Cream cheese is made by mixing milk and cream to form a velvety smooth consistency of delicious fresh cheese to be used with several dishes. It also has some lemon or vinegar and some salt in it to make it taste incredible. Imagine eating potato chips without the cream cheese dip or a cake without the tasty cream cheese frosting? Cream cheese has many such taste-enhancing uses.
Other popular uses of cream cheese include making onion dip, a cheesecake, bagel spread, or delicious homemade ice cream. Whether you make cream cheese at home or buy it from a store, it should always be eaten fresh.
Many folks don’t know how long cream cheese remains fresh and determine whether the cream cheese has gone bad. Read on to learn those aspects and more.
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How Long Does Cream Cheese Last After Opening?
How long cream cheese lasts depends on whether it’s been opened or not. Ordinarily, cream cheese, no matter what the kind, if it’s been refrigerated after being opened, should stay fresh for 1 to 2 weeks.
Now, that’s quite a range, but that’s because the temperature at which you refrigerate your cream cheese determines the actual duration it’ll last. Setting your refrigerator’s temperature at or below 40°F (2 to 4°C) will ensure a longer life. Here we’ve assumed the cream cheese has been opened (used) and stored in the refrigerator either in a plastic container or foil-wrapped. If the opened (used) cream cheese is foil-wrapped properly and stored in the freezer instead, it can last for two months.
How Long Does Cream Cheese Last Unopened?
The fat-reduced type of cream cheese that hasn’t been opened since the purchase can stay fresh for 2 to 3 weeks past the best-by-date when refrigerated.
It’s a different ordeal when we talk about a solid (or block) of cream cheese that’s unopened, foil-wrapped, and stored in the freezer. The typical shelf like in this scenario (frozen state) is 2 months past the best-by-date mentioned on the packing.
Regular or flavored types of cream cheese variety that hasn’t been opened since the purchase can remain fresh for 3 to 4 weeks past the sell-by-date mentioned on the packing when refrigerated.
It’s helpful to know beforehand how much cream cheese you’re going to be consuming. Buying only the amount you’ll be using ensures you won’t end up dealing with the excess cream cheese getting spoiled.
To avoid foodborne illnesses, you should know when the cream cheese is spoiled and not consumed further. Next, we’ll outline how you can distinguish whether the cream cheese is bad or still consumable. We’ll also share tips on how to prolong the shelf life of your cream cheese.
What Are The Signs The Cream Cheese Has Gone Bad?
You can use your senses to tell if the cream cheese is spoiled. For example, when regular cream cheese is fresh, it has a light cream color with a smooth and silky consistency that’s easy to spread.
When the cream cheese is rotten or spoiled, you’ll be able to tell by the sour taste, sour smell, and lumpy, cracked texture that lies beneath a watery surface. Another sign of expired cream cheese is spotting a visible mold (blue or green discolorations) on it. In case it’s got mold or is generally spoiled, you should toss away the entire cream cheese into the bin to minimize health risks.
Going into the above points’ specifics, the texture of fresh cream cheese is smooth and creamy. When the cheese goes bad, the texture can be dry, lumpy, cracked, chalky, grainy, or even slimy. Furthermore, when there are unpleasant smells that are pungent, sour, and rotten instead of mild, light, and pleasant, then you’re dealing with spoiled cream cheese. To deter your cream cheese from getting spoiled prematurely, there are some important storage tactics you can employ to extend its shelf life.
How to Make Store Bought Cream Cheese Frosting Better?
It’s crucial to store cream cheese properly to stay fresh for a longer time without developing bacteria. The advantages of proper food storage are immense, including that it results in a healthier culinary experience, reduced food wastage, and a subsequent reduction in costs and negative impact on the environment.
Tips for refrigeration:
- Leave all dairy products, including the cream cheese, in the grocery store refrigeration until it’s time to pay for your purchases. This way, the items won’t be out of refrigeration unnecessarily while you’re spending time shopping around for other grocery items.
- Once you’re back home, the cream cheese should not be left at room temperature for more than an hour (2 hours at maximum). It should be kept refrigerated at or below 40°F. Proper refrigeration helps keep cream cheese fresh and consumable for a longer time. Luckily, most cream cheese packaging comes with a lid to keep the moisture and bacteria contaminants away. Keep in mind; bacteria grow rapidly in the 40°F to 140°F temperature range.
- The foil-wrapped packaging shouldn’t be switched with another form when refrigerating unopened cream cheese. Once you’ve opened and used the foil-wrapped cream cheese, you should shift the remaining cream cheese into airtight containers or a freezer bag for more efficient storage. This is because it’s not possible to re-seal foil wrap edges into their original airtight seal.
Tips for freezing:
- If freezing for the long-term (up to 2 months), remember not to freeze original unopened foil-wrapped cream cheese blocks in plastic containers. The unopened foil-wrap seal is already properly providing an airtight seal.
- Given a choice, long-term storage of cream cheese in a freezer should not be your preferred storage option. When you thaw cream cheese after it has frozen over, the texture and consistency aren’t as smooth, soft, and silky as you get from the refrigerated cream cheese. What you get instead is crumbly and brittle cream cheese. The thawed version of cream cheese is best suited for cooked sauces, casseroles, and soups. Thus, if you’re looking for a reasonably smooth and soft consistency after thawing, it isn’t recommended you freeze cream cheese for over 2 months.
- When you’re packaging cream cheese to freeze it, there are a few tips to follow. If it isn’t wrapped correctly with the original foil packaging, then wrap another aluminum foil layer around it. The aim is to keep moisture and air away from any of the cream cheese. To prevent it from drying out, you need to ensure it’s tightly sealed.
- Keep the cream cheese away from other smells in the refrigerator. Do not keep it close alongside other food items, especially the exposed meats in the freezer.
- To defrost the frozen cream cheese slab, transfer it to the refrigerator for overnight thawing.
To complement and make your dishes delicious, cream cheese is consumed only when it’s fresh. Whether you buy cream cheese at your local grocery store or make it at home, we hope you use it responsibly as per your family’s consumption pattern. This way, you won’t have to worry about it rotting, expiring, and going to waste.
The facts about cream cheese that we’ve shared are meant to guide you effectively in using (while it’s fresh), storing (to prolong its shelf life), and discarding cream cheese (when it loses its freshness) so that you make the best of it while it lasts. Enjoy your grilling, baking, roasting, frying, or making cold desserts, with fresh cream cheese to complement your cooking as an all-time favorite ingredient. Bon Appétit!