The Quick Way To Tell If Homemade Salad Dressing Has Expired

The idea of eating expired foods is never a good one. People have been taught to follow expiry dates, not follow expiry dates, use their best judgment ... the list goes on. Unfortunately, when it comes to expiry dates for food, it's a little tricky as there's no one size fits all rule. This becomes even harder once we try to decide if homemade food has gone off. Also, there's no expiry date on your reusable containers filled with leftovers from last night's dinner. So, how are you supposed to know when it's gone bad?

We've touched on how you will know if your eggs are expired or if it's safe to consume certain expired products like beer or cheese. We've even dug into the details of if bottled water can expire. Now for something new: Salad dressings — specifically homemade ones. Most commonly, salad dressings come in one of two forms: Mayonnaise- and oil-based. So the expiry considerations for them have to be different, right?

Mayo-based dressings

Some popular mayonnaise-based dressings, such as Russian, Caesar, or Thousand Island, can be store-bought. However, making them from scratch is easy and delicious. The addition of mayonnaise into salad dressings gives them a creamy, rich flavor. Whether homemade or store-bought mayonnaise in a salad dressing, the mayo-based dressing is made by whisking it together with the dressing ingredients. Given that the dressing usually contains some form of oil and possibly other liquids such as vinegar or citrus juice, be sure to fully combine the ingredients to ensure they are emulsified.

Homemade mayo-based dressings make it pretty easy to tell once they should be put in the garbage instead of tossed with a salad. Given that you whisk them together to emulsify, when you notice the dressing has separated in the refrigerator, this indicates that the dressing has expired (via Reader's Digest). Although one may think they can easily just mix it together again, let's take this as a sign to say goodbye to the dressing and start fresh. As a general rule of thumb, salad dressings that are mayo-based tend to last around three to four days (via Know Your Pantry).

Oil-based dressings

On the other hand, separating ingredients does not mean that the dressing has expired for oil-based dressings. Naturally, water and oil will not mix. While different kinds of vinegar, which are usually in oil-based salad dressings, are made of mostly water, they will separate as they sit (via Wonderopolis). This being said, the separation does not indicate that the dressing has expired; rather, it just needs to be mixed together before use. So, unlike mayo-based dressings, we will need to have a different expiry indication for oil-based ones.

According to Reader's Digest, oil-based salad dressings, such as a balsamic vinaigrette or Italian dressing, tend to last longer than mayo-based dressings. In general, these dressings can last for up to a few weeks (via Know Your Pantry). However, once they've expired, they will give off a noticeable rancid smell. So, next time you're reaching for some homemade salad dressings, be sure to think about what it was made of to determine whether you can give it that extra shake to recombine or if it should be tossed. Always then be sure to give it a good sniff to make sure it's safe to eat.