How Long Does Tuna Salad Last? [+ How to Boost Shelf Life!]

Share the fun

So, you made a tuna salad or bought one from your local deli shop and you are now asking yourself: 

“How long will this product last?” 

Generally, a freshly-prepared tuna salad can last up to 3 to 5 days. But, there are several factors that could affect the shelf life of your tuna salad.

Tuna salad is great as a tasty appetizer or even as its own meal (especially satisfying for lunch!)

Although this product is best eaten when freshly prepared, we can’t overlook the fact that sometimes — we just make too much and can’t finish it all. 

We don’t blame you! 

Now the next question is: how do you prolong the life of your salad?

A typical tuna salad consists of: 

  • greens (such as celery, parsley, and, of course, a bed of lettuce) 
  • onion
  • mayonnaise
  • pepper
  • And a dash of
  • lemon juice.

Oh, and it’s not a tuna salad without the fresh and juicy tuna! Your ingredients and preparation techniques will greatly affect how long your tuna salad will last. 

We’ve got some tasty information for you. We’ll even give you hints to know if your salad is still safe to eat!

Keeping Your Tuna Salad Fresh and Tasty

Given the right conditions, the USDA has advised that your tuna salad can generally last up to 3 to 5 days

When we say the right conditions, this statement includes the freshness of the ingredients you choose and the way of preparing the dish. These conditions go hand-in-hand. No matter how fresh your ingredients are, your salad won’t last a day if your preparation is unsanitary.

Conditions will also depend on whether you made the salad yourself, or you drove to the grocery store to buy one.

Ready-To-Eat Deli

A deli that serves fresh sandwiches

A deli that serves fresh sandwiches

Store-bought salads are under strict quality control measures. Food companies impose stringent controls for producing fresh, ready-to-eat products. The most common ingredients in tuna salad are highly-perishable and ideal for the growth of bacteria.

When buying tuna salad from a deli or your local supermarket, make sure that:

A. The products are well-sealed 


B. That there are no signs of tampering on the packaging

This gives you the assurance that what you are purchasing still has the integrity of its intended shelf-life.

Consider picking up the container of salad last when you are doing your shopping. Ready-to-eat foods should be eaten without reheating. As such, their temperature must at least maintain or be close to their storage temperature before consumption.

Related: Do You Know Why Food Tastes Better When You're Hungry?

Homemade Tuna Salad

As with any other dish intended for storage in the refrigerator, preparation is vital to keep it safe for consumption for later. The main causes of spoilage for tuna salad are bacteria and molds. These agents love two things in particular – moisture and nutrients. Your tuna salad has loads of both!

To mitigate — or at least slow the damage caused by these microorganisms — lessen their introduction to the food.

Properly wash your vegetables before cutting them and make sure that your preparation area is squeaky clean. 

If you choose to use fresh tuna over canned, separate the tuna from all other ingredients. Because your seafood is fresh, it contains natural microorganisms. These can contaminate other things in your kitchen, including your utensils.

That said, here's what you'll need to do:

Poach your fresh tuna for about three to four minutes in boiling water. (Or until the internal temperature of your seafood reaches 62.8 °C.) Grab a food thermometer here

At this point, you can mix your tuna in with your vegetables and mayonnaise.

Because microorganisms are all around us, be sure to clean your chopping board, knives, spoons, and other utensils after preparing your tuna salad.

Related: How To Clean Stainless Steel Pans After Cooking.

What Comes After Preparation?

Whether store-bought or homemade, there is only one place to put your tuna salad if you plan on consuming it later – the refrigerator. Your top spoilage agents are inactive and will remain harmless at 5 °C for at least the suggested period of shelf-life.

Do not let your tuna salad sit out on the counter for hours before you decide to put it inside the refrigerator. Although, relatively more effective in prolonging the shelf-life of your tuna salad, freezing it is not advised. 

Of course, you still want to get the same eating experience as you did before you decided to save your salad for later. Freezing your product will cause changes in texture and appearance upon thawing and can even make it runny. No one wants a soggy salad!

Keep your tuna salad in a tightly-sealed container and place it inside the coldest region of the refrigerator. We are not talking about the door of your refrigerator. 

We bet you’re wondering, “Why?”

The area with the most unstable temperature inside your refrigerator is its door. Fluctuations in temperature level will occur whenever someone opens the door. This scenario gives the bacteria a chance to multiply and become stronger in number.

Do you have a Samsung fridge on the fritz? Learn How To Reset Temperature On A Samsung Refrigerator.

How to Tell if My Tuna Salad is Still Good?

There are several tell-tale signs to the wholesomeness of your tuna salad. Leaving a highly-perishable food on top of the counter for several hours will most definitely produce changes.

One of the fastest ways to tell whether your salad is still safe to consume is to check its scent. Bacteria break nutrients down as their source of energy and create by-products. Most of these by-products create noticeable changes in your food such as the development of very sour to foul smell.

Bacteria and molds produce organic acids from breaking down the carbohydrates from your tuna salad. These acids produce a strong sour scent from spoiled food. 

Although rarely seen in tuna salad, other signs of spoilage may include: 

Discoloration or growth of some funky looking molds. Which may present themselves as white, green, or black cottony circles.

Related Reading: Can You Eat Chicken Left Out Over Night?


To enjoy your tuna salad for a longer period, ensure that you only buy and use the freshest produce. Remember how temperature greatly affects the shelf-life of your salad and the recommended range needs adhered to at all times.

If your product starts showing signs of spoilage even if it is inside the refrigerator, do not be a daredevil and consume more of it. It’s always better to make a new batch of fresh tuna salad than to get an upset stomach. 

As the saying goes, “When in doubt, throw it out!”

For more tasty seafood recipes, check out our articles on shrimp, oysters, and salmon.

Leave a Comment