A helpful guide to the shelf-life of various types of smoked salmon, how to tell when it’s gone bad, tips for proper storage, and more!

Smoked Salmon with Lemon and Herbs on White Surface and Text Overlay 'How Long Does Smoked Salmon Last'

Cooking with smoked salmon is a great way to add delicious and unique flavors to your recipes. From smoked salmon cakes to yummy sushi rolls—its smokey, salty flavor can take dishes to the next level. But if you’ve never cooked with smoked salmon, you might wonder, “How long does it last?”

⇒ The Quick Answer

In general, smoked salmon lasts 3 to 4 days after opening (2 to 3 weeks unopened) when stored in the fridge. For more detail, check out these charts explaining how long different types of salmon last in the fridge, freezer, and pantry.

Like all perishable foods, smoked salmon has a limited shelf life, and it’s essential to know how long it lasts to ensure that it’s safe to eat and still tastes great. Also, understanding how long smoked salmon lasts can help you plan meals and minimize food waste. Read on for more detailed information.

Smoked Salmon with Lemon and Herbs on White Surface

Smoked Salmon Shelf-Life: How Long Does it Last?

When determining how long your smoked salmon lasts, first be sure to check the expiration date and storage instructions on the packaging.

Check the Label on the Package

As with most commercially-prepared foods, the label on smoked salmon will provide helpful information. Look for specific storage and use instructions provided by the manufacturer. Often, the label will include a use-by date or sell-by date, which can help you determine the freshness of the salmon.

Smoked Salmon Use-by Date

The use-by date indicates the date by which the smoked salmon should be consumed for optimal freshness and quality. It’s important to consume the smoked salmon before this date (or move it to the freezer) to ensure it’s still safe to eat and tastes great.

Smoked Salmon Sell-by Date

The sell-by date on smoked salmon indicates the date by which it should be sold by the retailer. It’s not an indication of the freshness of the salmon, but rather a guideline for retailers to ensure that they’re selling the salmon within a certain timeframe. However, it’s still a useful reference point for consumers to determine how long the smoked salmon has been on the shelf. Use or freeze within a week of this date.

Smoked Salmon Sell By Date on Package

How Long Does Smoked Salmon Last in the Fridge?

The shelf life of smoked salmon in the fridge can vary depending on several factors, including the quality of the salmon, the conditions it was stored in, and the type of smoking process used. Here’s a chart for easy reference:

Vacuum-packed, store-bought smoked salmon

Type of Smoked SalmonFridge Storage, UnopenedFridge Storage, Opened
Hot Smoked 14 – 45 days,
refer to date on pkg
3 to 4 days
Cold Smoked 21 – 30 days,
refer to date on pkg
3 to 4 days

Note: this assumes it has been refrigerated from the date of purchase and that airtight packaging has been used to store opened salmon. Source: Foodkeeper App

What About Homemade Smoked Salmon?

Home-smoked salmon will keep in the fridge for up to 14 days and in the freezer for up to 2 months, according to the FDA.

How Long Does Smoked Salmon Last in the Freezer?

If you’re not planning to consume smoked salmon right away, you can freeze it to extend its freshness. However, it’s important to note that freezing smoked salmon can affect its texture and flavor. Here’s a chart showing the typical shelf life of smoked salmon in the freezer:

Vacuum-packed, store-bought smoked salmon

Type of Smoked SalmonFreezer Storage, UnopenedFreezer Storage, Opened
Hot Smoked 6 – 12 Months2 – 3 Months
Cold Smoked 9 – 12 Months2 – 3 Months

Note: this assumes it has been frozen from the date of purchase and that airtight packaging has been used to store opened salmon. Source: Foodkeeper App

How Long Does Smoked Salmon Last in the Pantry?

In general, most fresh smoked salmon should not be stored in the pantry or kept at room temperature for longer than two hours. After that time, bacteria can begin to grow and make the fish unsafe to eat.

However, some brands of vacuum-sealed smoked salmon have been prepared for safe pantry storage—always be sure to reference the package for specific instructions. Any package that says “keep refrigerated” will not be suitable for pantry storage.

Canned Smoked Salmon Shelf-Life

Unopened, commercially-canned smoked salmon will last up to 5 years in the pantry if properly stored—check the can for an exact expiration date.

Home-canned smoked salmon should be used within 1 year, provided proper canning techniques and storage are followed, per USDA and NCHFP.

Once your canned salmon has been opened, you will want to remove any unused salmon from the can and store it in a separate airtight container in the fridge. Use within 3 to 4 days.

Canned smoked salmon

Type of Smoked SalmonShelf StorageFridge Storage After Opening 
Commercially-Canned 2 to 5 years3 to 4 days
Home Canned Up to 1 year 3 to 4 days

Note: these are general guidelines, and the actual shelf life of canned smoked salmon can vary depending on several factors. Always check for signs of spoilage, such as a bulging or leaking can, before consuming.

Sources: USDA, Foodkeeper App

Hot Smoked Salmon Fillets with Lemon and Herbs on White Marble

Factors that Affect the Shelf Life of Smoked Salmon

How long smoked salmon will last depends on several factors—including the type of smoked salmon, packaging method, and storage conditions.

  • Preparation method: is it cold smoked or hot smoked?
  • Packaging: is it vacuum-packed, in an airtight container, or canned?
  • Package condition: has it been opened, or is it unopened?
  • Storage method: is it stored in the pantry, fridge, or freezer?

Cold Smoked Salmon vs. Hot Smoked Salmon

Smoked salmon is a type of fish that has been cured and smoked. The smoking process involves exposing the fish to smoke from burning wood chips, which gives it a distinct flavor and texture. There are two main types of smoked salmon: cold smoked and hot smoked. Each process results in a different texture and taste.

Cold Smoked Salmon Packaging (left) Salmon on White Surface (right)

Cold smoked salmon is typically cured in salt and sometimes other seasonings, before being smoked at a low temperature (usually below 90°F) for several hours to several days.

This process results in tasty salmon that is cured and smoked, but isn’t fully cooked, giving the fish a delicate, silky texture.

Cold smoked salmon is usually sold in thin strips or slices and is often served on bagels or crackers. It pairs well with cream cheese or other mild dairy products.

Cold Smoked Salmon Slices with Lemon and Herbs on White Surface

Is smoked salmon the same as lox?

No, smoked salmon and lox are not the same. While both are types of cured salmon, they undergo different preparation methods and have distinct flavors and textures.

Cold smoked salmon is cured with salt, then smoked at low temperatures to preserve it. This method gives the salmon a smoky flavor and aroma.

Lox is salmon cured with a high salt concentration, but it is only cured, not smoked. As a result, lox has a softer texture and milder, saltier flavor than cold smoked salmon.

Hot Smoked Salmon Packaging (left) Salmon with Fork (right)

Hot smoked salmon is cooked at a higher temperature than cold smoked salmon (usually temperatures ranging from 140-180°F).

The salmon is typically brined, then seasoned with spices or herbs before being placed in a smoker or on a grill for several hours. After the smoking process, the fish is fully cooked. This method of preparation results in a delicious and richly-flavored smoky salmon with a soft, flaky texture on the inside and a slightly firm layer on the outside.

It is typically sold in thicker fillet cuts, though it is sometimes sold as whole fillets. This is also the version of smoked salmon that is usually canned.

Hot smoked salmon is often enjoyed as a main course, on salads, or added to pasta dishes for extra flavor.

Where to get Smoked Salmon

Both cold smoked and hot smoked salmon can be purchased at grocery stores (often by the deli counter), fish markets, or freshly smoked at home using a smoker. When you buy smoked salmon, the packaging should indicate whether it is cold smoked or hot smoked.

Hot Smoked Salmon with Herb and Lemon on White Surface

Smoked Salmon Packaging

Packaging is an important factor to consider when it comes to smoked salmon. Proper packaging helps to maintain the freshness and quality of the fish, while also ensuring its safe for consumption.

One common method of packaging smoked salmon is vacuum-sealing. This involves removing all the air from the packaging before sealing it, which reduces oxygen exposure and helps to preserve the flavor and texture of the fish. Vacuum-sealed packages typically have a longer shelf life than other types of packaging.

Another option for storing smoked salmon is wrapping it tightly in plastic wrap and/or storing it in an airtight container. This can help prevent any moisture or odors from affecting the quality of the fish. This type of packaging does not provide as much protection as vacuum-sealing, so it may have a shorter shelf life.

Canning smoked salmon is another popular option, especially for those who want a longer shelf life without having to freeze or refrigerate their fish. Canned smoked salmon can last for several years if stored properly, making it a convenient option for camping trips or emergency food supplies. However, canned smoked salmon may have a different texture than fresh or vacuum-sealed varieties.

Hot Smoked Salmon and Cold Smoked Salmon in Packaging on White Marble Surface

How do you know if smoked salmon has gone bad?

While smoked salmon has a relatively long shelf life, it’s still important to know how to tell if it has gone bad. Consuming spoiled smoked salmon can lead to foodborne illness and other health risks.

In this section, we’ll explore some common signs that smoked salmon has gone bad so that you can enjoy this flavorful fish safely and without any health concerns.

Here are Signs of Spoilage

There are a few key ways to tell if smoked salmon has gone bad: by its smell, appearance, texture, and taste.

  1. Smell: One of the most noticeable signs that smoked salmon has gone bad is a foul or unpleasant odor. Fresh smoked salmon should have a pleasant, smoky aroma, but if it smells sour, rancid, or fishy, it’s likely spoiled and should be discarded.
  2. Appearance: Fresh smoked salmon should have a bright and vibrant color, ranging from a pinkish-red to a deep orange. If it appears grey, off-white, or yellow, it’s likely past its prime and should not be consumed. (Any signs of mold or fungi, such as green or black spots, are also clear indications that it has gone bad and should be thrown away.)
  3. Texture: Fresh smoked salmon should have a slightly firm texture. If it feels slimy or mushy to the touch, it’s a sign that it has begun to spoil and should not be eaten. Conversely, if it has hardened or is crumbly, it may no longer be suitable to eat.
  4. Taste: Bitter, sour, or unpleasant tastes all indicate smoked salmon has gone bad.

If your smoked salmon shows any of the above signs of spoilage, be sure to toss it. Aside from an unpleasant experience, if you eat rotten smoked salmon you may be at risk for food poisoning.

If it doesn’t show any clear signs of spoilage, but you’re still not sure your smoked salmon is good, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and throw it out.

Cold and Hot Smoked Salmon with Lemon and Herbs

How to Store Smoked Salmon Properly

If you want to extend the shelf life of smoked salmon, proper storage is essential. Here are some tips to help ensure your smoked salmon stays as fresh as possible:

Tips for Storing Smoked Salmon

  1. Keep it in the original packaging: If the smoked salmon is vacuum-packed, it should be kept in its original packaging until you’re ready to use it. This will help to protect it from exposure to air and bacteria.
  2. Use an airtight container: If not stored in its original packaging, use an airtight container or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. This will help prevent air from getting in and drying out the fish and help minimize bacteria growth.
  3. Store it in the coldest part of the refrigerator: To ensure it stays at a safe temperature, smoked salmon should be stored in the coldest part of the fridge (usually towards the back). The temperature should be between 35 and 38°F (1.7-3.3°C). If the temperature is too high, the salmon can spoil more quickly and become unsafe to eat.
  4. Avoid storing it near other foods: Smoked salmon should be kept away from other foods in the refrigerator, especially raw meats and seafood, which can increase the risk of cross-contamination.
  5. Use it as soon as possible: Even when stored properly, smoked salmon should be consumed within a few days of opening or within the recommended shelf life to ensure it’s safe to eat.
Thinly Sliced Cold Salmon with Lemon and Herbs

Can you freeze smoked salmon? 

Yes, you can. Freezing smoked salmon is a great way to extend its shelf life, though keep in mind it may affect the taste and texture. Here are some tips for freezing smoked salmon:

  1. Vacuum-seal: If you have access to a vacuum-sealer, this is the best way to preserve fish for freezing. Removing all the air from the packaging reduces the risk of freezer burn and helps prevent oxidation, which can cause changes in color, texture, and flavor.
  2. Wrap it tightly: If you can’t vacuum-pack it, you can wrap your smoked salmon tightly in Saran wrap and/or heavy-duty aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn and exposure to air.
  3. Store it in a freezer bag or airtight container: Wrapped smoked salmon should then be placed in a freezer bag or airtight container to further protect it from freezer burn and contamination.
  4. Label and date the package: To keep track of how long the smoked salmon has been in the freezer, it’s important to label and date the package.
  5. Thaw it properly: Before using frozen smoked salmon, it should ideally be thawed in the refrigerator overnight. Avoid thawing it at room temperature or quick-thaw methods like running under hot water, as this can increase the risk of bacterial growth. You can defrost in the microwave in short increments, though this may further affect the taste and texture. Be sure to refrigerate any extras and consume thawed smoked salmon within 2-3 days for best quality.

What to Do with Leftover Smoked Salmon

Smoked salmon, whether cold smoked or hot smoked, can be used in all sorts of dishes. If you find yourself with leftover smoked salmon, here are some ideas of what to do with it.

Leftover Smoked Salmon on Cucumbers (left) and Bagels with Cream Cheese (right)

Ways to Use Cold Smoked Salmon

  • Add it to a salad. It goes especially well with leafy greens and a light vinaigrette.
  • Use it in sushi rolls with rice, avocado, cucumber, and cream cheese.
  • Serve with garlic herb cream cheese and crackers.
  • Serve it on top of eggs and potatoes for breakfast or brunch.
  • Top a bagel with cream cheese, smoked salmon, capers, and red onions for a classic bagel sandwich.
  • Add it to pasta dishes, quiches, or risotto.
  • Try our smoked salmon cucumber bites (pictured below).
Cucumber Bites with Salmon

Ways to Use Hot Smoked Salmon

  • Make salmon cakes. These are perfect for a quick and easy meal, and can be served with a variety of sides.
  • Top a salad with it for added flavor (honey-smoked salmon is particularly good on salad with honey mustard vinaigrette!).
  • Add it to tacos or burritos.
  • Add it to pasta dishes or risotto.
  • Create a smoked salmon pizza with capers, red onions, and cream cheese.
  • Mix it into quinoa or couscous salad.
  • Make a smoked salmon ball.
Hot Smoked Salmon Close up

Frequently Asked Questions

Here you’ll find answers to common questions related to smoked salmon.

How long does smoked salmon last in fridge once opened?

A package of smoked salmon that has been opened will typically last 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator, provided it is properly stored. To ensure safe storage and maximum freshness, smoked salmon should be tightly wrapped and/or stored in an airtight container and placed in the coldest part of the refrigerator.

How long does smoked salmon last in the fridge unopened?

Per the Foodkeeper App (developed by the USDA), store-bought hot smoked salmon that has been vacuum-packed will last 14-45 days in the fridge, and store-bought cold smoked salmon that has been vacuum-packed will last 21-30 days in the fridge. But be sure to reference the date on the package for specific manufacturer recommendations.

How long does homemade smoked salmon last in the fridge?

Homemade smoked salmon will last up to 14 days in the fridge, per the FDA.  

Can you get sick from eating bad smoked salmon?

Yes, you can get sick from eating bad smoked salmon. Eating spoiled or contaminated salmon can lead to food poisoning, which can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and fever. The severity and duration of these symptoms can vary depending on the type and amount of bacteria present.

It is important to store smoked salmon properly and check for signs of spoilage before consuming it to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. If you suspect that you have eaten bad salmon and are experiencing symptoms of food poisoning, seek medical attention immediately.

Bagels with Cream Cheese, Smoked Salmon, Capers, Dill

Final Thoughts

Smoked salmon is a delicious food that can be enjoyed in many different ways. How long it lasts depends on the type of smoking, packaging, and storage conditions. It is important to store smoked salmon properly to prolong its shelf life and to check for signs of spoilage before consuming it. By following these tips and guidelines, you can enjoy smoked salmon safely for longer.

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