Can You Eat Potato Salad Left Out Overnight?

After a barbecue or party, you may need to clear your table and leave a dish of potato salad out all night. You open it up and it looks and smells like normal. Is it safe to eat?

Potato salad left out overnight is not safe to eat. Potato salad is perishable, and perishable food should only be left out for two hours maximum. Eating potato salad that has been left out overnight can result in food poisoning, even if the salad doesn’t appear to be spoiled.

It’s good to know how long potato salad lasts both in and out of the fridge. It can also be helpful to know how to keep it fresh and how to tell if it has gone bad.

It’s good to know how long potato salad lasts both in and out of the fridge. It can also be helpful to know how to keep it fresh and how to tell if it has gone bad.

Safety Concerns

Foods are categorized into perishable and nonperishable. Nonperishable foods have a very long shelf life. These are usually canned goods or packaged foods. Some nonperishable foods have an indefinite shelf life, while others just have a very long one. Regardless, these are not the kinds of foods that spoil after a few days.

Nonperishable foods have such a long shelf life because the food is not a very hospitable environment for bacteria. This can be because they are particularly acidic, too dry or cold, or filled with added preservatives. Nonperishable food won’t spoil quickly because bacteria won’t be able to grow in them very quickly because they are inhospitable.

Perishable foods are foods that have a short time period in which they are safe to eat. Meat, eggs, dairy products, and fruits and vegetables are all examples of perishable foods. These foods are a very hospitable environment for bacteria to live and reproduce. Because bacteria can live and thrive in these foods, they spoil very quickly.

A bowl of potato salad with peppers in the background

Putting perishable foods in the refrigerator can increase the amount of time during which they are safe to eat. When the food is at a colder temperature, it is less hospitable for bacteria, so it won’t be able to grow as quickly. However, perishable foods don’t last in the fridge for much longer than a few days before getting spoiled. If you want your food to last a very long time, you may need to freeze it, though this can often affect the taste and texture.

Potato salad is a perishable food. The potatoes, other sliced vegetables, mayonnaise, and eggs are all perishable foods, so they don’t last very long, especially outside of the refrigerator. It is important that you take great care to not eat spoiled potato salad, which can happen, even by accident. Potato salad can last a few days in the fridge, but it can’t survive long outside of the fridge.

Leaving potato salad out overnight means it can sit out for 7 to 12 hours. It becomes warmer and warmer until it is room temperature. Because of the damp environment and the scarcity of preservatives, it is a breeding ground for bacteria. More and more bacteria will grow, and it will increase by a noticeable amount over the next 7 to 12 hours. You may not be able to see any signs of spoilage, but it is still there, and it can still make you very sick.

If you eat this bacteria, it will continue to grow in your body. These bacteria are not supposed to be in your body, and they can cause damage to your bodily functions. As a result, your body will do everything it can to get this bacteria out. This is what causes food poisoning. Most commonly, you will have an upset stomach, cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and a fever as your body tries to get rid of this bacteria. Depending on the type of bacteria, it can set in soon after and last for a long time. Having food poisoning makes for a very miserable time, and you will need to spend a lot of time on or near the toilet.

Depending on the number of bacteria in the potato salad, your body may be able to fight it and get rid of it without you noticing. However, the longer it sits out, the more bacteria will grow, and then you will be more likely to get the nasty symptoms of food poisoning. It probably isn’t worth the risk. So, in short, do not eat potato salad that was left out overnight.

How Long Can You Leave Potato Salad Out Overnight?

Potato salad is a common food at summer barbecues. I can always count on there being some potato salad at my cousin’s house on the Fourth of July. This potato salad is often left outside in the heat for long periods of time while people come by and serve themselves a heaping portion. However, food like potato salad can’t be out of the fridge indefinitely, so it is important to know how long you can leave potato salad sitting out before it starts to go bad so you don’t get a bunch of your guests sick.

Traditional potato salad with egg and mayonnaise on wooden background
Traditional potato salad with egg and mayonnaise on wooden background

According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), perishable food should not sit out at room temperature for more than two hours. If the temperature is hotter than 90 degrees Fahrenheit, perishable food shouldn’t sit out for more than one hour. After this amount of time, the level of bacteria in the food will become dangerous and can make you sick.

Perishable foods include meats, eggs, dairy products, and sliced fruits and vegetables. Most potato salads include sliced potatoes, mayonnaise, hard-boiled eggs, and sliced vegetables, all of which are perishable. Potato salad is a perishable food, so it should not be left out for more than 2 hours. If you’re serving it outside on a hot day, it shouldn’t sit out for more than one hour.

So, if you bring potato salad to a barbecue on a hot summer day, you should probably make sure that people eat it quickly; you may also need to throw away the leftovers. Pay attention to the amount of time that your potato salad is out of the fridge and make sure that no one eats it outside of the recommended time frame. Most of the time, your potato salad is sitting out longer than two hours, so try to make sure that your guests don’t eat it later in the day, and throw it out after the barbecue is done. Saving leftovers in the fridge that have been out for more than two hours can definitely result in food poisoning because it won’t do much to kill the bacteria that is already there.

How Long Can You Keep Potato Salad in the Refrigerator??

Potato salad can be safely kept in the refrigerator for about 3 to 4 days. Since potato salad has so many perishable foods, it won’t last very long in the fridge. If it has been left out for a while and then put in the fridge, it will last even less time. It is best to eat potato salad early and not leave it sitting in the fridge for a while. Potato salad can last longer in the fridge because it becomes a less hospitable environment for bacteria, but eventually, it will get enough bacteria in it to make it unsafe to eat.

Leftover food in Tupperware in the fridge
Leftover food in Tupperware in the fridge

You can also freeze potato salad indefinitely. The problem is that the potato salad will not be the same once it has thawed. The mayonnaise and eggs, in particular, in potato salad, do not hold up well to being frozen. It will taste different and not have the same texture. It is probably best to eat your potato salad earlier instead of freezing it because it just won’t taste as good as it would have before being frozen.

If you are concerned that the potato salad has been in the fridge for too long, just throw it away. Potato salad is a particularly vulnerable leftover, and it isn’t very expensive. It is better to get rid of it instead of risking getting food poisoning. Prioritize your health over wanting to finish off your leftovers without throwing them away.

How to Keep Potato Salad Fresh

When you bring potato salad to a potluck or serve it for dinner, you should keep it in the refrigerator for as long as possible. If you are driving somewhere with potato salad, consider keeping it in a cooler. This way, it stays at a safe temperature and can sit out for longer. If you arrive early, ask if you can store your salad in the refrigerator to keep it fresh. Only take it out when the meal starts.

Potato salad freshly homemade with cilantro, olive oil, vinegar, whole grain dijon mustard, red onions, and potatoes

Potato salad freshly homemade with cilantro, olive oil, vinegar, whole grain dijon mustard, red onions, and potatoes

It may also help to keep the potato salad inside instead of leaving it outside, especially if it’s a hot day. When the air temperature is near 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the time that potato salad can sit out diminishes to one hour because the food will heat up faster, creating an even more hospitable environment for bacteria. Plus, there are more bugs outside who might want a taste of your salad. If you want the food to last longer while sitting out, keep it inside.

You can potentially have your bowl or container of potato salad sitting in a larger bowl with ice. This can help keep it cool as people serve themselves. You should still throw the potato salad out after two hours because sitting on ice is not enough to protect it from bacteria. It will just keep the food cooler, a little bit safer, and better tasting (because warm potato salad isn’t just unsafe, it also doesn’t taste good).

When potato salad is in the fridge, make sure that it is in an airtight container. This will help protect it and keep it fresh. Limiting the oxygen supply that the food has can protect your food from bacteria for longer because bacteria need oxygen to survive. Open-air containers in the fridge can also make the food dry out more quickly because there is more air to dry it out.

The best way to maintain freshness is to keep the food in the refrigerator and not leave it out for long periods of time. Bacteria won’t be able to grow on the food as quickly, and it will stay fresh for longer. Don’t let it sit out for too long; the less time it is out of the refrigerator, the better.

How to Tell If Potato Salad Has Gone Bad

There are a few signs that potato salad has definitely gone bad. The potatoes will start to smell and taste sour after a while because they have started to ferment. The oil in the mayonnaise will also start to separate. If the salad is really bad, it can start to grow white, black, or blue mold. If you see any of these signs, throw the food away. The mold is especially a bad sign; if it is only on one part of the potato salad or on the lid, don’t beat around the affected area, but throw the whole thing away.

Delicious creamy german potato salad dressed in mayo infused with mustard and parsley

Delicious creamy german potato salad dressed in mayo infused with mustard and parsley

The problem with potato salad is that there can be a lot of bacteria in it before it starts showing signs of being spoiled. Even if you don’t notice any of the above signs, the potato salad may still give you food poisoning. If it has been sitting out for longer than two hours, you should definitely just throw it away. If it has been in the refrigerator for longer than four days, you should also just throw it away.

You don’t want to take any chances with bad potato salad. Food poisoning is not a fun experience, and it is better to just throw it away. Your health is nothing to mess around with, and eating spoiled food can make you very sick. If you aren’t sure if it is safe to eat, don’t eat it.

Just to reiterate, don’t eat potato salad that has been left out overnight. Don’t eat it if it has been left out for over two hours. This is the best way to make sure you don’t get sick from it.

Anna Silver

Anna Silver is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to new go-to original recipes. Inspired by her grandmother’s love of cooking, Anna has a passion for treating the people in her life to delicious homemade food and loves to share her family recipes with the rest of the world.

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