Does Cottage Cheese Go Bad?

So you needed some cottage cheese for a recipe you wanted to try out. The dish turned out great, but now you’re left with a half-open container of the dairy product. And you’re not quite sure how long an opened cottage cheese lasts until it goes bad.

Or maybe you’ve bought a few containers on a sale because they were nearing the date on the label. And right now you’re not sure if you will be able to use all of them before they spoil. Your spouse mentioned freezing them, but you don’t know how will that work out.

If either sounds familiar, it’s probably time for you to learn a bit more about cottage cheese. In this article we go through storage, freezing, shelf life, and going bad of this dairy product. If that’s sounds interesting, read on.

Cottage cheese with strawberry, blueberries, and blackberry
Cottage cheese with strawberry, blueberries, and blackberry

How to Store Cottage Cheese

Like other dairy products, such as string cheese, or half and half, you should store cottage cheese in the fridge. To keep the freshness of this dairy treat for longest, let it sit in the far corner of the refrigerator. The fridge door is where the temperature changes often, so that’s not a good place for cottage cheese.

Once you open the package, make sure you close it tightly before you put it back into the fridge.

Since most cottage cheeses come in plastic containers that aren’t resealable, you need to come up with another solution. Transferring the dairy product into an airtight container or the original package into a freezer bag are two environment-friendly options. If you don’t have either on hand, plastic wrap or aluminum foil and a rubber band will do the trick too.

If you plan on consuming or using the rest of the cheese within a day, you can leave it in its original packaging. But that will work only if you don’t have any foods with a strong aroma in your fridge. Cottage cheese easily picks up odors, and you definitely don’t want to eat cottage cheese that smells like sausage.

Cottage cheese with green onions
Cottage cheese with green onions

Can You Freeze Cottage Cheese?

Like with many other dairy products, e.g., buttermilk or kefir, freezing is a possibility, but it comes with a cost. Cottage cheese tends to separate and become watery after thawing. That’s why producers recommend that you shouldn’t freeze cottage cheese.

Sure, some of that separation can be fixed by stirring the product, but the resulting texture won’t be anywhere near the original one. Because of that, frozen cottage cheese works only in sauces, casseroles, soups, and other cooked dishes. Eating it plain combined with some fruit or using as a topping will taste so-so at best and be gross at worst.

When it comes to how to freeze cottage cheese, it all depends on how you plan on using it in the future.

If you need the whole container, you can use the original one and simply chuck it into the freezer. For extra points, you can wrap it in a freezer bag.

If you need a smaller portion, say for a sauce, it’s better to freeze it portioned so you can thaw as much as you need. To do that, you can use a muffin tin or an ice cube tray, depending on how much you need per recipe.

Last but not least, thawing. As usual, the safest way of defrosting food is in the fridge. If you’re cooking a soup or a sauce on the stove, you can toss in the frozen cubes directly, without thawing them first.

If you’d like to read more about freezing this dairy product, we have an article that details the process of freezing cottage cheese.

Cottage cheese, pomegranate, orange, and other fruit
Image used under Creative Commons from Meal Makeover Moms

How Long Does Cottage Cheese Last

Cottage cheese usually comes with a sell-by date on the label. That date is a pretty good indicator of how long the dairy product will retain freshness. Usually, it should last a few days more, but that’s about it.

Some cottage cheeses, especially the flavored ones, have some preservatives added, and they often last a couple of days more, but that’s more of an exception than a rule.

Once you open the cottage cheese, it can last for about a week in the fridge. Some producers even say that their cottage cheese stays fresh for up to 2 weeks, but I wouldn’t count on that. I mean they make cottage cheese in single-serving sized containers, not family-sized packages, for a reason.

Plus cottage cheese is a dairy product, and like other dairy products that aren’t rich in fat, it deteriorates in quality fairly quickly.

 Fridge
Cottage cheese (unopened)Sell-by + 3 – 5 days
Cottage cheese (opened)5 – 7 days

Please note that the periods above are for the best quality. And it’s a dairy product so it might last a few days longer, but just as well it can go bad much quicker.

Cottage cheese with fresh strawberries
Image used under Creative Commons from Marco Verch

How to Tell if Cottage Cheese Is Bad?

Like with many other dairy products, the sniff test helps out with determining the quality of cottage cheese tremendously. If it smells sour, it’s past its prime, and you probably should discard it. Of course, a sour smell doesn’t mean it’s unsafe to eat, but it sure won’t taste as it used to.

The next thing to check is the texture. If the milk solids separate from the liquids and the cottage cheese becomes watery, it’s time for it to go. Of course, some separation is fine, and you can fix that by stirring the solids and liquids together.

If everything seems to be okay, give it a taste and decide based on that if it’s good enough to eat.

Obviously, if there is mold, or you already store the product for much longer than the periods recommended above, you should discard it.