a central layer of paper or kitchen towels for extra absorbency.
As you’re transferring your fresh spinach to your storage container, be sure to remove any leaves that already look damage, slimy, or moist. They will spread this minor rot throughout your entire bunch quickly so it’s much better to lose a few leaves upfront than the entire container in just a day or two.
It’s also a good idea to sift through your spinach daily, if possible, looking for any potentially damaged leaves to remove as necessary.
Does Spinach Always Need to be Refrigerated?
If you’re planning on eating freshly harvested spinach the same day, you can leave it out for a few hours at room temperature out of direct sunlight. If it’s kept in the sun or direct heat, it will wilt more quickly.
However, you will want to always carefully wash spinach before using it (unless it has been pre-washed), especially if it has been left out for a while.
If you’ve purchased pre-washed spinach in a bag or container, it can also stay on the counter for a few hours before you use it. But if you’re not going to eat it all at once it’s best to refrigerate as soon as possible to protect the quality of the delicate green.
How Long Does Spinach Last?
The lifespan of spinach will vary greatly depending on how fresh it is when you buy it and how it was purchased.
A pre-washed, carefully sealed package of spinach will last longer than a fresh bundle because there is less chance that there is moisture or small places of rot that can spread quickly.
If carefully stored in your fridge according to the directions in this article, most fresh spinach will last for approximately 1 week. Bundles of spinach may not last as long, and a well-maintained container of pre-washed spinach may stay crisp for as long as 10 days.
How to Keep Spinach Fresh Longer
The best way to keep your spinach fresh for as long as possible is to continuously monitor it for signs of moisture exposure and to remove any damaged leaves.
If you notice any leaves starting to darken, you may want to remove them before they start to get slimy. They’ll be great for cooked dishes.
If you can adjust the temperature where your spinach specifically is kept, the ideal range for spinach is between 32–36 Fahrenheit, which is colder than most fridges.
40 Fahrenheit is nearly as good, but it will be even better if you can keep your spinach in a humidity-controlled drawer that isn’t subjected to the temperature fluctuations of opening and closing the door.
How To Keep Spinach From Wilting
Spinach will rot when exposed to moisture, but it will wilt when kept in warm temperatures for too long.
The best way to protect your spinach from wilting is to make sure it is refrigerated within a few hours of purchasing or harvesting. Keep it out of direct sunlight or heat whenever possible.
Though moisture is the kiss of death for spinach, all leafy green vegetables thrive in a humid environment. The leaves can lose their moisture quickly, especially if there is a lot of airflow, but humid air protects the water content in the leaves themselves, making it harder for the moisture to evaporate.
The key is to have a humid environment with little airflow and no condensation risk.
Can You Store Spinach With Salad Dressing?
It is never a good idea to store spinach after you have added salad dressing to it. The moisture and acidity in the dressing will cause the leaves to will and go slimy much faster than dry, fresh spinach leaves.
If you’re preparing dinner and want to make a spinach salad in advance, it is best to keep your spinach separate from all the other ingredients until you’re ready to toss and serve.
This will not only protect it from added moisture from the dressing and other ingredients, but it will also protect the leaves from being crushed until the last possible moment.
How To Store Bagged Spinach
If you have purchased pre-washed spinach in a sealed bag, you can store it in your fridge in the bag before it is opened.
You will want to be sure you place it somewhere that it won’t get crushed by any other items in your fridge though, because crushed leaves will go bad even in a completely sealed environment.
You will also want to check to see if there are any signs of condensation in the bag.
If you see moisture inside the bag or have opened the bag so it is no longer sealed, you will want to transfer it to a new container, as described in the section above, ‘How to Store Spinach in the Fridge.’
How To Store Fresh Picked Spinach
Storing spinach from the garden begins with properly harvesting your spinach. You want to cut your spinach leaves individually, rather than trying to pull them from the soil or collecting a large bunch at once.
If you clip each leaf separately, you can better protect the plant itself, allowing regrowth, but you’ll also minimize the amount of soil and dirt collected with the leaves, which makes cleaning and storing more efficient.
If you’re growing your own spinach, it’s best to only harvest enough for a single meal, as close to when you’re going to serve it as possible. This way you can wash your leaves immediately and serve soon after, reducing the likelihood that your spinach will wilt or spoil.
If your season is ending or you have another reason for harvesting your spinach in a large enough quantity that requires storage, hold off on washing the leaves until you’re ready to serve them. The same advice applies if you’ve purchased a bundle of fresh spinach leaves from your grocery store or farmer’s market.
Follow all the same recommendations for storage as listed previously, but wash your leaves carefully before you’re ready to eat them.
Best Containers to Keep Produce Fresh
Because spinach and other leafy greens are so delicate, there are containers designed specifically for storing this type of vegetable most efficiently.
The key to the design is having an elevated basket that allows moisture to drip through to a separate well, maintaining humidity without allowing the moisture to damage your leaves.
Our favorite container to keep produce fresh, specifically spinach, are the OXO GreenSaver Produce Keepers. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and include a carbon filter to trap ethylene gas and further slow down the degradation process.
Best Bags to Keep Produce Fresh
There are also bags designed to keep produce like spinach fresh for as long as possible. The Debbie Meyer GreenBags are not only the original produce keeper bags, but they’ve also been proven over time to be the best.
These green bags are reusable and recyclable and help to extend the life of any produce, including spinach. They are bags, so you will always have to be careful to keep your spinach safe from being crushed, but they work surprisingly well, making it easy to keep your spinach fresh in the fridge for a week to 10 days on average.
How To Keep Spinach Fresh Without Fridge
If you don’t think you’ll be able to eat your fresh spinach before it goes bad in the fridge, you may want to consider freezing it instead.
The sooner you can freeze your fresh spinach the better flavor and texture it will have when you thaw it for use, and also the more nutritional value you’ll protect.
Before freezing, remove any old, tough, discolored, or damaged leaves. These will not freeze well and are better sorted out before you freeze, rather than contaminating the entire batch.
If you’ve ever cooked spinach you know that a huge portion of fresh leaves reduces to a very small portion of cooked greens. The same is true for freezing your spinach.
While it will depend on the type of spinach you have and how it is packed, you’ll generally find that you’ll get about 1 quart of frozen spinach out of every 2 pounds of fresh spinach leaves.
How to Store Spinach in Freezer
The best way to store spinach in your freezer is to blanch them first. Blanching spinach will protect the color, flavor, texture and overall quality.
There are two ways to blanch your leaves: boiling or steaming.
Boiling your leaves, however quickly and gently, will result in more of the nutrition and color being lost to the water. However, you can keep that water and use it for broth, soup, or any other cooking to regain some of the lost vitamins and minerals.
Once your spinach is blanched, you can press as much water out as possible and compact the spinach into either silicone cubes for freezing or freezer-safe bags.
Either way, you will want to squish the spinach together as tightly as possible to remove as much air and water as possible for the best freeze.
If you’re using freezer cubes, once the spinach is thoroughly frozen, you will want to remove them from the cubes and transfer them to a freezer-safe bag and seal tightly.
If you’re freezing directly in the freezer-safe bag, press it as flat as possible so that the spinach fills the entire bag, again squeezing out as much air and moisture as possible before you seal tightly.
If you use cubes, you will likely crush your leaves and they won’t retain as much of their structure upon thawing, If you use a bag, you can lay the leaves as flat as possible, rather than crushing them together. This will better preserve their shape if that matters to you.
How To Blanch Spinach Leaves
Blanching spinach is really easy, but if you’re new to the process, here’s how to do it:
- Have a large pot of boiling water ready with a large bowl of ice water ready beside it.
- Place your spinach in a large mesh colander.
- Submerge it in the boiling water, making sure all the leaves are fully covered.
- Boil for about 45 seconds then pull the colander out to prevent cooking the leaves.
- Transfer immediately to the ice water and let them cool for another 45 seconds.
- Remove from the water.
- Press out as much water as possible using your hands and the colander.
- Transfer to a salad spinner if you have one to remove more moisture.
- Transfer the leaves to a clean kitchen towel, in a single layer, and use another kitchen towel to soak up any remaining moisture.
How To Freeze Spinach Without Blanching
Blanching is an important step if you’re going to be freezing your spinach for a few months, but if you plan on using it in just a few weeks, you can skip this step. It is not likely to have enough enzyme action within such as short span to compromise the quality of your spinach.
If it is pre-washed spinach, you can spread the leaves out directly into a freezer-safe bag, keeping the layers relatively even and as flat as possible. When you seal the bag, get out as much air as possible.
If you’re using garden-fresh spinach, you will want to wash it and thoroughly dry your spinach before freezing it.
Another great way to freeze spinach without blanching it is by using a vacuum seal machine. This creates a much more reliable seal and will protect your spinach longer. The smaller the portions, the quicker your spinach will freeze thoroughly, and the better the quality will be upon thawing.
How To Freeze Spinach For Smoothies
If you’re planning on using your spinach exclusively for smoothies, you may find it easiest to puree your fresh spinach before freezing it.
This way you can freeze the spinach using an ice cube or freezer tray, having conveniently small, easily blendable cubes of spinach ready when you want a smoothie.
This method also works well for spinach that you’re planning to cook with. Just remember to transfer the frozen solid cubes to a freezer-safe bag rather than leaving them exposed to freezer air in the ice cube tray for months.
How Long Does Spinach Last in the Freezer
If properly stored in an airtight container, frozen spinach should keep its best quality for 2–3 months. Beyond that time frame, you might start to notice a slight deterioration of flavor, color, and texture. The nutritional value will also decrease as time goes on.
You should always use your frozen spinach with 1 year at the most. The longer it has been frozen, the more you might want to consider using it in soups or sauces rather than serving as a side dish on its own.
How to Store Cooked Spinach
Cooked spinach should always be stored in your fridge within 2 hours of being cooked. It’s best to use an airtight container with an airtight seal and avoid opening the container until you’re ready to eat it.
You should eat cooked spinach within 3 days.
How to Tell if Cooked Spinach is Bad
Because cooked spinach is naturally a bit slimy, it’s harder to immediately see if it has gone bad.
If you notice any discoloration, spots, or unpleasant smells, discard it. It’s better not to test cooked spinach that you’re not sure about because, if it has gone bad, it can make you sick.
Reheating Cooked Spinach
It’s very quick and easy to reheat spinach.
Our preferred method is short bursts of 30 seconds in the microwave. But if you’d like more specific information on how to reheat spinach and whether or not it’s even safe to do so, check out our related article, Reheating Spinach – Is It Safe? Everything You Need To Know, next!