Soggy, slimy leaves. Sad, wilted lettuce. Just writing those words makes me cringe. It’s frustrating to waste food, and leafy greens tend to go bad quickly. A few days in the fridge and into the garbage they go.
Lettuce help (sorry, I couldn’t help myself!). These expert tips will keep your lettuce crisp and delicious for a week (or longer).
How to Wash Lettuce
There is more than what meets the eye hanging out on your lettuce leaves. Bacteria, bugs, dirt and pesticides are just a few of the things that linger on lettuce. The best way to remove these pesky germs? Wash them right off.
We recommend washing your lettuce right when you get home from the store so you don’t forget. To wash lettuce, first pick through the bag and remove any leaves that are damaged, wilted, damp or slimy. For head lettuce, remove any outer leaves that look damaged. This limits the moisture left behind, extending the life of the rest of the greens. Then, lightly rinse under water and pad with a paper towel or use a salad spinner to clean off your leaves.
Wondering if you should wash pre-washed lettuce? While there’s no black or white answer on this one, we recommend washing it just to be on the safe side. Even if lettuce is pre-washed, it doesn’t mean there aren’t any extra germs lying around.
How to Store Lettuce
Lettuce needs moisture and airflow to stay crisp, but too much of either causes sad, wilted greens. Depending on how long you’d like to store your lettuce, you can choose to store it as a full head of lettuce or individual lettuce leaves.
To store a full head of lettuce, wrap in a damp paper towel and put the head inside a plastic bag. Store in the refrigerator.
If you’re storing individual lettuce leaves, spin them dry after washing and place in a lettuce keeper in the fridge. A container is best to avoid bruising and bacteria buildup. You can also use a plastic bag if you keep a corner open for airflow, or you can store them stemless and wrapped in a wet paper towel in your crisper drawer. Make sure to add a few paper towels to absorb excess moisture and replace the paper towels every few days if they get too damp.
Keep in mind that even if you do everything right, your lettuce may wilt a bit. Crisp it up by soaking cut lettuce in ice water for a few minutes. Then, spin dry as you normally would. This is great for slightly wilted lettuce.
You should also keep lettuce away from ethylene fruits (like pears, avocados, apples and tomatoes) because they release gas as they ripen, which causes other produce to age prematurely. Bookmark this storage produce guide to keep tabs on your other produce, too.
How Long Does Lettuce Last?
How long lettuce lasts depends on how it’s stored and which type of lettuce it is. Loose leaf lettuce can last seven to ten days when properly stored, but head lettuce lasts much longer than that. Left intact and unwashed, head lettuce will last one to three weeks in the fridge. In comparison to other leafy greens, though, lettuce reigns as the long shelf life champion.
If you can’t remember how long you’ve had your lettuce, remember this: When in doubt, toss it out—especially if it smells bad, looks gross or feels slimy.
claire krieger/taste of home
Can you Freeze Lettuce?
If you’re looking to keep your lettuce for even longer, consider freezing it. Yes, you really can freeze lettuce!
We recommend freezing thicker lettuces, like romaine or butterhead. Keep in mind that lettuce tends to lose some of its crispness and flavor when it freezes, so it’s best to freeze lettuce for smoothies, soups and stews—not for recipes that rely on fresh lettuce leaves like salads. Same goes for other leafy greens like spinach and kale, which are great for freezing as well.
You can freeze lettuce one of two ways. One way is to freeze full lettuce leaves. To do so, separate and rinse off lettuce leaves and dab excess water off with a paper towel. Then, place the leaves in an air-tight freezer bag. You can also freeze lettuce by pureeing it and freezing it in ice cube trays for liquid recipes like smoothies and soups. Lettuce can be frozen for up to 6 months.