Cream cheese is one of the favorite breakfast products, especially among children. In most cases, you will eat it quickly because it is incredibly yummy, but it is possible to find a forgotten package in the back of your fridge. In such a case, the primary question is does cream cheese go bad.
In general, this product contains preservatives that inhibit bacteria and mold growth and prevent spoilage in most cases. As a result, most unopened cream cheese kept in the fridge will last for up to a month past the printed expiration date.
Does Cream Cheese Go Bad?
Cream cheese is a favorite breakfast meal in the US since a dairyman William Lawrence created it in 1873 of milk fat. Its soft consistency makes it convenient to use in many combinations, especially nowadays when you can find this product in different flavors.
However, you should be careful when using this product made of fresh milk since it may spoil when stored inappropriately. Even though its shelf life depends on processing methods, the rule of thumb is that softer cheese always goes bad faster than harder ones. The reason is high moisture content.
How Long Does Cream Cheese Last?
On average, your cream cheese will last for 3 to 4 weeks past the ‘best by date’ labeled on the package. However, it primarily depends on cheese form, adequate storing, exposure to heat, and processing method.
Cream cheese shelf life
|Unopened, in a plastic container||Up to one month|
|Up to one month||2 months|
|Unopened, hot-pack||3 to 6 months|
|2 to 3 weeks||/|
|Unopened, flavored||Up to one month|
Unopened, reduced fat
|2 to 3 weeks||/|
|Unopened, Neufchatel||2 to 3 weeks|
Opened, in a plastic container
|7 to 15 days||2 months|
|Opened, foil-wrapped||7 to 15 days|
This soft cheese with high-fat content is produced from unskimmed milk and cream and usually comes in many forms, including regular, whipped, reduced-fat, and flavored type.
It is necessary to store the product below 40 F (4.4 C) if you plan to keep it for a long. It will be safe to consume approximately 2 to 4 weeks past the expiration date in most cases. When left at room temperature, your cream cheese will probably go bad after only 2 hours.
6 Tips to Tell If Cream Cheese Has Gone Bad
Unfortunately, your cream cheese will go bad even though you store it appropriately. You should try to do your best, but it is crucial to recognize the first signs of spoilage. In most cases, it will be quite obvious when this product is no longer edible. Let’s see.
- Liquid – If you notice a dried-out cream cheese surface with larger liquid pools, you can be sure that the process of spoilage has begun. It is the moment to stop consuming this product.
- Smell – Fresh cream cheese has a pleasantly mild and light aroma. Any unpleasant tangy, sour, pungent, rotten, or moldy odor is the best spoilage indicator.
- Taste – In most cases, cream cheese that looks and smells expected will also taste adequate. However, you should check its taste if the product is in the fridge for more than a month past the expiration date, even the smell is unchanged. Any sour taste is an indicator to throw it away.
- Color – The color of fresh cream cheese is white or light creamy. As soon as the product becomes yellow with discolored blue or green patches, it is spoiled for sure.
- Texture – Once cream cheese loses its spreadable texture and becomes dry, lumpy, cracked, or waxy under a wet or separate surface, you should get rid of it. It is the same with a product with a slimy, chalky, or grainy texture. Too soft consistency is a sign of bacteria or mold presence, which means your cream cheese is no longer edible.
- Mold – You can see mold over expired cream cheese in some cases, which is a sign to immediately throw it away. Most cheese molds are harmless, but you can’t be sure. Some of them produce toxins that cause severe health problems. Therefore, don’t put yourself at risk. Once mold appears, you can’t save any piece of this product.
4 Tips to Store Cream Cheese
Even though every food type can last longer if you store it properly, it is particularly true for dairy products, including cream cheese. You have already known how fast this food goes bad, so you need to give your best to extend its life as long as possible.
You should use clean utensils each time you bake or spread your cream cheese. Never touch the spoon or knife with your mouth or place cream cheese next to raw meat. The only way to prolong this product’s life is to use separate utensils for it, no matter how impractical it is during a meal.
Kitchen and pantry
Never leave cream cheese on the kitchen cabinet at room temperature or even in the pantry for more than two hours. Since bacteria grow at a temperature of 40 to 140 F (4.5 – 60 C), the only way to protect your food is to store it in the fridge as soon as possible.
Always store an unopened cream cheese pack in the fridge, away from the door, to keep it fresh for a long.
Once you open a new package, you should pack cream cheese properly, but avoid putting it in an open bowl. The best solution is to protect it by keeping it in an airtight container. Remember that an opened package will always last shorter than the unopened one. In the best case, its shelf life will be about ten days.
Another option is to wrap your food in foil to prevent bacteria contamination. Once you open the foil-wrapped cream cheese, you should put it into the airtight container because re-sealing the foil won’t make the package airtightly sealed.
It is crucial to keep your cream cheese away from moisture to protect it from mold growth. Once mold affects this food, you can’t save it and need to throw away the whole package.
The best way to prolong the cream cheese’s lifespan for longer is to keep it in the freezer. You can store some types this way for approximately two months.
Always wrap cream cheese well, and then put it in a zip-lock bag or airtight container. That is the best solution to slow down the oxidation process. Take care to store it away from other food, especially raw meat.
Once you decide to thaw cream cheese, you should leave it in the fridge overnight. Then, put it in a bowl and start whisking until becoming suitably soft for use.
Avoid storing this product in the freezer for months because it is highly sensitive to ice crystals forming and melting. As a result, it will lose too much water and become crumbly. Plus, you can expect it to lose its characteristic taste. In such a case, it will be suitable only for meal preparation, but not for consumption.
The Risk of Consuming an Expired Cream Cheese
Since cream cheese has a short shelf-life, you should be careful while consuming it. The pasteurization process will kill the most dangerous microorganisms, but this product still contains a high percentage of water, which may cause microbial contamination over time.
Therefore, you should eat this cheese type within two weeks of opening. Always use a clean knife to spread it, thoroughly re-seal the packaging after use, and store it in the fridge.
Pregnant women, older people, and those with weakened immune systems should avoid this food. Once you notice any sign of mold presence, you should throw away the whole package since the spores quickly contaminate the entire piece.
Another danger is harmful bacteria, especially Listeria, E. coli, Brucella, and Salmonella, which may cause food poisoning. The first symptoms that occur are:
- Stomach pain
- Nausea and vomiting
Keep in mind that some dangerous molds produce mycotoxins. Their consumption leads to acute food poisoning and can cause immune deficiency. Carcinogen aflatoxin often increases the possibility of liver cancer development.
Can You Freeze Cream Cheese?
Even though you can freeze cream cheese, it is not always recommended since this product loses its creamy texture after thawing. In such a case, you will get a crumbly food that is unattractive for consumption, but you can use it for cooking.
If you have foil-wrapped cream cheese leftovers, you can prolong their life up to two months by placing them in the freezer. Wrap the product tightly to prevent air from coming in contact with it and causes drying out.
Keep in mind that the best by date on a label is only an indicator of the moment the seller thinks the product will lose its best quality.
However, you can use your unopened cream cheese at least a few weeks after this date. Once you open the pack, you can consume the product for about ten days, even though the best by date has passed.