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How to tell if kale is bad (Plus helpful tips)

How to tell if kale is bad (Plus helpful tips)

Kale is such a hearty vegetable. This is why it can be confusing to know if kale is bad. Trying to figure this out can be one of the main reasons people shy away from fresh produce.  
This guide will help you figure out the answer to that question and other frequent questions about kale. 
For years, kale was our absolute favorite green. We would massage kale with olive and keep a simple kale salad in our fridge, ready to eat pretty much daily. 
We did this because kale is hearty and can withstand several days in the fridge. This made it an ideal side dish for any meal.

These days, we are quite partial to arugula, but kale is still a staple in our diet. 
When it comes to keeping kale fresh and how long it will last, it is important to start thinking about how fresh your kale is at the moment that you purchase. 
Essentially, how long kale lasts and how fresh the kale is when you buy it tie in together. But, we will get into a bit more down below. I am personally a bigger fan of raw kale than cooked kale, but we have a recipe for mean rice and kale casserole.

Can Kale go bad?

Kale can go bad. There is a common misconception that kale is so hearty that it will last forever. This is not true because kale is a cruciferous vegetable and, it has a shelf life. You can extend the shelf life of kale by storing it correctly or by freezing it.

A close-up photo of curly kale leaves on a rough-hewn wooden tabletop.

How long does kale last?

How long kale lasts depends on what kind of kale we are referencing. Fresh kale will last up to one week in the fridge. Kale in a bag can last up to two weeks in the refrigerator. 
Frozen kale will last about six months in the fridge, and if you blanch it, you can extend that life by another two months. 
Fresh kale left out at room temperature can last about 3 hours.

Is slimy kale bad

Slimy kale is bad kale. If you pull a bunch of kale out of the fridge and the kale leaves are slimy, pause what you are doing and evaluate before serving or cooking. 
If just a few leaves are slimy, you can remove those leaves and use the rest of the kale. If the edges are slimy, you can cut off those parts and use the rest of them.
But if it is mostly a slimy mess, then sadly, you need to dispose of it and not eat it.

How long will kale last on the counter

Kale can last up to three hours on the counter. Uncut kale will last a bit longer on the counter than cut kale will. 
If you haven’t cut the stem off the kale yet and you accidentally leave it out on the counter, just inspect it before you put in the fridge.
Does it appear wilted or slimy? If so, toss it. 
Has it turned yellow or brown? If so, toss it.
Does it still smell off? If so, toss it.
If it passes the above tests then, go ahead and place it in the fridge.

A close-up photo of a bunch of curly kale on a rustic wooden cutting board.

How to tell if kale has gone bad

There are a few ways to tell if kale has gone bad. The first way that I recommend is for you to smell the kale. Does it smell fresh? If it doesn’t smell fresh, it will smell sour, almost like sour eggs.
Do a visual inspection of the kale. Is it bright green? Kale that has gone bad will look like it is turning yellow-brown. 
Does the kale have any brown or black specs on it? If you see these spots, the kale has gone bad. 
Is the kale slimy? If the kale appears slimy or feels slimy to the touch. 
In summary: Kale has gone bad if it is brown and no longer bright green, or has brown or black spots or is slimy or if it smells foul. If you notice any of these features, it is bad kale.

How to pick out kale

The best way to pick out kale is first to do a visual inspection. Healthy kale should be bright green. 
Do a visual inspection of the leaves and make sure they don’t have any brown or black spots.
Do the kale leaves seem firm? They should not look withered. They should appear crispy and firm but not crunchy.
Then smell the kale. Good kale should have a fresh smell to it. (_Note that the bad kale will have an off-putting smell. It may be subtle so, that is why I recommend paying more attention to a fresh smell and using that as your guide.)
In summary: The best way to pick out kale is to find kale that is bright green with firm leaves that are free of black or brown spots. Avoid kale that has yellow leaves. Finally, smell the kale to make sure that it smells fresh.

A close-up photo of a plate piled high with vibrant green kale leaves.

Can you eat yellow kale?

Whether or not you can eat yellow kale is it depends. If the kale has turned a bit yellow but isn’t slimy and doesn’t have any dark spots, it is likely still eatable. However, yellow kale will taste bitter and, you may not enjoy eating it. 
If only the tips of the kale leaves are yellow, I recommend cutting away the yellow chunks and using only the green parts remaining. 
As long as your kale still smells fresh and isn’t slimy with spots, you can eat it but, I do recommend eating it quickly at that point. It likely will not last much longer.

How long will bagged kale last?

How long bagged kale will last depends greatly on the date that it was packaged. First, look on the bag for an expiration date. Generally, an unopened bag of pre-washed kale will last up to 10 days in the refrigerator. 
Once the bag of kale is open, it should be used within about 3-4 days.

How long will fresh kale last?

A fresh bunch of kale unwashed will last about seven days in the fridge. To maximize the life of fresh kale, place it in the high humidity drawer of your fridge as quickly as possible. Don’t wash the kale before placing it in the fridge.

How long will frozen kale last?

Frozen kale that isn’t blanched will last up to 6 months in the freezer. Blanched kale can last up to 8 months in the freezer.

Should I wash kale before putting it in the fridge?

Don’t wash fresh kale bunches before putting them in the fridge. This will keep fresh longer.
However, if you want to prep the kale in advance for smoothies, you can go ahead and wash it and cut it. At that point, you will want to properly store the kale and, it should be used within four days or so.

Tip on storing kale

Our biggest tip for storing kale is to moisten a few paper towels, wrap the kale in them and then place the kale in a large sealable plastic bag or airtight container. Then place it in the crisper drawer in the fridge.
Storing the kale this way keeps it moist and will help you avoid wilted leaves for even longer. The paper towels shouldn’t be dripping wet. They should just be lightly moist. Excess moisture will speed up the spoilage clock, so there is a balance to keep in mind there. 
This is an easy way to get the best results, whether you are dealing with dinosaur kale or regular curly kale.


Thursday 13th of April 2023

I enjoyed this thank you very much. My kale is still good!!! Yeahhh! Hehehhe.