What’s more classic than a bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon? Or maybe cinnamon roll with cream cheese frosting? Everything tastes much better with this soft cheese.
We all love hoarding foods. You know, just in case the craving strikes. You were too enthusiastic about grocery shopping, that you actually bought cream cheese more than you need. So, you’re asking yourself: does cream cheese go bad?
Or, you forgot to return cream cheese back into the fridge. It’s been sitting on the dining table overnight. Is it still safe to eat? How long can cream cheese be left out from the refrigerator?
We’ve all been there. If you’re curious about the essential details of cream cheese, such as its shelf life, storage, and spoilage signs, keep reading! We have the answers for you!
How To Store Cream Cheese
In general, we know that cheese is grouped into hard and soft cheese. Each has different processes that result in different characteristics and handling, including how cheese should be stored.
Cream cheese is a soft cheese that is not matured. It’s prepared from milk and sometimes mixed with cream. Besides the classic regular cream cheese, other variants are also available, such as flavored and reduced-fat cream cheese.
Unlike hard cheese (such as Parmesan cheese) that doesn’t always need refrigeration, cream cheese should be kept refrigerated at all times to maintain its shelf life—no matter if it’s a brick (or a block), a tub of cream cheese, regular or flavored ones.
Let’s start with your grocery shopping. You should pick cream cheese (and other perishable items) on your last minute before you walk to the cashier. It sounds trivial, but it can cut down the exposure at room temperature.
As soon as you’re home, immediately put cream cheese back into the refrigerator. Place it in the back of your fridge, instead of the door to avoid fluctuating temperature which affects perishable foods. It’s also important to maintain your refrigerator’s temperature at a minimum of 40 °F (or 4.4 °C).
After opening, don’t forget to tightly cover the container. Otherwise, cream cheese tends to dry out. Even worse, contaminants can easily find their way into it.
If the packaging is not resealable, like the brick cream cheese, at least properly cover it with an aluminum foil or place it into a sealed container.
Hygiene is another essential thing when it comes to food storage. That being said, you should only use a clean knife or cutlery to scoop out the cheese.
Double-dipping is never a good idea. You’re likely transferring bacteria from your mouth or dirty spoon. After this, spoilage is undoubtedly on its way.
Cream cheese takes no time to make at home. If you decide to whip up your homemade cream cheese, make sure it’s placed in a sealed airtight container and keep refrigerated.
How Do You Tell If Cream Cheese Has Gone Bad?
Like other dairy products, cream cheese definitely goes bad. General symptoms of spoilage are hard to miss—you can trust your instinct.
Cream cheese may also degrade in quality, but doesn’t affect its safety. Fresh cream cheese is soft and smooth. After a while, it dries out and becomes less spreadable. At this point, it’s still okay to use it, although it’s no longer appealing.
Sometimes, you can also notice liquid forms on top of the surface. Don’t worry, this is whey or the by-product of milk fermentation. Stir it well to reach the consistency back or scoop it out if you prefer.
When it comes to spoilage signs, there are general signs that you can also spot on other milk or yogurt going bad. First, you can assess its look. These include discoloration (yellowish look), molds, altered texture (waxy or slimy).
Next, if cream cheese develops a foul smell, whether it’s too sour or smells rancid, it’s also time to let it go.
How Long Does Cream Cheese Last?
Commercially-prepared cream cheese is usually added with preservatives (unless otherwise stated) and some other additives to make it more stable. It usually comes with a “use by” or “best by” date printed on the label.
The producer provides this date to inform that the product retains its freshness when stored under ideal conditions.
Don’t rush trashing your cream cheese if it has passed the “use by” date. Chances are it’s still edible.
As long as it’s unopened, the package is perfect, and it has been properly stored, you can expect the cream cheese to last for a few weeks after its recommended date. On the other hand, its lifespan is shortened with poor handling.
As long as spoilage is not evident, feel free to use it. But, only if it’s still at a reasonable time frame, say no longer than a month.
Once opened, Philadelphia suggests to finish off cream cheese within ten days. Make sure to assess spoilage symptoms before using it.
Homemade cream cheese lasts shorter than store-bought one. The shelf life slightly depends on the recipe, but generally, it lasts for 1 to 2 weeks in the fridge.
|Cream cheese (unopened)||Best-by or use-by date + 2 to 4 weeks|
|Cream cheese (opened)||7 to 10 days|
|Homemade cream cheese||1 to 2 weeks|
This table is for a rough estimate for the best quality. The actual shelf life depends on the preparation methods, brands, and storage conditions. It’s always worth checking for a few minutes before use.
Also, don’t hesitate to throw out cream cheese that’s been too old or too long kept in the fridge. Food-borne pathogens can still grow at refrigerator temperature without showing apparent changes in smell and taste.
You can freeze cream cheese, but its texture will drastically change. That’s why generally, the producers do not recommend freezing their products. After defrosting, the texture becomes crumbly and curdles, making it impossible to spread on your bagel. Other than that, frozen cream cheese is still suitable for a cooked dish or baked goods. Frozen cream cheese should be good for up to 2 months.
Unlike hard cheeses that are more tolerant with room temperature, cream cheese is soft and unripened cheese. It is also perishable food that goes bad very quickly if not properly refrigerated. Make sure to put it back into the fridge after each use. As with other perishable foods, cream cheese can only sit out no longer than 2 hours at room temperature. (*) (*)
If you happen to have leftover cream cheese frosting, keep it refrigerated in a sealed container for 3 to 5 days.
Like other dairy products, cream cheese is not immune from spoilage. Temperature abuse and contamination are the common culprits of cream cheese going bad.
Cream cheese belongs in the fridge; otherwise, it starts to spoil when left out at room temperature. Similarly, if you use a dirty knife or double-dip.
Unopened cream cheese is typically fresh up to a few weeks past its “use by” date. Of course, this estimate is valid if storage guidelines are followed. Otherwise, it can spoil even before this date.
After opening, cream cheese remains fresh up to a week to 10 days. Meanwhile, homemade cream cheese has a limited shelf life of 1 to 2 weeks. Chuck it out if it’s too old or too long kept in the fridge. Similarly, if you spot spoilage signs, like off-smell and taste, discoloration, and molds on the surface.
*Photo by AndreySt/depositphotos