Why Expiration Dates on Cream Cheese are Confusing
In this article, we will explore all the factors and answer the question; how long does cream cheese last? When looking at the best used by date on your cream cheese, it is essential to realize there are many factors of how the cream cheese is made, packaged, and stored that contribute to the shelf life of this product.
When looking at the expiration date on your food, remember that best used by dates are not expiration dates. Instead, this is when the product will be at the peak taste and texture level, and it is recommended to be used before this date. Of course, you can still eat it after this date (within reason), but the product quality may be lesser than if consumed before this date.
Cream Cheese Expiration Dates Explained
There are many variables involved in cream cheese’s shelf life, such as the processing method, composition of the cheese, packaging date, how it is stored, and exposure to heat. Cream cheese is considered a soft cheese with high-fat content. It is made from unskimmed milk and additional cream and can be mixed with vegetables, fish, or nuts.
There are many new varieties of cream cheese, including regular-fat, reduced-fat, flavored, and whipped. Commercially produced cream cheese will be sold either foil wrapped or in a plastic sealed container to keep fresh. Modern processing methods will also help keep the smooth texture of the cream cheese for longer.
Generally, soft cheese will not last as long as hard cheeses stored at the same temperature (below 40F). So let’s have a look at the expiry dates of the different types of cream cheeses!
|Unopened||Refrigerator (Past best before date)||Freezer(Past best before date)|
|Foil Wrapped cream cheese||3-4 weeks||2 months|
|Plastic Container cream cheese||3-4 weeks||–|
|Flavored cream cheese||3-4 weeks||–|
|Reduced-Fat cream cheese||2-3 weeks||–|
|Neufchatel Cheese||2-3 weeks||–|
|All Cream Cheese||1-2 weeks||–|
How do you Tell if Cream Cheese is Off?
The most effective way to ensure your cream cheese does not go off before the expiration date is to practice good health and safety techniques. Bacteria proliferate in warmer temperatures (between 40F and 140F). For this reason, you should discard cream cheese left out of the refrigerator for over 2 hours.
Various physical and structural changes will start to show you that cream cheese is going off, such as the change in smell, texture, taste, color, and even the development of mold. For example, expired cream cheese will develop a sour taste and smell, with a cracked, dry, or lumpy texture.
If you are used to eating hard cheese, you may see mold developing and simply cut off the moldy part from the rest of the cheese and enjoy! However, if you see mold on any soft cheese, it is generally safest to throw the entire product away as it can produce harmful toxins.
How Long Does Cream Cheese Last in a Dish?
Generally, if the cream cheese is removed from the packaging it came in, you have broken the seal, so it will not last as long as when it was unopened. However, if you are preparing cream cheese in a dish with other ingredients, the cream cheese will last as long as the element with the soonest expiry date.
The cream cheese will also spoil if you do not adequately seal the dish with either plastic wrap or foil. If the cream cheese is stored by itself in a dish and sealed properly, it should last between one and two weeks in the refrigerator.
How to Store Cream Cheese
Once you break the seal of your cream cheese, it will be considered an opened product, even if you rewrap it or re-seal the container it came in. How you store the cream cheese after this will determine how long it lasts.
The most important thing to increasing the shelf-life of cream cheese is to ensure it is refrigerated at all times. This should be below 40F to prevent any harmful bacteria or mold from forming. Suppose your cream cheese comes in a plastic or airtight and resealable container that will keep out moisture and other contaminants. In that case, this will be perfect for storing your cream cheese for long periods of time in the refrigerator.
Generally, most foil-wrapped cream cheese does not come in an airtight container, and although it is popular to re-seal the end of the foil after use, this does not create an airtight seal and is not the ideal way to store cream cheese. It is best to place inside an airtight container once you have opened a foil-wrapped cheese to prolong its shelf life.
Bacteria will grow more rapidly in moist environments, which is the main reason that soft cheese will not last as long as hard cheese. Therefore, ensure that you discard any cream cheese left at room temperature for two hours or more.
Cream cheese can be frozen safely. However, this will drastically change the texture and quality of your product and make it very crumbly. Frozen cream cheese is best used in cooking, such as a casserole or soup, where the consistency is not as crucial as when fresh.
Interesting Facts About Cream Cheese
- Neufchatel cheese was created in Neufchatel, France, and contains one-third fewer calories than regular cream cheese.
- The hot-pack method of processing cream cheese will help the cheese last three to six months.
- Cold-packed cream cheese will only last two to three weeks unopened in the refrigerator.
- Flavored cream cheese and regular cream cheese have similar shelf lives due to additives and sterilization methods.
- Foil packaging and plastic containers preserve the moisture and texture of cream cheese while also preventing bacteria from forming.
- The sell-by date for cream cheese stored in the freezer is to keep the structure and texture intact. If it is stored below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, it will be kept safe indefinitely.
Our Tips for Storing Cream Cheese, so it Lasts Longer
To ensure your cream cheese lasts for the longest time possible, you can start this as early as at the grocery store! Wait until the end of your shop to pick up the cream cheese and refrigerated items, and refrigerate as soon as you get home. This will ensure they spend as much time possible in a refrigerated environment.
Whether the cream cheese is foil-wrapped or comes in a plastic container, you can keep it in the original packaging until you need to open it for consumption. This will work better than opening and transferring to another container or dish, as the product will be kept freshest when in the original, unbroken packaging.
Once you open foil-wrapped cream cheese, transfer it to an airtight sealed container. Simply wrapping the flared edge shut will not help keep the cream cheese fresh and may let in harmful bacteria that will cause the product to go off.
If the cream cheese comes in a plastic, airtight container, this is perfectly fine to store the cheese in once opened. Try to make sure that the cream cheese is left outside of the fridge for the minimum time possible. The maximum time cream cheese can be left unrefrigerated is two hours. However, you should aim for much less time than this.
A good idea for ensuring you do not leave the cream cheese out of the fridge for too long is to cut off the cream cheese that you need at that time and keep the rest stored in the refrigerator. Also, ensure that you are not contaminating the cheese with any other products such as meat or vegetables by using the same utensils to handle both.
Ways to use Leftover Cream Cheese
Here are some handy recipe ideas for using leftover cream cheese and reducing your food waste!
- Add leftover cream cheese to soups or stews to make them creamy and delicious.
- Spread onto a cracker or bagel to use up that leftover bit of cheese.
- Make a cream cheese flavored dip with some fresh herbs.
- Stir into scrambled eggs for a creamy texture.
- Swirl into brownies or baked goods.
- Use it as a filling to stuff into a baked chicken breast.
- Mix into mashed potatoes.
- Use it to make pancakes.
- Make spicy jalapeno poppers.
- Make a mini-batch of cream cheese frosting.
- Stir into mac and cheese for an extra level of creaminess.
Always use your common sense when assessing the safety of food that is approaching its sell-by date. It is essential to consider how it has been stored, how long it has been since the sell-by date, how long you opened the product, and how it looks, smells, and tastes.
Don’t be frightened into throwing your cream cheese out by the use by date listed on the package anymore! Following this guide and our tips and tricks, you can get the most out of your cream cheese to ensure it lasts as long as possible at home.