sour cream shelf life

Sour Cream Shelf Life: Can It Go Bad?

So, you just had a craving for baked potatoes. Obviously, baked potatoes should be served with sour cream on top. You only used a little amount of the cream and not sure what to do with the leftover. You’re wondering: how long can you keep sour cream in the refrigerator?

Perhaps, you made a mistake with your grocery list. The list mentioned sour cream, but you still have some in the fridge.

It happens to all of us. Whether we buy too many or left with half-full of leftovers, these situations lead to the big question: does sour cream go bad?

No worries! You’re about to find useful knowledge about sour cream’s shelf life, its ideal storage, and how to determine if sour cream is spoiled. Sounds interesting? Read on!

How To Store Sour Cream

In general, you can remember one general guideline for storing most dairy products. Except for butter and hard cheese (such as Parmesan), which can stay at room temperature, other dairy products, including sour cream, need to stay refrigerated at all times. No matter if it’s a store-bought or homemade sour cream, all belong in the fridge.

Try to minimize its exposure to room temperature. That’s including during your grocery shopping. Pick sour cream right before you walk to the cashier.

Once home, don’t wait any longer to put it into the refrigerator. Sour cream needs constant refrigeration at a minimum of 40 °F (or 4.4 °C).

Avoid storing perishable items on the door of the fridge. Try to find space on the back of your fridge as this spot is safer from sudden temperature changes.

Another storage trivia that’s worth pointing out is practicing good hygiene. After opening, always tightly seal back with the cover. If the package is not resealable, consider transferring the leftover into an airtight container. Put it back into the fridge as soon as possible.

As with other foods, always use a clean spoon or utensil to scoop out the cream. Double dipping is something you should never do. Bacteria from your mouth and the environment can easily transfer into the container. That means spoilage is just around the corner.

How Do You Tell If Sour Cream Has Gone Bad?

At this point, you’ve probably known that all dairy products go bad. Temperature abuse is likely the culprit, say you forget putting your sour cream back to the refrigerator.

Luckily, determining sour cream going off is not a very difficult task. You can rely mostly on your nose and eyes. If something is off with the look and smell, it’s time to toss it out.

Sour cream is naturally acidic, but if it smells terribly sour, rancid, or unusual in any way, it’s a clear sign of spoiled cream. You’ll probably notice this change right after you open the container.

Next, visual signs are hard to miss. Discoloration and molds on the surface, usually green, blue, or pinkish spots, are other symptoms that are enough to trash your sour cream.

Besides those signs, don’t worry if you see liquid on top of the surface. This is whey that is technically a by-product of milk fermentation and is considered a normal occurrence. Give it a good stir to get the right consistency back or scoop it out if you don’t want it, it’s your choice.

If you have kept sour cream for too long, whether it’s opened or unopened, it’s better to discard it. Although it looks okay, we never know. Some foodborne pathogens can survive and grow at refrigerator temperatures. So, better safe than sorry.

How Long Does Sour Cream Last?

Store-bought sour cream comes with a “use-by” or “best by” date on the label. That means, as long as sour cream is handled and stored under instructed conditions, it should stay fresh up to this date, or possibly a little longer.

As long as unopened, you can expect it to stay edible for another week or maybe two. Again, this estimate only applies when ideal storage conditions are fulfilled. Hence, it is always best to give it a thorough check before use.

If sour cream is mishandled somewhere along the way, maybe during transportation or in the store, forget this date. It can go bad even before its recommended time. Similarly, if you forget leaving it out overnight.

After opening, sour cream keeps for one to two weeks with continuous refrigeration. You can trust your instinct to decide if it’s still fresh.

Homemade sour cream has a limited shelf life. Sour cream made with pasteurized milk keeps well for one to two weeks in the fridge.

How long is sour cream good for?

Sour creamRefrigerator
Sour cream (unopened)Best-by or use-by date + 1 to 2 weeks
Sour cream (opened)1 to 2 weeks
Homemade sour cream1 to 2 weeks

This table is a rough estimate assuming that sour cream is kept under ideal conditions. Its actual shelf life can be shorter or longer, mostly depending on how well you store sour cream.


Can you freeze sour cream?

Freezing sour cream has its pros and cons. Like coconut cream and other dairy products, freezing sour cream causes an irreversible separation of the cream. Hence, producers are always against this idea, such as Kraft and Daisy Foods. However, if you plan to use it for a cooked dish, the texture change shouldn’t be a big deal. Be sure to freeze it while still fresh and see if you’re happy with the end result.

Does sour cream go bad if left out?

Dairy products, including sour cream, are perishable foods that spoil and become unsafe to consume if not refrigerated at a minimum of 40 °F (4.4 °C) or frozen. At room temperature, both spoilage and food-pathogenic bacteria multiply very quickly. USDA recommends not to leave perishable foods outside the refrigerator longer than 2 hours.

What are the symptoms of eating spoiled sour cream?

Spoiled sour cream is not appetizing to eat. But, when you eat it, you probably won’t get sick. But, if sour cream is also contaminated with pathogenic bacteria, you can get food poisoning. The symptoms vary depending on the source of contamination, such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever, etc. If you have severe signs of food poisoning, you should see a doctor before it gets worse. (*)

Final Thoughts

Sour cream is one of the perishable foods that need constant refrigeration. Otherwise, it gets spoiled easily when left out at room temperature.

You should respect the “use by” or “best by” date on the package. Allow one or two weeks maximum to use sour cream if you have unopened tubs. Of course, this is only applicable when storage guidelines are followed, and spoilage symptoms are not evident.

Otherwise, sour cream may also go bad if not well kept even before its time. Discard it if you notice any spoilage signs, such as off-smell, unpleasant taste, discolorations, and molds. Last but not least, don’t consume sour cream if it’s too old or too long kept in the fridge.

Up Next: The Best Substitutes for Sour Cream

sour cream goes bad

*Photo by AndreySt/depositphotos

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