How to Revive Wilted Lettuce and Greens (and Make a Crunchier Salad)

You buy a bunch of kale with the best intentions of making a big salad for dinner. You blink once, it’s next week, that salad didn’t happen and those greens are crying for help from the fridge—they’re soft, wilted and seem destined for the trash. But wait! All isn’t lost. You can totally bring your veggies back to life with a simple trick: All you need is cold water. Here’s how to revive wilted lettuce and greens (and finally enjoy that crunchy salad).

Why do lettuces and leafy greens wilt so fast in the fridge?

Vegetable 101: Lettuces and leafy greens like kale, chard and spinach are made of mostly water. Refrigerators, and cold temperatures in general, are dry environments, sucking the moisture from anything they can get their grips on. So while you’re treating yourself to frozen Trader Joe’s dumplings (love you), the greens in your fridge are losing water and turning soft. 

But like a dehydrated millennial who’s misplaced their security water bottle, all your sad greens need is a cool drink of water. Here’s how to give them a second chance at life, er, salad.

How to Revive Wilted Lettuce and Leafy Greens in 4 Steps

The good news for that kale in your crisper? It can be re-crisped with a quick soak in cold water. Here’s how to do it: 

Step 1: Fill a large bowl (or better, a salad spinner) with very cold water. Ice water is ideal, but cold tap water will work fine too.
Step 2: Submerge your wilted greens in the cold water.
Step 3: Soak the greens for about 30 minutes, or until they’re no longer soft and wilted. Depending on how far gone they are, they may not return to their prime state, but they should re-crisp to a useable quality.
Step 4: Drain the excess water and spin the greens in a salad spinner, if desired. Use the greens as soon as possible.

Et voilà, you just learned a new trick, reduced food waste and fed yourself something nutritious. FYI, you can use the same concept to keep those veg looking gorgeous from the minute they come home with you, too.

How to Store Lettuces and Greens So They Last Longer

Keeping your greens looking fresher longer is just a matter of storage. When you’re unloading your reusable tote, try one of these methods:

  • Wrap the greens in a damp paper towel, then place them in a half-zipped Ziploc bag in the fridge. The extra humidity is like a mini greenhouse for your greens and will help them retain some of their crispness for a few days longer.
  • Treat the greens like a bouquet of flowers and store them in a cup of water in the fridge. This works especially well for hardy greens like kale and chard, but will also prolong the life of soft lettuces and even herbs like parsley or cilantro. (Try it with celery, too!)
  • Go all out and get a designated container like the OXO GreenSaver Produce Keeper, which is designed to absorb ethylene gas and control humidity, thereby preventing spoilage. 

Oh, and even if that bunch of kale is too far gone for salad, you could still chop it up and toss it in a bowl of minestrone or sauté it with some garlic and lemon. (You know, as long as it’s not sludge.)


Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...