How Long Does Cottage Cheese Last and How To Tell If It’s Bad?

There’s an opened cottage cheese container in your fridge, and you’re not sure how long it will stay good for. How long does cottage cheese last?

Or maybe you’ve bought a few too many containers and you don’t want them to spoil. You considered freezing them, but you don’t know how will that work out.

If either seems familiar, it’s time to brush up your knowledge about cottage cheese, and that’s what this article is about. In it, we cover:

  • the shelf life of cottage cheese – can you eat it after the date on the label?
  • storing cottage cheese and if freezing it is an option
  • knowing if your cottage cheese has gone bad

Sounds interesting? Read on.

Flavored cottage cheese in hand
Flavored cottage cheese in hand

How Long Does Cottage Cheese Last

 Fridge
Cottage cheese (unopened)Sell-by + 3 – 5 days
Cottage cheese (opened)5 – 7 days
The periods above are for the best quality. 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 typically keeps for a couple of days after its sell-by date, and between 5 to 7 days once you open it. After a couple of days of storage, the separation will be more pronounced than it was when you first opened the container, and that’s normal.

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 should retain freshness, but it’s not an expiration date and isn’t about food safety.

Usually, cottage cheese should keep for a couple of days more after the date on the label, but that’s about it.

Some cottage cheeses, especially the flavored ones (like my blueberry-flavored one you can see in the photos), have some preservatives added, and they often last a couple of days more, but that’s more of an exception than a rule.

Opened cottage cheese
Cottage cheese – opened container

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 (e.g. its cousin ricotta cheese), its quality deteriorates fairly quickly.

How long can cottage cheese sit out? Cottage cheese can sit at room temperature for up to two hours. If it’s out for longer than that (e.g., it was accidentally left out overnight), discard it. For food safety and best quality, keep your cottage cheese refrigerated at all times.

Surface of cottage cheese
Surface of cottage cheese

Does Cottage Cheese Go Bad? How to Tell If Cottage Cheese Is Bad?

Like all other dairy products, cottage cheese goes bad. When checking if your cottage cheese is still okay to eat, do the following:

  • The sniff test. If it smells sour, it’s past its prime, and you probably should discard it. A sour smell (kind of like sour cream) doesn’t necessarily mean it’s unsafe to eat, but it sure won’t taste as it used to. If it smells off or funny, discard it.
  • Check the texture. If there’s a layer of water on top, and the rest is super chunky (like it’s almost solid), it’s time for it to go.
  • Look for mold or any other discoloration on the surface. Throw it out if you see any.
  • Sits open for more than a week, or is more than a week past its date. If that’s the case, let it go.
Tip

When it comes to texture, some separation is fine, and you can fix that by stirring the solids and liquids together. But if the whole thing separated, it’s no good.

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

Mixed flavored cottage cheese
Flavored cottage cheese after mixing ingredients together

How to Store Cottage Cheese

Store cottage cheese in the fridge, possibly in the far corner instead of the fridge door. Once you open the container, make sure you seal tightly any leftovers and place them back in the refrigerator as soon as possible.

Like almost any other dairy product (e.g., string cheese or cream cheese) 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.

Leftover cottage cheese in a container
Leftover cottage cheese in a container

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.

Warning

Cottage cheese easily picks up odors, and you definitely don’t want to eat cottage cheese that smells like sausage.

Cottage cheese wrapped with aluminum foil and a rubber band
Cottage cheese wrapped with aluminum foil and a rubber band

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.

Warning

Eating frozen and thawed cottage cheese mixed with some fruit or topping will taste so-so at best and gross at worst.

Spoonful of cottage cheese
A spoonful of flavored cottage cheese

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.