How Long Can Egg Salad Sit Out? [Making & Storing]

Egg salad is a simple classic that is easy to make and delicious on its own or in a sandwich. Unfortunately, egg salad can be a little touchy when it comes to storing it safely. You should not leave it out for more than 2 hours, much less overnight to ensure that it doesn’t grow dangerous bacteria. 

Generally speaking, egg salad can be safely left at room temperature for only 2 hours. In fact, it would be best to refrigerate it as soon as possible and not leave it out of the refrigerator for long at all.

You can keep it in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days. You should not freeze egg salad, so you should make small batches that you can use within 5 days.

Continue reading for specifics about making and storing egg salad, tips for the best hard-boiled eggs, and recipes for sprucing up your egg salad. 

Storing Egg Salad

Refrigerating Egg Salad

Traditional egg salad is made with boiled eggs, mayonnaise, mustard, salt, pepper, and other seasonings. The main ingredient, eggs, are perishable and are likely to harbor salmonella and other bacteria that can cause illness.

The USDA and FDA explain that perishable foods should be stored below 40 or above 140 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent the growth of bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses. Since egg salad is served cold, you should keep it refrigerated. 

Traditional thought is that the mayonnaise in salads like egg salad is what leads to food spoilage. In an interesting twist, the acidity in mayonnaise makes it more stable at room temperature than the eggs.

Whether you have homemade or storebought egg salad, you should not try to freeze it. The boiled egg whites will lose their texture in the freezer, become rubbery, and break down upon thawing. Furthermore, mayonnaise is made of egg whites and oil.

This combination tends to separate and become grainy when it thaws and won’t recombine. Therefore, if you try to freeze the egg salad, it may still be safe to eat, but it will not taste the same or have a good texture. 

Although you shouldn’t freeze egg salad, you can freeze herbs to keep them tasting fresh. You can thaw frozen herbs like parsley and dill before adding them to your egg salad.

Homemade Egg Salad

After you hard boil eggs for egg salad and mix up the ingredients, you should keep the egg salad at room temperature for no more than 2 hours. Room temperature is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Within those two hours, you should refrigerate the egg salad in an airtight container. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

If you are taking egg salad to a picnic, you should take some precautions to keep it safe to eat. Keep it in an airtight container and in a cooler with ice or ice packs until you serve it. You should return it to the ice chest or cooler bag as soon as possible because egg salad will go bad quickly in the heat. 

Storebought Egg Salad

The same rules for food safety hold true for storebought egg salad as for homemade egg salad. Keep egg salad refrigerated when you are not serving it. It should not be left at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. 

One small difference that you should pay attention to is the use by date on storebought egg salad. If you don’t know exactly the day the egg salad was made, you should go by the expiration dates on the packaging. If you know the date, you can go by 5 days from when the store made it.

Egg Salad Sandwiches

Your basic egg salad sandwich is egg salad on bread, but you can dress it up into a much more exciting sandwich. Add a couple of leaves of butter lettuce and a slice of tomato to dress up your sandwich. 

You should also consider trying other kinds of bread, from white bread to dark rye bread. Try a toasted sourdough topped with cheese, bacon, and egg salad for a crunchy, filling sandwich. 

How To Identify Spoiled Egg Salad

First, we need to dispel a myth. Many people say that adding a splash of vinegar to egg salad will extend the life of the salad by keeping bacteria from growing. In a way, this makes sense because we preserve foods with vinegar.

However, the teaspoon of vinegar in egg salad is a far cry from the amount of vinegar needed to kill bacteria or preserve food. All it does in egg salad is enhance the taste.

When the egg salad in your refrigerator is nearing the end of its freshness, you should be able to tell by the odor. Spoiled eggs have a distinctly sulfuric smell. If your egg salad smells bad, you should discard it.

Another telling sign of spoilage is the separation of ingredients, mold, or a slimy texture. Unfortunately, sometimes the egg salad may be growing bacteria and has not yet given off any apparent signs of spoiling.

If the egg salad is nearing the 5-day mark and you have any doubts about its quality, you should discard it rather than eating it. 

Likewise, you should discard egg salad after 5 days regardless of appearance, smell, or texture. It is better not to take a chance with food-borne illness.

Hard-Boiled Eggs

The central ingredient in egg salad is hard-boiled eggs. While eggs are easy to hard boil, sometimes getting the shell off is not. There are many suggestions for getting the perfect hard-boiled egg and getting the shell to peel off perfectly. Try these for the best results.

Start the eggs in boiling water instead of cold water. Boil for about a minute, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10-12 minutes, depending on how hard you like the eggs.

Remove the eggs from the hot water and immerse them immediately in ice water to stop the cooking. Let them soak for 15 minutes before trying to peel the shell. It also helps to peel them under running water to get the shells off. 

A widely-accepted fact is that older eggs peel more easily than fresh eggs. And, while many sources offer contradictory information about the best way to boil and peel an egg, these tips tend to be repeated often:

(1) Use a thumbtack to poke a small hole in the large end of the egg before cooking it; (2) Add 1 teaspoon of vinegar to the boiling water; or (3) Add ½ a teaspoon of salt to the boiling water. Maybe try all the tips to see what works best for you. Remember that your elevation also will affect how quickly your eggs will boil.

Essential Egg Salad Recipe

Like everything else, people have family traditions and regional differences regarding what ought to be in egg salad. Here is a basic egg salad recipe that we will follow with potential additions for various flavors.

Hard boil and peel 6 eggs. Mash them in a large bowl into crumbles. Stir in ⅓ cup of mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon of mustard, ½ teaspoon of salt, and ¼ teaspoon of pepper. Of course, you should add additional salt and pepper to taste.

Use this recipe for a simple sandwich filling, a salad topping, or a dip with crackers or chips. 

Additions To Egg Salad

If the plain egg salad is too simple for you, you can dress it up with seasoning or with additional ingredients, or both. 

Try adding more flavor to your egg salad with seasonings from this list. The amounts listed are for use in a 6 egg recipe: 2 tablespoons of chopped chives, ¼ cup fresh chopped dill, ¼ cup chopped parsley, or other herbs like basil, tarragon, or cilantro. For a spicier egg salad, try ½ teaspoon of cayenne, ½ teaspoon cumin, or ½ teaspoon of paprika. 

You can add more texture to the egg salad with chopped vegetables. Try pickles or pickle relish, chopped celery, chopped carrots, diced cherry tomatoes, green onion, or sweet peas.

Our basic recipe calls for plain mustard, but you can dress it up with extra mustard, dijon, or spicy mustard. 

If you are not a fan of mayonnaise, you can swap it for unflavored greek yogurt. That way, you still get the tanginess without the mayo. You may want to add a squeeze of lemon juice if you make this substitution. 

As we noted earlier in the article, many people add a splash of vinegar or lemon juice to the egg salad to help preserve it. While this doesn’t extend the life of the egg salad, it does add a nice zip to the dish’s overall flavor.

Concluding Thoughts

Egg Salad is delicious when it is plain and simple and when it is dressed up with herbs and seasonings. You can have it on bread for a sandwich, use it as a topper on a salad, or eat it like a dip at a holiday party. However you choose to eat it, you should not leave it out longer than 2 hours at room temperature. If you are serving it at a party, keep it in a bowl of ice.

Be sure to discard egg salad after 5 days of refrigeration or if it begins to show signs of food spoilage. Egg salad doesn’t freeze well because the texture of the eggs changes, and the mayonnaise separates. Save your leftover egg salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for lunch the next day. Egg salad will stay good in the fridge for up to 5 days.

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