How To Tell If Strawberries Are Bad

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When it comes to strawberries, freshness is key. Strawberries are delicate berries with a brief shelf life, so if you missed a few spoiled strawberries when you bought them or haven’t stored them properly, you might be in for a mushy or moldy surprise.

It’s always a shame to waste perfectly good strawberries, but sometimes it’s hard to tell if a strawberry is bad. Here are tips to help you determine whether your strawberries are still fresh or need to be disposed of.

How To Know If Strawberries Are Bad

Typically, spoiled or rotten strawberries will just look bad, have a mushy texture, or have mold growing on and between them. You should discard any bad strawberries you find and check the remaining berries for similar spoilage.

But these are not the only signs that your fresh strawberries have gone bad. If you see any of the following signs of spoilage, it’s best to just throw them out:

They Do Not Smell Right

If you’re unsure, give them a smell. A perfectly ripe strawberry should smell sweet with a hint of green, while spoiled ones will usually have an off smell. I don’t think sour is the right word, but your nose should tell you something isn’t quite right.

A less ripe strawberry will probably smell pretty green overall.

Don’t worry if your nose isn’t able to tell you about the smell because the smell is often accompanied by some of the other signs of bad strawberries

No Taste Or Tastes Strange

You couldn’t resist. You took a quick look at them and decided to take a bite. Unfortunately, they weren’t the sweet fruit you were expecting. They might not make you sick, but there’s no point in keeping them if they don’t right.

Strawberries can taste quite different depending on a variety of factors. It depends on the season, where they were grown, or the type of strawberry plant. But if they are anything besides a bit sour or sweet, you might want to toss them.

If you think you could use them in a recipe, you’ll need to add a ton of sugar, and the strawberry flavor just won’t be there.

Soft Strawberries Or Mushy Strawberries

A good strawberry should be bright red and have a firm texture.

When you can tell that your strawberries are bruising and leaking juice without touching them, it’s time to chuck them.

Mushy strawberries will happen with age, as part of the decomposition process, no matter what you do, and it’s important to use them or remove them quickly before they affect the others.

Bacteria can also make strawberries go soft and mushy, so it’s best not to take any chances here.

Sometimes it starts with a few overripe strawberries or a single rotten strawberry that creates excess moisture in the container, so make sure you use them up quickly or store strawberries properly.

One Or More Moldy Strawberry

White or grey mold is a telltale sign that your strawberries have gone bad. And while you might be able to remove a few moldy berries, it’s best to play it safe and discard all of your berries with even a hint of mold.

moldy strawberry close-up

The problem with mold is that it’s not always visible, and by the time it is, the mold has already spread its roots and spores all over the inside of the container or bag you have them in.

It’s fascinating and disturbing to think about, so just get rid of them! And next time, try freezing your strawberries if you aren’t going to be using them up quickly.

The Outer Skin Is Peeling Or Missing

If your strawberry’s skin looks like it’s peeling or missing, it’s a sign that they are on their way out and may have gone bad.

When you notice this, give it a smell and check for critters. If everything checks out, you might have time left to use them in your favorite recipe. I wouldn’t eat them as is because their taste and texture might be a bit off.

Your Strawberries Have Color Changes

Strawberries are bad when they have a dull color in whole or in patches. If they still have their stems or leaves attached, those will be hard, wilted, and turning brown.

A strawberry with severe discoloration is an easy toss into the garbage.

If your strawberries have gone from a nice juicy red to something else, you’re going to need to make a call. Their time may already be up.

Fruit Flies Are Everywhere

It may not be obvious at first, but fruit flies may be growing on your strawberries. Their tiny larvae love sweet strawberries. If you look real close, you might even be able to see them.

While eating a few may not harm you, you probably don’t want to think about it. I’m sorry.

Fruit flies can mean you could have quite the infestation in your strawberries, or they may have come from other fruits and vegetables you brought home from the grocery store.

Luckily, you can wash off fruit flies, their larvae, and other critters with a soak in water with a splash of vinegar.

But as I mentioned above, the skins of strawberries are quite delicate, so it’s important not to damage them while washing. Definitely no scrubbing!

What Do Bad Strawberries Look Like?

Bad Strawberries will look like they are mushy, moldy, turning different colors, shriveling, or missing parts of their skin or flesh. The stems will turn a pale green and eventually brown as they decompose.

good vs bad strawberry

What Happens If You Eat Bad Strawberries?

If you eat bad strawberries, food poisoning is always a risk. It could take up to 72 hours before you start feeling unwell with symptoms of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or headaches.

If you think spoiled strawberries have caused you to be sick, contact your doctor immediately because foodborne illness can be a very serious condition.

If One Strawberry Is Moldy Are They All Bad?

Because you’re dealing with mold and possibly bacterial growth, it’s really best to get rid of all of the strawberries in the same container.

I know many people think you can just pick out the gross ones and wash off the rest, but I don’t recommend it.

It’s not worth anyone getting sick or having an allergic reaction over a few dollars’ worth of rotten or moly berries.

If you bought a few packs of strawberries and buried them in the fridge, you should check all of them because mold spores can travel through the air.

Think about how many times you’ve opened your refrigerator, causing a ton of air movement, helping those spores find a new home.

It’s also a good idea and a good time to make a plan to use them up quickly before they all go bad.

What Happens If You Eat Moldy Strawberries?

If you accidentally ate a moldy strawberry, you’re going to find out pretty quickly if you have an allergy to mold. Again, it’s not just mold that you need to worry about. It’s also bacteria that enjoy the same moist environment.

Don’t try to remove the mold off a strawberry or use the rest of the ones in the container for any reason. If you see mold, it’s already everywhere and can cause health problems if consumed raw or cooked.

Final Thoughts

The signs of a bad strawberry are pretty easy to spot, and you should now be quite good at how to tell if a strawberry is bad or not.

Even when strawberries are in season and flying off the shelf at the grocery store, you’ll still have to comb over these delicious fruits to check for any potential problems.

If you don’t have time to pick fresh strawberries or want to avoid strawberries that increase your food costs, frozen strawberries are a good alternative that may actually retain more nutrition.

And I know strawberries are expensive, and you hate to waste food, but if you’re just not sure if they’re spoiled or not, err on the side of caution and throw them away.

But let’s say your berries look good, you’ll want to read my next guide answering the question, how long do strawberries last?

Written By Justin Micheal

Justin is not just the creator but also an author and editor for KitchenSanity. He does the majority of the cooking at home with his wife. His friends and family look forward to eating his delicious creations, which often leads to many questions about how they can replicate his meals at home. In his writing, he shares his passion and knowledge as a home chef from his kitchen to yours.