Cream cheese is one of the few dairy products that can last for up to a couple of weeks past its date. Once you open it up, it keeps for a week, maybe up to 10 days.
That means that your container of Philadelphia that you opened 4 days ago should be fine.
Of course, you still need to know how to tell if cream cheese is bad to be sure yours is safe to eat. You know mold is bad, but there are a few other things to look out for.
Want to learn all about the shelf life, signs of spoilage, and storage practices for cream cheese?
How to Store Cream Cheese
Once you open the package, make sure it’s well covered when not in use. If the original package isn’t resealable, consider putting it in a freezer bag for additional protection against microbial contamination. Or transfer the leftovers into an airtight container.
If you don’t have either on hand, take plastic or aluminum wrap and a rubber band and turn them into a makeshift seal.
If you’re using cream cheese as a spread, as many people do with for example Philadelphia Cream Cheese, remember to practice proper food hygiene.
That means always use clean cutlery when scooping the cheese and never double-dip. I know it’s much more convenient to use a single butter knife for everything, but it’s not a good idea. Especially for dairy products, which don’t last that long and spoil easily.
Can You Freeze Cream Cheese
When it comes to freezing cream cheese, the opinions are mixed. Some say it freezes well, others advise against it. The best answer I can come up with is: it depends.
What’s sure is that pretty much all kinds of cream cheese separate and become crumbly after being frozen and thawed. You can stir it with a spoon or run it through a blender, but the texture won’t be quite the same.
What’s important is that the consistency change doesn’t matter that much in some recipes. That means the frozen and thawed cream cheese should work quite well in recipes where it’s stirred in with other ingredients, but it probably won’t be that tasty when used as a sandwich spread.
Also, how this dairy product turns out after thawing depends on its quality, initial consistency, and ingredients.
Want to learn more about freezing this product? Read our guide on freezing cream cheese.
When it comes to how you should go about freezing cream cheese, there are a couple of options. If the package is unopened, usually you can just chuck it into the freezer.
If it’s opened, you need to protect the cheese from the cold air. You can do that by either wrapping it with aluminum foil or putting the container in a freezer bag.
If you usually need only a small amount of cream cheese, you can freeze it in an ice cube tray. If the cubes are too small, grab a muffin tin instead.
How Long Does Cream Cheese Last
Cream cheese usually comes with a sell-by or use-by date on the label. As usual, you can expect the product to last past that date.
Since many cream cheeses have some preservatives or stabilizers, they can last for up to 3 to 4 weeks past the date on the label.
Please note that dairy products aren’t known for their longevity and predictability when it comes to shelf life. That means cream cheese can just as well go bad a week past the date on the label or even a week before that date.
Such situations happen quite often if the product is mishandled before it finds its way onto the shelves.
All of the above applies to mascarpone cheese as well. Cream cheese and mascarpone aren’t the same, but shelf life-wise, they’re quite alike.
|Cream cheese (unopened)||Sell-by + 3 – 4 weeks|
|Cream cheese (opened)||7 – 10 days|
Please note that the periods above are estimates and for best quality.
How to Tell If Cream Cheese Is Bad
Signs of spoiled cream cheese include:
- Noticeable changes in appearance. If you can find any signs of mold, yellowish or greenish specs, or it gets slimy across the top, throw it out. Same if it dries out and isn’t creamy anymore.
- An off smell. The sniff test is very helpful here. If cream cheese develops a “funny,” off, or sour smell, discard it.
- Sour taste. Usually if cream cheese looks and smells okay, its taste is okay too, but it’s always worth double-checking before spreading it on a bunch of bread slices.
If both the smell and appearance are okay, tasting the product makes perfect sense. Eating a small amount of cream cheese, even if it’s already starting to go bad, won’t kill you, so don’t worry.
If there is some liquid on top of cream cheese, it is an effect of separation and it’s harmless (see photo below).