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How Long Does Tuna Salad Last? How To Tell If Tuna Salad Is Bad?

Quick Answer: How Long Does Tuna Salad Last?

Tuna salad has a short shelf life no matter what. When left out at 40 degrees Fahrenheit and above, the bacteria grows at such a fast rate that it is not recommended to still eat the tuna salad once an hour or two has passed. If stored in the refrigerator, it will last less than around 5 days.

If you enjoy a healthy tuna salad, and often take it with you to college or work – or wherever else it may be – then you might want to know how long it lasts for.

Whether you buy the tuna salad or make your own, if you have a place to be, it is likely that you will not be eating it right away. 

Have you ever noticed that over time it does not seem as fresh, despite having not opened the container yet?

If you are worried about whether the tuna salad is safe to eat, or how long it may last on your next hike, then read on to find out. 

How Long Does Tuna Salad Last How To Tell If Tuna Salad Is Bad

Can Tuna Salad Go Bad?

Like a lot of foods, tuna salad has a relatively short shelf life. This does not change even when you store it correctly, though doing so can help it to last at least a little bit longer.

As soon as tuna salad is created, over time it begins to spoil. So much so, that when something like tuna salad is fully spoiled, there is no way of saving it. 

One of the biggest factors of tuna salad spoilage is temperature. It is not uncommon to have it at room temperature – whether that is from having it placed in front of you as a meal, or in your bag. 

Bacteria is a huge fan of something like tuna, and E.Coli is one of the biggest culprits of spoiling something like a tuna salad. 

As you probably already know, bacteria also likes warmth. So when it comes to tuna salad and a warmer temperature, there is no doubt that bacteria will begin to feed off the food. 

Is There A Way To Check If Tuna Salad Has Gone Bad?

Because we are talking about fish, you might think that it is difficult to check whether tuna salad has gone bad. However, there are few indications that can tell us when tuna salad has gone bad.

How The Tuna Salad Looks

One of the best ways to tell if tuna salad has gone bad is by looking at it. The fish meat should be pink in color, and the salad itself should look fresh and bright.

If there are brown and black bits on the fish, and if the salad is looking limp and also brown, then you should throw it away. There is a good chance that by now the spoilage has already begun. 

Discoloration is a good indicator of fresh food going bad. At this point, bacteria may also be present, so it is not worth risking your health for. 

How The Tuna Salad Smells

Tuna is quite a strong smelling fish, so you might think that the smell will be similar when it has gone bad. However, this is not true.

When tuna goes bad, its smell will turn rancid and disgusting. It will have a smell that does not scream fresh fish, but instead like the fish has been put into the warm sun for hours. Yuk!

If there is even one whiff of an odd smell, do not eat it. The tuna may not present a totally horrific smell yet, and instead just something a little off-putting. As soon as you smell it, discard the tuna salad. 

How The Texture Of The Tuna Salad Is

Tuna salad is known for having a wonderfully creamy and delicious texture. This can be enjoyed alone, but also within two slices of crunchy bread.

If you notice that the texture of the tuna salad has changed – perhaps it is slimy and sticky – then you should not eat it at all.

You should also avoid tuna salad that has a clear liquid oozing out of it. If you do go ahead and eat tuna salad that has gone bad, then you risk suffering from food poisoning. 

How Long Can Tuna Salad Last For?

As soon as you have put together a delicious tuna salad, it can last for a few days so long as it is left in a cool area such as a refrigerator. However, do not expect it to last up to five days.

This means you will want to make sure it is eaten as fast as possible. 

If you have made the tuna salad for a party or picnic, then it will only last for around one to two hours at most at room temperature. Once it begins to reach the two hour mark, it will be far from fresh.

You will want to eat the tuna salad right away if you plan to leave it at room temperature to avoid becoming sick. Even quicker if you are sitting outside in the sunshine. 

What Is The Shelf Life Of Tuna?

As we learn to cook, as well as get to an age where we begin to shop for ourselves – we have to learn what the shelf life is of certain foods. This could be by accident, or just knowing the right information.

Tuna, and fish in general, is one of those things that can turn nasty real quick. If fish is left at room temperature, then you can be sure that it will go bad within a matter of hours. 

Another thing to learn is how to store food correctly so it lasts. However, different foods have different shelf lifes, so it can be difficult to figure out.

Tuna is no different. When you create tuna salad it is likely that you will be using the canned variety.

It is much easier to use and mix, than steaming some fish and dicing it up ready to be mixed within salad. It is likely not to have the same texture and taste. 

Canned tuna is often put into a brine to make sure it can last for weeks, if not months, on the shelf at the grocery store.

Once the can is open, or if you are buying a premixed tuna (for example with mayo or something else that is creamy), then the tuna will have a much smaller shelf life. 

This is because, once tuna has been exposed to oxygen it begins to degrade. This is also made worse by warmer temperatures too. 

Also, what sauce the tuna has been mixed with will affect the overall shelf life of the tuna as well. For example, mayonnaise is a dairy product which also has a really short shelf life. 

If you put them both together, then you will have a lunch that will only last an hour or two. 

Just remember that fresh food that is not cooked will be prone to bacteria, and this means that once exposed to the warmer air, it will only last an hour or two at the most. 

After that, you will need to check whether the food is still edible. 

What Is The Shelf Life Of Tuna Mayo?

Mayonnaise is a popular choice when it comes to creating a tuna salad. It is creamy and goes well alongside both the fishy flavor and salad.

However, mayonnaise is created using eggs which have a short shelf life. This means that in general, mayo will not extend the shelf life of the tuna salad.

In fact, it will last less than 5 days within the refrigerator, and around one to two hours at room temperature.

How To Store Tuna Salad?

How To Store Tuna Salad

There are a couple of ways to store tuna salad: in the refrigerator or the freezer. Let’s discuss both. 


Place the unused tuna salad into an airtight container and put it into the refrigerator. It can stay spoiled free for up to around 4 days, though always check for spoilage before consuming it. 


To avoid having to thaw a big batch of tuna salad, separate smaller batches into airtight containers or freezer safe bags. 

Now you can leave the batches for up to 8 months. Just like with the refrigerator, always make sure they look and smell fine before consuming. 

Even if frozen, they can go bad. You will not know until they are thawed. 

Is Tuna Salad Freezable?

You can freeze tuna salad to make sure it lasts a lot longer than it does when it is fresh. In fact, freezing it can make it last for up to 8 months.

However, always make sure to check that it is still okay to eat when you thaw it. Do keep in mind that the quality will not be the same once it has been thawed. 

To thaw, place the frozen tuna salad in the refrigerator. For the best results, do this process overnight. 

Final Thoughts

Tuna salad is a delicious sandwich filler, or it can be great as a lunch to take with you to work or college. More often than not, it is kept outside of cooler temperatures for a lot longer than it should be.

This might be a worry to you, which is not surprising – it is fish, after all. It may also include a creamy sauce like mayonnaise too. 

So long as you consume the tuna salad within an hour or two, and keep the remaining batch in the refrigerator, you will be fine.

Jess Smith