A quick ham and cream cheese sandwich is the shortest recipe to happiness at the breakfast table.
But how long does cream cheese last once you pick it up from the supermarket shelf?
Cream cheese will last 3 to 4 weeks past the expiry date printed on the label. Refrigerated cream cheese will last about a month before it starts going bad. So, checking the label before buying is always a good idea. You wouldn’t want to buy a pack already halfway towards the best-by date.
How Long Does Cream Cheese Last? Opened Vs Unopened Cream Cheese
The storage environment and the type of cream cheese decide the shelf life of cream cheese. But in general, the shelf life changes when you open a pack.
Take a look at the varying shelf life of different cream cheese types:
|Past Best-By Date||Past Best-By Date|
|Unopened foil-wrapped||3 to 4 weeks||2 months|
|Unopened in a plastic container||3 to 4 weeks||2 months|
|Unopened flavored||3 to 4 weeks||2 months|
|Unopened reduced fat||2 to 3 Weeks||2 months|
|Unopened Neufchatel cheese||2 to 3 Weeks||2 months|
|Opened cream cheese (all)||1 to 2 weeks||–|
1. Shelf Life of Unopened Cream Cheese
Have unopened refrigerated cream cheese stored in plastic containers? It will last for 3 to 4 weeks past the best-by date. With refrigerated reduced-fat cream cheese, 2 to 3 weeks is the average shelf life. Frozen and foil-wrapped blocks will last up to 2 months after the best-by date.
2. Shelf Life of Opened Cream Cheese
Once the cream cheese is opened, it will last for 1 to 2 weeks when refrigerated. This holds when you store it in a plastic container or foil-wrap it. Want to extend the shelf life? Toss it into the freezer, and you can enjoy it for 2 months.
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How to Store Cream Cheese?
If you know the proper ways to store cream cheese, you can enjoy it for much longer. Follow the best practices of storage, right from purchase to the best-by date.
1. Keep Cream Cheese for the Last When Buying
I always make sure I grab the pack of Philadelphia cream cheese right before heading toward the billing counter. That’s because it’s best to avoid keeping it at room temperature for a long. Get your grocery list checked before reaching for cream cheese off the shelves. The longer the refrigeration time gets, the better.
2. Do Not Leave Cream Cheese On The Counter!!
Leave your box of cheese on the counter or in the pantry, and it will be unfit for consumption after 2 hours. Why risk it? Make it a point to toss it into the fridge when you reach home from the supermarket. It should be the last thing out of the supermarket shelf and the first thing out of the grocery bag when you reach home.
3. Refrigeration is Non-Negotiable
Always refrigerate cream cheese. 40º F or lower is the ideal temperature for storing your box of cheese. Make sure it is covered well to not let moisture in. Do not take it out of the fridge unless immediately needed.
4. Try Freezing Cream Cheese
I have realized freezing cream cheese in plastic containers is not the best idea. Especially if the plastic containers are softer than foil wraps, always choose the latter. Refrigerate the cream cheese in its original foil wrap till opened. Once it is opened, store it in freezer bags, airtight containers, or wraps before tossing it into the freezer.
If you notice it becoming crumbly after thawing, its high moisture content is to blame. Cream cheese is vulnerable to ice crystal formation and melting. If you thaw it after freezing, the water content is separated from the cheese curds. This makes it crumbly. Besides becoming crumbly, it can also lose flavor this way. I suggest using frozen cream cheese for casseroles.
A word of caution: always use clean utensils for storage to avoid mold formation and contamination.
How to Tell if Cream Cheese Has Gone Bad?
Trying to discern if your box of cream cheese is still good to use? Put your senses to good use; it will tell you just what you need to know. Here are the tell-tale signs of cream cheese gone bad:
1. Slimy or Dry Texture
Remember, cream cheese must be creamy and smooth, not dry or slimy. If it feels chalky, grainy, or slimy, rest assured it is not fit to consume anymore.
Generally, cream cheese is cream or white in color. If you notice it turning yellow or having discolored patches, it is time to toss it into the bin. The discoloration could be green or blue mold formation, which is never good news.
3. Unpleasant Smell
If your cream cheese is fit for consumption, it should smell light, mild, and pleasant. If it starts emitting any pungent, sour, or rotten odor, you know what to do.
Why Avoid Spoiled Cream Cheese?
First of all, why not avoid anything rotten, to begin with? With cream cheese, the same holds. Too much-expired cheese is the shortest route to food poisoning, vomiting, fever, stomach cramps, nausea, and diarrhea.
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A little bit might not be harmful, but that does not mean you should still steer clear of it. Make sure you always check the best-by date before consuming cream cheese. If you experience any of the symptoms I have mentioned above, get in touch with a doctor immediately!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q1. How do you know when cream cheese is bad?
Ans. The easiest way to tell if your cream cheese has gone bad is to look for a sour, pungent, or rotten odor. The discoloration is another dead giveaway. Notice yellowing tinge or discolored patches forming on the block? It is time for it to go. Another tell-tale sign of cream cheese gone bad is a slimy or dry texture instead of a silky smooth one.
Q2. How long does cream cheese last after opened?
Ans. If you have already opened your pack of cream cheese, store it in the refrigerator. This will last a week or two past its best-by date. Opened cream cheese will go bad faster and quicker than an unopened pack. Avoid pushing it past the 2-week point once its expiry has lapsed.
Q3. How long can cream cheese last out of the fridge?
Ans. If you keep cream cheese out of the fridge, 2 hours is the most you are looking at. Try not to keep cream cheese without refrigeration. Toss it into the fridge the moment you reach home from the supermarket. In fact, do not reach out for the box of cream cheese till you are done getting everything else from the store. Give it as little time as possible at room temperature.
Q4. Is it okay to eat expired cream cheese?
Ans. You can push the shelf life of cream cheese to about 2 to 3 months past its expiry date, but I would not suggest it. A box of cream cheese is not worth enough to risk getting food poisoning over. Consuming rotten cream cheese will cause nausea, vomiting, stomach ache, and diarrhea. You can also experience fever and a slew of other food poisoning-related symptoms.
Q5. Can you eat 2 year old cream cheese?
Ans. That’s an absolute no. There is no storage scenario in which having a 2 year old box of cream cheese will not land you in the ER. Even when frozen, 2 months is the most you can enjoy it for. Tossing it into the bin is the right call unless you put your cream cheese into cryosleep.
The Bottom Line
While cream cheese is highly versatile, it is not immune to the ravages of time. Store it long enough, and you will fall sick after consuming it. Make sure you buy the freshest pack and follow the best storage practices.
Avoid letting it get warmer at room temperature, and always be on the lookout for mold formation or a yellowish tinge. You would not want to succumb to severe food poisoning trying to scoop out the remaining bit of expired cream cheese.