Does Cream Cheese Go Bad?

So there’s this half-open container of Philadelphia cream cheese in your fridge. It’s opened for a couple of days already, and you start to wonder: does cream cheese go bad?

You’re not sure if you will be able to use the rest of it before it goes bad. You thought about freezing it, but heard that freezing this dairy product doesn’t work that well. Right now, you’re unsure what to do and for how long you can keep the cheese in the fridge before it goes bad.

Or maybe you’ve bought some cream cheese for baking. Unfortunately, last weekend you were quite busy and didn’t find the time to bake that cheesecake. Now the dairy product is nearing its sell-by date, and you’re wondering if you can still use it.

If any of these questions sound familiar, this article is for you. In it, we go through storage, shelf life, and going bad of cream cheese. If you’re interested, read on.

Sandwich with cream cheese
(credit: Ella Olsson)

How to Store Cream Cheese

Like other dairy products, such as buttermilk or yogurt, you should store cream cheese in the fridge.

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. Alternatively, plastic or aluminum wrap and a rubber band is a rough and ready solution you can go with.

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 you 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.

A caramel cheesecake slice in front of the rest of the cake.

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 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 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. All in all, it’s best if you try to freeze it yourself and see how it works in your favorite recipes.

Breads and cream cheese
(credit: Tara Evans)

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.

Tip

If you usually need only a small amount of cream cheese, you can freeze in an ice cube tray. If the cubes are too small, grab a muffin tin and use the method in the linked article.

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 that 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 was mishandled before it found its way onto the shelves.

Once you open the package, you should finish it within a week for best quality, maybe a couple of days more.

 Fridge
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.

Sandwich with Cream Cheese
(credit: stu_spivack)

How to Tell If Cream Cheese Is Bad

There are at least a couple of things that can indicate that your cream cheese is spoiled.

First off, check its appearance. If you can find any signs of mold, there are yellowish or greenish specs, or it gets slimy across the top, throw it out.

Tip

If there is some liquid on top of cream cheese, it is an effect of separation and it’s harmless.

Now it’s time for the sniff test. If cream cheese develops “funny,” off, or sour smell, discard it.

If both the smell and appearance are okay, it’s time to give it a taste. 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 it tastes okay, feel free to use it. But if it tastes sour or is untasty in any other way, get rid of it.

1 thought on “Does Cream Cheese Go Bad?”

  1. I bough two large blocks of Philadelphia cream cheese to make a cheese cake I have made hundreds of times, when I went to put it in the bowl to whip it, it was very soft, even though it had been refrigerated for 3 days unopened. when I finished beating it with electric beater, it ususally has the consistency of thick batter, this one was runny and almost liquid. I made the pie, baked it, and when it came out it had gotten more solid, but way softer then usual. I tasted it, and it left as sour taste in my mouth that I can’t get rid of. What happened here?

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