How long can you keep fresh mozzarella in the fridge?

Fresh mozzarella is a delicious, soft cheese that goes great with many dishes, from pizza to caprese salad. However, with its high moisture content and freshness, it has a shorter shelf life than aged cheeses. So how long does fresh mozzarella last in the fridge once opened? Here is a quick answer, followed by more details.

Quick Answer

Fresh mozzarella will last 5-7 days past its printed expiration date if kept refrigerated at 40°F or below and tightly wrapped. For best quality, use within 3-5 days of opening. After 5-7 days, it will begin to break down and develop an acidic flavor.

How Is Fresh Mozzarella Different Than Other Cheeses?

Fresh mozzarella, sometimes called fresh buffalo mozzarella, differs from aged mozzarella and other cheeses in a few important ways:

  • High moisture content – Fresh mozzarella contains a very high amount of moisture, around 80%. This makes it soft and creamy but also means it spoils faster.
  • Freshness – It is made to be eaten fresh and does not go through an aging or curing process to allow flavor to develop.
  • Mild taste – The taste is milky and mild compared to aged mozzarella.
  • Delicate structure – The proteins have not formed a strong network yet, so the cheese has a soft, delicate structure.

How to Store Fresh Mozzarella

To get the longest shelf life out of fresh mozzarella after opening, proper storage is key:

  • Keep refrigerated at 40°F or below, as consistent cool temperatures help slow bacteria growth.
  • Ensure it is tightly wrapped or in an airtight container to prevent moisture loss.
  • Keep the surface dry to prevent sogginess and mold growth.
  • Store away from sources of contamination like raw meat juices.

Signs of Spoilage

Here are some signs that fresh mozzarella has gone bad and should be discarded:

  • Mold growing on the surface
  • Excessive water in the packaging
  • Curdling or separation of the cheese
  • Sliminess
  • Off smells like sourness or ammonia
  • Dry, cracked texture
  • Discoloration, such as yellowing

Maximizing Freshness

To help your fresh mozzarella last as long as possible:

  • Purchase mozzarella that is well within its expiration date and shows no signs of spoilage.
  • Avoid pre-shredded or pre-grated mozzarella, as the shredding process can accelerate spoilage.
  • Use clean and dry utensils when removing pieces to avoid introducing bacteria.
  • Use promptly after opening for best quality and freshness.
  • Keep the moisture intact by storing properly sealed.
  • Cut off any moldy portions immediately so it doesn’t spread.

How Long Does Sealed Fresh Mozzarella Last?

Fresh mozzarella that is still factory sealed can be kept 1-2 weeks past the printed expiration date, provided it has been continuously refrigerated at 40°F or below. The sealed packaging helps retain moisture and protect the cheese.

However, maximum freshness and flavor is achieved by using it within 5-7 days of purchasing.

How Long After Opening?

Once opened and exposed to air, fresh mozzarella has a shorter shelf life. For best quality and taste, plan to use it within 3-5 days of opening. If properly stored in the refrigerator, it can last 5-7 days past its printed sell-by or use-by date before deteriorating in texture and taste.

Here are some general guidelines for refrigerated storage times after opening fresh mozzarella:

Storage Time Quality
1-3 days Best quality
3-5 days Good quality
5-7 days Acceptable quality, some decline in texture
7+ days Not recommended, flavor and texture severely degraded

Freezing and Thawing

Fresh mozzarella can be frozen, but its soft texture will degrade and become more rubbery. For best results, freeze it within 1-2 days of purchasing and use within 1-2 months. Here are some freezing tips:

  • Cut into portions or shred before freezing for easier use. Freeze in an airtight container or freezer bag.
  • Freeze at 0°F or below.
  • Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. The texture may be softer after thawing.
  • Avoid refreezing after thawing.

Preserving in Oil

Another storage method is packing fresh mozzarella in oil. To safely preserve it this way:

  • Use high-quality olive or vegetable oil.
  • Ensure the cheese is completely submerged in the oil.
  • Refrigerate and use within 1 week for best quality.
  • Discard if you see any mold growth or off smells develop.

Food Safety Tips

When storing and handling fresh mozzarella, be mindful of basic food safety:

  • Avoid temperature danger zone between 40°F-140°F.
  • Wash hands and surfaces before and after handling.
  • Use clean, dry utensils to remove pieces.
  • Discard cheese that is moldy or has an off smell or appearance.
  • Cook to 165°F if reheating after storing.

What If It Has Mold?

If a small amount of mold grows on the surface, it can be safely removed and the cheese consumed if:

  • The mold is completely removed down to 1 inch below the surface.
  • The cheese still looks and smells normal.
  • It is cooked to 165°F before eating to kill mold spores.

However, if the mold is extensive, penetrates deep into the cheese, or any part seems slimy, discolored or off-smelling, it is best to discard the entire package.

With fresh cheese, mold can quickly spread throughout the texture, so err on the side of caution.

How to Use Up Leftover Mozzarella

If you have mozzarella that’s nearing the end of its prime, there are lots of ways to use it up:

  • Pizza – Shred and sprinkle on pizza. The high oven heat will bake up any funky textures or flavors.
  • Lasagna – Mix into ricotta cheese layer of lasagna.
  • Quesadillas – Sprinkle in quesadilla with other melted cheeses.
  • Mac and cheese – Stir cubed mozzarella into macaroni and cheese.
  • Soups – Add to Italian wedding, minestrone, or tomato soup.
  • Casserole – Fold into spinach-artichoke dip or scalloped potato casserole.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you freeze fresh mozzarella?

Yes, fresh mozzarella can be frozen to extend its shelf life. For best results, freeze within 1-2 days of purchasing and use within 1-2 months. The texture may be slightly compromised after thawing but the cheese will still be usable in cooking.

How can you tell if fresh mozzarella has gone bad?

Signs that fresh mozzarella has spoiled include mold, excessive water in the packaging, separation between the curds and whey, unusual sliminess, sour smell, dry or cracked texture, yellow discoloration, or an off taste.

Why does fresh mozzarella get moldy so fast?

The high moisture content and lack of preservatives in fresh mozzarella make it prone to fast mold growth when exposed to air. To minimize mold growth, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator and pay close attention to expiration dates.

Can you eat fresh mozzarella after the expiration date?

Fresh mozzarella can often be safely consumed 5-7 days past its printed expiration date as long as it has been continuously refrigerated below 40°F. However, for the best flavor and texture, it is best to use it within 3-5 days of opening.

Does mozzarella last longer than other cheeses?

No, fresh mozzarella actually has a shorter shelf life than most aged hard cheeses. Soft cheeses like mozzarella, cottage cheese, or ricotta, should be used within 5-10 days of opening due to their high moisture content. Hard cheeses can last weeks or months when properly stored.

Conclusion

Maximizing the shelf life of fresh mozzarella requires attentive storage techniques like consistent refrigeration, airtight wrapping, and monitoring for signs of spoilage. When stored properly, fresh mozzarella will retain its quality for 3-5 days after opening but can last up to a week past its printed expiration date.

Freezing and preserving in oil can also extend its shelf life. Be vigilant with food safety practices like temperature control and mold prevention. With its high moisture content, fresh mozzarella does not last as long as aged cheeses, so plan to use it promptly for the best texture and flavor.

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