The good news about lettuce is that it’s not a particularly needy vegetable at all! All you need to do to store it properly is to wrap it in some damp paper towel and put it in a plastic bag of any kind. When that’s done, just put it in the fridge and it’ll stay fresh for a pretty long while.
The tips we’re about to share as part of this guide can generally be applied to just about every kind of lettuce under the sun. However, if you’re really gunning for the longest possible shelf-life you could get from lettuce, make sure to buy thicker, crispier kinds for storage. Romaine and Butterhead are stellar examples.
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How to Store Lettuce Properly
Storing lettuce is really simple, all in all. When you bring it home (preferably the whole head), your first order of business should be to thoroughly wash it while avoiding any potential physical damage the process might cause.
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Once that’s done, remove any excess water via light shaking, and then wrap the lettuce in a damp paper towel. Afterward, you can put it in a plastic bag, but an actual Salad Sac or some generic equivalent (like this one) might help keep lettuce fresh for a bit longer.
- EXTEND FRESHNESS - Ingenious design of the Lettuce Bag slows down the ripening process, and can extend the freshness of fruit and vegetables by up to 2 full weeks.
- EASY TO USE - Simply place your lettuce, or any produce into the bag, pull tight, and place in the fridge to keep your food fresher for longer.
- BRIGHT GREEN MATERIAL - The durable nylon material is resilient and easy to clean, and the bright color means it won't be forgotten in your fridge.
Plastic storage containers are not recommended unless they’ve got holes or some clearance to allow a moderate amount of air to pass through. You want your lettuce exposed to both airflow and moisture, just not too much of either.
Even with all of the above in mind, however, lettuce can also just be thrown into a plastic bag and put into the fridge. In fact, if you only aim to keep it around for a day or two, there’s virtually no reason to bother with anything else.
Is There Any Difference Between Storing Loose Lettuce Leaves and Whole Heads?
For storage purposes, we must recommend that you try and get lettuce heads over loose leaves or even shredded lettuce mixes. A head of lettuce will always stay fresh for way longer than any other option would, so be sure to keep that in mind.
If you already have a bundle of loose leaves that you want to keep, though, there are ways to go about doing that. Just don’t expect them to stay crispy for weeks at a time.
For this purpose, we’d like to recommend a lettuce keeper bowl of any kind. We like this one from Mueller.
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First, wash your loose lettuce leaves and then dry them off as best you can. Naturally, some amount of moisture will be retained, but this is where the lettuce keeper comes in, as any excess of it will be kept away from the leaves themselves.
As an alternative, you can use a regular plastic bowl of any kind, but then you’ll also need to add paper towels to absorb water. Replace them on a regular basis, if you intend to keep your lettuce for a couple of days.
Is It Okay to Freeze Lettuce?
Though some may suggest otherwise, lettuce does not take kindly to being frozen. While it’s not actually dangerous for you to do so, lettuce is extremely susceptible to freezing damage due to its high water content.
Technically you can throw your lettuce into the freezer, but the end result won’t retain any of the delicious crispness we all love this veggie for. Therefore, it’s not the best idea. We’ll stick with the refrigerator, and recommend that you do the same!
How Long Can Lettuce be Safely Stored?
As we suggested already, loose leaves of lettuce don’t keep nearly as well as entire heads of lettuce do. When properly refrigerated and kept away from any and all ethylene producers, loose leaves will keep for about a week with some amount of sogginess present.
Lettuce heads, however, will stay fresh and minty for a fair bit longer. Expect to get up to three weeks of shelf-life if you store it according to our guidelines.
To reiterate, though, try to keep an eye out for thicker, juicier types of lettuce if you want to extend these estimates further. If nothing else, they will stay fresher than the thinner, greener variants would, and that’s a major consideration in our book.
How to Tell if My Lettuce Has Expired?
Lettuce is past its prime once the leaves wilt, turn soggy and mushy, and become significantly darker in color than they previously were. After a while, lettuce will also start browning, which is a sure way of knowing that you really want to avoid eating those bits.
Now, it’s entirely possible to give your lettuce an extra oomph in a pinch if it hasn’t gone entirely bad just yet. For example, if it’s only just wilted, then you can soak individual leaves in ice-cold water for 10-15 minutes. This will return some of their original crispy goodness, though not all of it.
Lettuce Storage Mistakes: Don’t Make ‘Em!
Lettuce is particularly sensitive to ethylene. As you probably already know, many different kinds of fruit produce an excess of ethylene which, in turn, causes everything around them to expire at a hugely increased rate.
Fruit that should be kept separate from other produce for this exact reason is, for example, the following:
And a huge variety of others. Be mindful of ethylene producers in your fridge!
Store Your Lettuce Correctly!
Lettuce is awesome, and the fact that it’s so easy to keep around for weeks at a time means that you can always count on it as a side dish, or even as a base for something a tad bit stronger.
It goes without saying that it’s far from ideal that you can’t freeze lettuce to keep it around for really long periods of time, but that’s the price of crunchy goodness in the vegetable kingdom.
If you’re really passionate about lettuce, check out some of the dedicated storage bowls and keepers, as they’ll help your veggies retain their freshness longer. It’s neat that they’re all so easy to use, too!