How To Tell If Cabbage Is Bad: What To Look For

You know the feeling – you’re rummaging through the fridge looking for something to make for dinner and come across that head of cabbage you bought a few weeks ago. But is it still good to eat? Let’s find out how to tell if cabbage is bad.

No one wants a side of food poisoning with their meal. Cabbage may seem like a hardy veggie, but there are a few signs you need to watch out for to make sure it hasn’t gone south.

Before you chop that cabbage for your coleslaw or stir fry, check for these telltale signs that your cabbage is spoiled and should be tossed. Your taste buds and stomach will thank you later.

Check for Brown or Wilted Outer Leaves

The first sign to tell that your cabbage has gone bad is if the outer leaves are brown, wilted, or slimy.

Once the outer leaves start to deteriorate, it allows moisture, mold, and bacteria to infiltrate the inner leaves.

To check, gently peel away the first few layers of leaves. If many layers are brown or slimy underneath, it’s best to throw out the entire head. Don’t try to salvage it by removing just the rotten leaves.

Chances are, the spoilage has spread further than you can see.

Another indicator is if the cabbage has a foul, unpleasant smell.

Fresh cabbage has an earthy, vegetal scent. If it smells sour, musty, or like ammonia, it’s well past its prime.

The cabbage should also feel firm and heavy for its size. If it feels light, spongy, or has brown spots, that’s a sign gasses have built up inside as it decays.

Remember, when stored correctly in the fridge, cabbage can last 1-2 weeks. As it ages, the vitamin C content starts to drop, and the chance of foodborne illness rises.

When in doubt, it’s best to discard old cabbage.

Your health and safety should be a top priority. Don’t gamble by eating questionable produce to avoid waste.

Compost the spoiled cabbage instead and pick up a fresh head next time you shop. Your body and the environment will thank you!

Give It a Smell Test

The sniff test is the best way to tell if your cabbage has gone bad.

The same applies when also trying to determine if a Zucchini is bad. Lean in and take a big whiff of your cabbage – if it has a foul, unpleasant, or sour smell, it’s spoiled and should be thrown out.

Fresh cabbage will have an earthy, vegetal smell.

Once cut, cabbage starts to lose quality quickly. Within a week of cutting, cabbage can go from fresh to foul.

Store the whole head in the fridge to keep your cabbage tasting its best. Once cut, use within 3 to 5 days.

Check the outer leaves for slimy, brown spots.

The cabbage is past its prime if the outer leaves are wilted, damaged, or browning. Don’t just peel off the outer leaves, as spoilage can spread to the inner leaves.

Look for any unusual colors.

Cabbage naturally has a pale green or purple color. If there are dark, dull colors or, even worse, mold, it’s spoiled. Some molds can be dangerous, so throw the cabbage out if you spot any mold.

Feel the cabbage for soft or mushy spots help tell if it is bad.

Fresh cabbage should feel firm and dense. If the cabbage gives a little when squeezed, turns brown where pressed, or feels slimy, it’s over the hill.

Trust your instincts. If anything about the cabbage seems off, smells strange, or just doesn’t look quite right, it’s best to discard it.

When in doubt, throw it out! Your health isn’t worth the risk of foodborne illness from spoiled cabbage.

Spoiled cabbage can grow harmful bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria, so avoiding spoiled cabbage is critical.

Take an extra minute to check your cabbage and ensure it’s fresh before eating. Your taste buds and your tummy will thank you!

Inspect the Head for Slime or Mold

Once you’ve selected a head of cabbage, it’s time to inspect it closely to ensure it’s still fresh. Here are some signs to look for that may indicate your cabbage has gone bad:

Slime or Mold

Gently squeeze the cabbage head. It has likely spoiled if it feels slimy and sticky or has mold spots on the leaves.

Mold will appear as fuzzy, colorful places, and the slime will smell unpleasant. Bacteria grow rapidly in spoiled cabbage, so avoid purchasing if you notice these signs.

Discolored or Wilted Leaves

The leaves should be crisp, not limp, with a consistent green color. Avoid cabbage with leaves that are browning, yellowing, or have spots.

Wilted, discolored leaves indicate the cabbage is past its prime and losing moisture. Choose a head with fresh, vibrant leaves for the best quality and nutrition.

Strong Odor

Fresh cabbage has a mild vegetal smell. If you notice a foul, rotten odor coming from the cabbage, do not purchase it.

An unpleasant smell means bacteria have started decomposing the vegetable, making it unsafe to eat.

Loose or Damp Head

The head of cabbage should feel heavy, dense, and dry, not damp or spongy. Avoid any heads that feel loose when squeezed or have leaves falling away from the core.

This indicates the cabbage is overmature and drying out. For peak freshness, choose a head that feels tightly packed.

Checking these signs will help you avoid a spoiled head of cabbage and ensure you select a fresh, high-quality vegetable.

When in doubt, it’s best to pass up a questionable head of cabbage in favor of another that meets all the criteria for freshness. Your taste buds and health will thank you!


So there you have a few tips to help you avoid spoiled cabbage and ensure you’re getting the freshest, crunchiest cabbage for your next meal.

Trust your senses, check for spotting and sliminess, and make sure the cabbage feels heavy for its size. If anything seems off, it’s best to pass – your stomach will thank you later!

Eating spoiled produce is no fun and not worth the risk. When in doubt, throw it out. But with these signs to guide you, you’ll be well on your way to picking the perfect cabbage.

Happy shopping and bon appetit! Stay fresh, my friends.

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