Got a couple of mozzarella balls left over, and want to know how and how long you can keep them? How to store fresh mozzarella cheese?
Fresh mozzarella is one of the few kinds of cheese that’s packaged in liquid. Sure, feta cheese has some brine in the package, but that’s not quite the same.
And that makes people ask all sorts of questions:
- Should you keep the liquid for leftovers?
- What if you already discarded the whey/water/brine? Can you replace it?
- Should you store the leftovers in water or brine?
- How long fresh mozzarella lasts after opening?
If you came here with any of those, you’re in the right place. Below, I do my best to answer all of them concisely. Keep reading.
How To Store Fresh Mozzarella?
As long as the package is unopened, all you need to do is to keep it refrigerated. That’s the easy part.
Once you open the mozzarella, eat some, and want to store the leftovers, things get tricky.
There are two options to choose from, and one isn’t necessarily better than the other. And if you happen to go with storing mozzarella in liquid, there are a few more things you need to decide on.
If you store leftover mozzarella often, try all of the options and see what works best for your favorite brand. Otherwise, choose one and go with it.
Storing Fresh Mozzarella in Plastic Wrap
This is the easiest option and works best for large pieces of mozzarella. If you have a bunch of small mozzarella balls, it’s better to go with submerging the cheese in liquid.
All you need to do is strain the liquid the cheese comes in, and wrap the piece tightly with plastic wrap. Make sure there are no air pockets and that everything is covered.
This way, the cheese doesn’t dry out and can retain quality for a couple of days.
If you’re like me and don’t like using plastic wrap, use a reusable freezer bag instead. You won’t wrap the mozzarella as well if you go with a bag, but it’s good enough to keep the leftovers for a couple of days.
Storing Fresh Mozzarella in Liquid
Fresh mozzarella is usually packaged in liquid, and you can store your leftovers the same way. There is, however, one thing you need to know before you can do so.
That thing is: some producers submerge mozzarella in water, while others go with brine (water + salt).
Should you go with plain old water, or brine? There isn’t an agreement on which option is better ([F52]).
For me, the approach that makes the most sense is to try to replicate the liquid that your cheese came in.
If your mozzarella comes in water mixed with salt, and you store the leftovers in fresh water, you’re drawing salt from the cheese. That results in a slight change of taste. The same happens the other way around.
That means you first need to check if your mozzarella was submerged in water or brine. To do so, you can either review the ingredients list on the label or taste the liquid.
Now you’re ready to prepare the liquid. You only need enough to cover the cheese in the container.
If you’re going with water plus salt, use about one teaspoon of salt for every cup of water.
Submerge the mozzarella in the brine or water, seal the container, and put it into the fridge. That’s not the end, though.
You should replace that liquid regularly. You probably don’t need to do it daily ([F52]) – every other day should be enough. So if you saved the liquid the cheese was in, you can use it, but you still need to replace it in a day or two.
When going this way, you should get a couple of extra days of storage time.
If a week or so of storage time isn’t enough, you can freeze mozzarella cheese instead.
How Long Does Fresh Mozzarella Last?
Mozzarella comes with a date on the package.
Unlike parmesan (here’s how long parmesan lasts) or other hard cheeses, its shelf life is pretty limited. Usually, it’s about two to three weeks, so there’s no point in buying lots of mozzarella on a sale or buying in advance.
If the cheese is unopened, it should keep for at least a couple of days (maybe up to a week) past that date.
Mozzarella in the form of cheese sticks lasts much longer. The shelf life of string cheese is usually between 6 to 8 weeks.
Once you open the package, you finish (or freeze) the leftover mozzarella within three days to maybe a week.
As I mentioned, the way you store the cheese plays a role too.
If you go with plastic wrap (or bag), the cheese will retain quality for only a couple of days. If you go the extra mile and keep it submerged, you can get a couple of additional days.
|Mozzarella cheese (unopened)||“Use-by” date + 5 – 7 days|
|Mozzarella cheese (opened, in plastic wrap)||2 – 3 days|
|Mozzarella cheese (opened, in water or brine)||1 week|
Please note the periods in the table above are estimates only. Always check the quality of mozzarella before eating.
How To Tell If Fresh Mozzarella Is Bad?
The typical signs of spoilage include:
- The bag is bloated. If your unopened bag of mozzarella is bloated, it’s fairly sure the cheese is done for. Feel free to look inside, though.
- Visible mold. That’s pretty self-explanatory – if you see mold, you throw out the mozzarella. And no, trimming off the moldy part isn’t a good idea. Same thing if there are any odd specs on the surface.
- Sour smell. If either the cheese or the liquid it’s in smells like sour cream, it’s probably time for it to go. Eating it won’t kill you (or even cause any digestive issues in most cases), but mozzarella isn’t supposed to be sour. Plus, it might ruin your salad, or whatever you add the mozzarella into.
- Sour or bitter taste. If your mozzarella looks and smells okay, it’s time to check its taste. If it’s okay – feel free to eat the rest. Otherwise, it’s time to discard it.
Here’s a bag of mozzarella balls that I forgot about. It sat in the fridge for about a month past its date. Next to it, I put a bag that I just bought, for comparison.
When it comes to the insides of that bloated bag, there was quite a lot of gas built up (obviously), but the cheese balls looked fairly okay (see below). The sour and stale smell gave it away, though.
What about mozzarella that has started to harden or turn dry?
That could happen if you store it without any liquid, and you didn’t wrap it tightly. As long as there’s no mold, the cheese should be fine to eat. Of course, the dry part is no good (in terms of taste), so it’s best to cut it off and enjoy the rest.
Last but not least, if your opened mozzarella sits in the fridge for more than 10 to 14 days, it’s safest to get rid of it. That holds even if it seems perfectly fine on the outside.
If you’re not 100% sure your mozzarella is okay, throw it out. Better safe than sorry.