Cream cheese is versatile type of cheese that hasn’t been aged. If you’re like me, it’s not uncommon to find a container of half used cream cheese sitting in the fridge for a week or even longer. Eyeing off that container nervously, I’m never sure whether to take the gamble with my health and eat it, or toss it.
I decided enough was enough. It’s time to get the hard facts on how long cream cheese is good for. Does it go off quicker than other soft cheeses? Let’s find out.
Cream cheese expiry dates
|Refrigerated unopened||1 month past "best by" date|
|Refrigerated opened||10 days|
|Out of the fridge||2 hours|
|Thawed (previously frozen)||5 days|
|Cream cheese frosting||3-5 days|
It’s important to keep cream cheese out of the “danger zone”. This is a temperature range between 40°F and 140°F which is ideal for bacterial growth such as E.coli. Source: PDF from USDA.
Check to see if it’s gone bad
The expiry time-frames provided above should be used as an indication only. I’ve had open tubs in my fridge that have lasted well over 10 days. Be warned though, you’re taking risks with food poisoning if you use product well past the above dates.
Performing a quick check to see how the cheese looks is usually all that’s required. You can see if it’s gone off as mold will have started to appear. Any water droplets or spots of color other that white means it’s time to toss it out. Also, an opened pack that has been left out of the fridge for over 2 hours should be discarded.
How to store cream cheese
To avoid wastage, the best option is to determine how much you’ll need for your recipe and only buy roughly that amount. If you only need a small amount for a sauce, just buy a mini tub, even if the large option is cheaper by weight.
There are good and bad ways to store cream cheese. Here are a few tips to get the most out of your food.
1. Refrigerated unopened
This is the ideal method of storage. Be sure to store at the back of the fridge where temperature fluctuations are reduced.
2. Refrigerated opened
Once opened, store in the fridge for around 10 days. Wrap the cream cheese in plastic wrap or foil if it’s packaged in paper.
Once again, store the product at the back of the fridge to reduce temperature variance.
3. Out of the fridge
Make sure it’s out of direct sunlight and also extreme heat. When entertaining, transfer the cheese back to the fridge as quickly as possible.
If you’ve made a sumptuous cream cheese bagel, on the run, then try to get it into a fridge once you get to work (or wherever you’re going). If you are going to be outdoors, taking a freezer pad may be an option?
When you’re out grocery shopping, pick up the cream cheese and any other dairy items last before going to the checkout. This minimizes out-of-fridge time.
Quick Tip: Need to create an antipasto platter with a selection of cheeses? Check out our in-depth review of cheese slicers so that you can slice cheese perfectly every time!
Wrap the cream cheese in plastic wrap, ensuring there are no gaps, then wrap in foil. Place at the back of the freezer where the temperature is more constant.
You’ll find that frozen cream cheese tend to crumble and lose some of its spread ability once thawed. That’s because it’s high in moisture and will form ice crystals when frozen. When thawing, the curds and water content separate resulting in the crumble. Frozen cream cheese is best used for soups, casseroles and even sauces that will melt the cheese.
5 uses for leftover cream cheese
It sounds obvious, but the secret to reducing your food waste is to use the stuff asap. It’s the ideal ingredient for cheese cakes and appetizers, but there are loads of other recipes you can fall back on to use leftover cream cheese.
- salmon and cream cheese paté
- pomegranate and cream cheese muffins
- cheesy fondue pot
- blueberry cheesecake ice cream
- Pork and cheese meatballs
How to Store Cream Cheese Frosting
Whether you have cream cheese frosting on its own, or lathered onto cakes, you’ll need to store in an airtight container, refrigerated, to maximize freshness. Expect 3-5 days life out of icing; if that isn’t long enough then don’t freeze it. As the frozen topping thaws it will often separate with an unpleasant liquid spoiling the look of the cake.
If the frosting is in a container and hasn’t been spread onto a cake, give it a quick whisk before using to soften it up.
How long your cream cheese lasts will depend on how you store it. I recommend refrigerating it to observe food safety standards and to maintain the cheese’s structure. Storing the cream cheese at the back of the fridge and ensuring it is well packaged will help maximize shelf life.
Smart shopping is the key to reducing food waste. Try to buy only enough for the recipe you’re making and avoid buying bulk quantities that are cheaper. Usually half gets tossed out.
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