You need to purchase a large container when you need sour cream, but most recipes usually require only a few tablespoons of this yummy dressing.
Then, the inevitable question of how long does sour cream last arises. Nowadays, you can find numerous product types available on the market for different uses and with different shelf life. So, it is necessary to determine does sour cream go bad.
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Does Sour Cream Go Bad?
Remember that sour cream is a relatively perishable dairy product obtained by fermentation of dairy cream after lactic acid bacteria action. During that process, bacteria cause turning it into a sour and thick cream.
Like any other dairy product, sour cream can quickly go bad when not stored under appropriate conditions. So, it is vital to know how to recognize а spoiled product to protect your health.
First of all, you can notice that sometimes your sour cream gets watery on the top. It is a natural and harmless occurrence, so you should only drain the water before using it again.
Other changes formed under the influence of bacteria and fungi can be worrying. Therefore, you should always check the date on the label to avoid unpleasant surprises.
How Long Does Sour Cream Last?
All milk-based products, including sour cream, have a sell-by date printed on the package. In most cases, the product you buy will stay fresh a few days longer, and you can use it even 7 to 10 days past that date when storing it correctly.
Keep in mind that it is not a rule carved in stone, and you can face spoiled sour cream much faster when stored in inadequate conditions. Sometimes, it may happen even before the assigned date. It is not your fault since it often occurs when the product was mishandled before getting to the supermarket.
How Long Does Sour Cream Last (Chart)
Sour cream type
2 to 4 weeks
Reduced fat, unopened
|1 to 2 weeks|
10 to 14 days
In most cases, unopened sour cream can last up to 14 days after the expiry date. Still, it depends on different factors, including its type, the method of processing and pasteurization, packaging date, container type, place of storing, and its exposure to heat.
Once you open the package, sour cream will retain freshness no longer than two weeks if you store it in an airtight container at an adequate 40 F (4.5 C) temperature. There is a possibility that it stays perfectly edible for a month, but it can be risky. Plus, you can expect that its quality worsens over time.
5 Tips to Tell if Sour Cream Has Gone Bad
Your sour cream needs to have a sour aroma, and any odor changes are the first sign that something went bad. The spoiled product will get a characteristic unpleasant, sharp, moldy, biting, rancid, or stinky smell. In most cases, it is a result of extra growth inside, which will affect its safety.
Fresh sour cream is white, and any color change is a warning that something is wrong with it. The discolored surface that becomes yellow, pink, greenish, or blue means that bacteria and fungi started growing inside the product, making it inedible.
As I have already mentioned, you don’t need to worry when sour cream gets watery on the top. Separation of liquids from the solid part over time is perfectly normal, and you can consume this product without any worry.
You can also use thawed sour cream even though its texture is disturbed. It is not recommended to eat it, but you can use such a product to prepare various dishes.
Unfortunately, sticky sour cream or the one containing any lumps is not edible anymore, and you should throw it away as soon as possible.
Even though your sour cream looks fine, you should discard it once its taste is off and too sour, bitter, or sharp.
Once you notice bright bacterial spots or dark mold growing inside the lid or on the sour cream surface, you can’t save it. It is not enough to remove this growth and keep consuming the rest since the entire product is affected, although you can’t see that. Therefore, a container needs to go.
3 Tips to Store Sour Cream for Longer
Even though there are different opinions about keeping sour cream in the pantry, it is not recommended at all. Basically, no one can guarantee how long this product will be edible in such conditions.
The best option to store any dairy products, including sour cream, is to put them in the refrigerator. Most people place the package in the fridge door, but it is not the best solution because of temperature fluctuation. It is always better to put it in the fridge back or on the bottom shelves at 40 F (4.5 C).
- Airtight container – Once you open the original packaging, pour leftovers in a tightly sealed vessel, airtight container, or Mason jar to prevent the air from entering and consequent product spoilage. When stored that way, your sour cream will be tasty and healthy for at least ten days. Plus, you will protect it from the pungent odors of other foods, including citrus fruits, onion, and garlic.
- Aluminum foil – Cover the package with aluminum foil and secure it with a rubber band. That way, you will keep sour cream safe from contaminants and air, as well as extend its shelf life. However, the product stored this way won’t last as long as it can last when packed in an airtight container.
- Utensils – Like with other perishable food, you should always use clean cutlery to grab some sour cream from the packaging. Otherwise, dirt, food scraps, and bacteria will contaminate it and accelerate spoilage due to cross-contamination.
- Double-dipping – If you plan to keep sour cream in the fridge for days, never use the same spoon for it and other food at the same time. Also, avoid licking the spoon while removing the sour cream from the package. Only that way, it won’t go bad too soon.
As I have already mentioned, you can store your sour cream in the fridge, but it is not a practical solution. Once thawed, this product won’t look and taste the same, and its texture will change entirely.
However, you can freeze it if you plan to use it to prepare dishes. In such a case, pour it in the container or choose smaller packaging, including ice trey. It is more practical, and you don’t need to defrost sour cream before using it. It will be enough to add a frozen cube into the dish and keep cooking.
Warning! If you accidentally leave sour cream on the countertop for more than two hours, always throw it away without a second thought. There is a possibility that the product is still edible, but it is not worth the risk.
The Risk of Consuming an Expired Sour Cream
If you forget your sour cream on the countertop and it has stayed there for hours, the best option is to get rid of it. Even if it looks and smells okay, you should know that harmful microorganisms start proliferating in this product after sitting for more than one hour at room temperature above 40 F (4.5 C).
Unlike beneficial bacteria, Leuconostoc citrovorum and Streptococcus lactis, which allow creating sour cream, yeasts and molds can make you sick. They keep flourishing in this product when you store it at temperatures from 40 to 90 F (4.5 – 32 C).
Unrefrigerated sour cream may cause mild to severe food poisoning within a few hours of consumption. The usual symptoms include fever, nausea, stomach pain, and diarrhea.
Can You Freeze Sour Cream?
In general, manufacturers don’t advise freezing sour cream due to its texture deterioration after thawing. If you have tried to keep it in the freezer, you know that it will separate once defrosted like many other dairy products.
In some cases, gentle whipping defrosted sour cream may regain some of the consistency. Unfortunately, it won’t be nearly as good and tasty as when it was fresh. However, its unattractive appearance shouldn’t stop you from using it for preparing variously baked and cooked dishes.
When you decide to freeze sour cream, the best option is to pour it into an ice cube tray. Once frozen, transfer it to a freezer bag for more extended storage.
That way, you can use one or two cubes and add them to the dish when necessary. Another possibility is to freeze the prepared dish with sour cream.
There are two options to thaw frozen sour cream. Placing it in the fridge overnight is practical when you have a larger package. On the other hand, there is no need to defrost small cubes. Instead, put them directly into the dish you prepare.
Sour cream is a perishable food, so you should take care to store it appropriately. An unopened container will last approximately two weeks when kept in the refrigerator, but avoid freezing this product. As soon as you notice any sign of spoilage, throw it away immediately to prevent food poisoning.