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Does Italian Dressing Go Bad? [Shelf Life, Storage, and Spoilage]

In a Nutshell:

  • Shelf life: Unopened Italian dressing lasts for a few months beyond the expiration date and about 6 to 12 months after opening
  • Spoilage: Look for mold, changes in smell, color, or quality
  • Storage: Keep it in a cool, dark place (like a pantry), and refrigerate after opening

We all love a good bottle of Italian dressing to jazz up our greens, but have you ever wondered about its shelf life or how to store it properly? Well, you’re in luck!

In this article, we’ll dive into the world of this salad dressing, its shelf life, and how to store Italian dressing for maximum freshness. Plus, we’ll give you some tips on how to tell if Italian dressing has gone bad.

So, grab your leftover bottle, and let’s get started.

Table of Contents

How Long Does Italian Dressing Last?

Italian dressing typically has a shelf life of 12 to 18 months and retains quality for at least a few months beyond the printed date. Once opened, it stays fresh for 6 to 12 months if refrigerated and sealed tightly.

That’s the high-level overview.

Unopened Italian Dressing

Unopened store-bought Italian dressing can last anywhere from 12 to 18 months. The printed date on the bottle usually indicates the “best by date,” meaning that the dressing will be at its best quality before that date.

That means that “expired” Italian dressing is, in most cases, still safe to eat, even if it’s a couple of months beyond the “expiration” date. Of course, the quality might not be as good as that of a freshly bottled salad dressing, but it should be good enough.

As usual, if you’re no longer comfortable with how old the salad dressing is (e.g., it’s two years expired), discard it.

Italian Dressing After Opening

Once you’ve opened a bottle of Italian dressing, you should refrigerate it and use the salad dressing within 6 to 12 months of opening for best quality. And if your bottled Italian dressing is already nearing the best-by date or is slightly past it, assume that period is closer to 3 to 6 months.

That period is for the regular salad dressings sold unrefrigerated that only say “Refrigerate after opening” on the label. In some rare cases, you might find a homemade-style salad dressing that only lasts a week after opening.

(That’s why you should always read the labels.)

Homemade Italian Dressing

Homemade Italian dressing lasts about a week in the fridge if it’s sealed tightly and refrigerated. Some recipes might suggest that it keeps for up to two weeks, but I suggest you err on the side of caution with homemade dressings.

While the individual ingredients of Italian dressings like vinegar (or lemon juice), olive oil, mayonnaise, or Parmesan cheese last quite a while, the combination not necessarily so.

And if you want to be super safe on this one, use the homemade salad dressing within 3 to 4 days of whipping, the same way you do with other perishable leftovers.

How to Tell if Italian Dressing is Bad?

To determine if your Italian dressing has gone bad, look for mold, changes in smell, color, or consistency. If you notice any of these signs, it’s best to discard the dressing.

Let’s dive deeper into each of these indicators.


A significant change in the aroma of your Italian dressing is a red flag. If it smells rancid, sour, or off in any way, it’s time to let it go. This is also true for other dressings and condiments like Ranch or tartar sauce.

Change in Color

If your Italian dressing has changed color, it’s a sign that it’s past its prime. The color may appear much darker or have a strange hue.

Of course, a slight color change is okay, and it’s most likely caused by some of the ingredients settling on the bottom of the jar or bottle.

Consistency Change

Italian dressing should have a smooth consistency. If it has become thick, clumpy, or separated and doesn’t mix well after a good shake, it’s time to toss it. The same goes for other dressings and sauces like Dijon mustard, ketchup, and hot sauce.

That said, some separation is normal, especially if your Italian salad dressing has been in storage for months. It’s an emulsion of oil and vinegar, and it’s normal for these ingredients to separate over time.

(And for some of the heavier ingredient particles to settle on the bottom.)

Furthermore, the dressing might seem cloudy after refrigeration. That’s expected and perfectly fine, and the issue will resolve itself once the dressing comes back to room temperature.

The same thing can happen to olive oil and some vegetable oils.


Italian dressing doesn’t usually grow mold, as vinegar and olive oil aren’t ingredients prone to mold growth.

That said, if you notice any fuzzy action on the surface of the dressing or the neck of the bottle or jar, assume that your Italian dressing has gone bad. You don’t want to risk food poisoning.

Now that we’ve covered how to tell if Italian dressing is bad, let’s move on to storing Italian dressing.

Does Italian Dressing Need to Be Refrigerated?

In short, unopened Italian dressing does not require refrigeration, but opened Italian dressing should be refrigerated to prolong its freshness. Otherwise, the salad dressing will lose quality very quickly.

For homemade Italian dressings, these need to be continuously refrigerated.


Unopened Italian salad dressing, much like Gochujang, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce, can be stored in a cool, dark place like a pantry or cupboard. These products don’t require constant refrigeration, as their ingredients and preservatives help maintain their quality at room temperature.

After Opening

Once you’ve opened a bottle of Italian dressing, storing it in the refrigerator is best. This is also true for other condiments like cocktail sauce or hoisin sauce. Keeping them chilled helps extend their shelf life and maintain their freshness.

Now that we know whether or not Italian dressing needs to be refrigerated, let’s discuss how to store salad dressing.

How to Store Italian Dressing

Proper storage of Italian dressing is essential for maintaining its freshness and quality. Follow these guidelines to ensure your dressing stays at its best:

Choose the Right Location

Store unopened Italian dressing in a cool, dark place, away from direct sunlight or heat sources. This is similar to the storage requirements for products like teriyaki sauce, barbecue sauce, and balsamic vinegar.

Once opened, transfer your leftover bottled salad dressing to the refrigerator.

Use an Airtight Container

If you’re dealing with homemade Italian dressing or transferring store-bought dressing to a different container, use an airtight container, mason jar, or anything else you can seal tightly.

This will help protect the dressing from contaminants and maintain its freshness.

Keep it Clean

When using your Italian dressing, make sure not to contaminate the bottle or container with food particles or dirty utensils. This helps prevent cross-contamination and reduces the risk of your Italian dressing going bad prematurely to a minimum.

That’s all, folks. Happy drizzling!