Does Mac and Cheese Go Bad?

Mac and cheese is a popular comfort food made with pasta and cheese sauce. This dish can be made using fresh ingredients or bought from your local supermarket. Since mac and cheese makes a terrific meal or snack, it makes sense to whip up this dish in advance. This way, you can always enjoy a steaming bowl of mac and cheese whenever! Does mac and cheese go bad?

Mac and cheese have dairy in it so yes, it will go bad within a couple of days. It is not a good idea to leave this dish sitting at room temperature because of the delicate ingredients. The cooked pasta and the cheese sauce could turn rancid from air exposure.

does mac and cheese go bad

Image used under Creative Commons from Stephanie

To maximize the storage life of this dish, you need to store it properly! The good news is, there are several ways to store this dish and extend its shelf life. Let’s take a look at our guide on how to store mac and cheese properly:

How to Store Mac and Cheese?

Boxed or uncooked mac and cheese is best kept in the pantry. For cooked mac and cheese, you can keep it in the refrigerator or in the freezer. Refrigeration is best when you are planning on eating the dish within a few days. On the other hand, freezing is best if you have no plans of consuming the dish in a short span of time.

Storing Mac and Cheese in the Pantry

There is no additional prep needed for storing boxed mac and cheese in the pantry. Store-bought mac and cheese has a long storage life. Just place it in a cool, dry place, away from sources of heat. Do not open the packaging unless you are planning to cook the dish immediately.

Storing Mac and Cheese in the Refrigerator

This is a great method for storing cooked mac and cheese that you plan to eat right away. Regardless if you made the dish from scratch or you cooked boxed mac and cheese, leave the dish to cool before prepping for storage. If you can, separate the cheese sauce and the cooked pasta as the ingredients cool. Store them separately to extend the shelf life.

Once the dish has cooled down completely, spoon the mac and cheese into shallow airtight containers. Do not overfill the container. Close the airtight lid, write the storage date then stick in the chilliest spot in the fridge.

Storing Mac and Cheese in the Freezer

This method is best for long-term storage. While freezing will extend the storage life of mac in cheese for months, consume the dish as soon as you can for optimal taste. To prep the dish, follow the refrigeration instruction above. Chill the dish in the fridge for 48 to 72 hours. Once the dish is chilled, add a storage label then stick in the freezer.

Shelf Life of Mac and Cheese

Boxed and uncooked mac and cheese will keep in the pantry for 2 years or so. In the fridge, mac and cheese will keep for 3 to 5 days. When kept in the freezer, cooked mac and cheese will keep for 2 to 3 months. It could keep longer when frozen if the temperature is at a stable 0 degree Fahrenheit. Always remember, the storage life of this dish depends largely on the storage conditions. As long as the storage conditions are ideal, mac and cheese will keep for a long time.

does mac and cheese go bad

Image used under Creative Commons from Maria Eklind

How to Tell if Mac and Cheese Has Gone Bad?

You can tell that mac and cheese have spoiled by smell and by sight. Take a whiff and if the dish doesn’t smell right, the dish may have gone bad. If the cheese sauce has discolored, discard the dish. If you see grey-blue growth developing on the top of the mac and cheese, the dish has turned moldy. It is no longer safe to eat.


Whether made from scratch or boxed, mac and cheese make a delicious quick meal or a healthy snack. It’s the kind of dish that appeals to adults and kids alike! Does mac and cheese go bad? That’s certainly a possibility but only if the dish has been stored improperly. With these tips, you are sure to maximize the storage life of your favorite comfort food!