How long does cream cheese last in the fridge once opened?

Cream cheese is a versatile ingredient that can last in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 weeks after opening, if stored properly. The shelf life depends on a few factors like the best by date, storage conditions, and signs of spoilage. Here is a detailed guide on how to tell if cream cheese is still good and how to make it last as long as possible in the fridge.

Quick Answer

An unopened package of cream cheese will typically last between one to two months past the printed best by or expiration date, as long as it has been continuously refrigerated. An opened package of cream cheese will last between 1 to 2 weeks in the refrigerator if stored properly in a closed container. If mold appears on the cream cheese, it should be discarded.

How To Tell If Cream Cheese Has Gone Bad

Here are some tips for identifying if your cream cheese has gone bad and needs to be discarded:

  • Check the expiration or best by date on the package. Cream cheese should not be consumed past 1-2 weeks after the date.
  • Look for mold growth on the cream cheese, which could appear spotty, fuzzy, or discolored.
  • Smell the cream cheese. A sour odor is a sign it has spoiled.
  • Note any changes in texture – it should be soft and creamy. Separation of liquids or hardening indicates spoilage.
  • Taste a small amount. Rancid or bitter flavors mean the cream cheese is no longer good.

How To Store Cream Cheese After Opening

Storing cream cheese properly is key to maximizing its shelf life after opening. Here are some storage tips:

  • Keep cream cheese tightly sealed in its original foil packaging or an airtight container.
  • Ensure your refrigerator temperature is set to 40°F or below. The colder the better for preservation.
  • Store cream cheese towards the back of the fridge, away from the door where temperatures fluctuate.
  • Don’t let cream cheese sit at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Keep cream cheese away from sources of moisture and heat.
  • Avoid introducing spoons or utensils into the cream cheese container.

How Long Does Cream Cheese Last Unopened?

An unopened package of cream cheese has a longer shelf life compared to opened cream cheese. Here is how long it lasts:

  • Unopened shelf-stable cream cheese can last 2 months past the printed expiration date if continuously refrigerated.
  • Unopened refrigerated cream cheese is good for 4-6 weeks past the printed expiration date if kept at 40°F or below.
  • Once opened, cream cheese will last for 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator depending on storage conditions.

Always look for signs of spoilage like mold and off smells or textures rather than relying solely on the date. An unopened properly stored cream cheese stays freshest right up to the expiration date on the package.

Does Cream Cheese Go Bad If Left Out?

Cream cheese can go bad if left out of the refrigerator for too long. Here’s how long cream cheese lasts at room temperature:

  • Unopened cream cheese can be left at room temperature for up to 2 weeks before quality degrades.
  • Opened cream cheese should not sit out for more than 2 hours before bacteria can multiply to dangerous levels.
  • Leaving cream cheese out overnight will severely impact safety and quality.
  • Discard cream cheese if left for over 2 hours at temperatures above 40°F.

The high moisture content of cream cheese makes it prone to rapid bacterial growth when left at room temperature. For food safety, always discard cream cheese that has been left out too long.

How To Freeze Cream Cheese

Freezing is a great way to extend the shelf life of cream cheese if you won’t use it up quickly. Here are some tips for freezing:

  • Freeze cream cheese in its original packaging or an airtight container, pressing plastic wrap directly onto the surface before sealing.
  • For blocks of cream cheese, cut into portions before freezing for easier thawing and use.
  • Freezing makes the texture of cream cheese crumbly. It’s best used in cooking applications after thawing in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Properly frozen cream cheese will last for 2-3 months in the freezer before losing quality.
  • Thaw frozen cream cheese slowly in the fridge. Do not thaw at room temperature.

How To Tell If Thawed Cream Cheese Has Gone Bad

Here are some signs that previously frozen cream cheese has spoiled and needs to be discarded:

  • Presence of mold or dark spots
  • Separation of liquids or an excessively runny texture
  • Strong sour odor
  • Off tastes that are bitter, sour, or rancid
  • Expired best by date

Always inspect thawed cream cheese closely. Any signs of spoilage mean the cream cheese should be thrown out. When in doubt, it’s better to be safe and start with a fresh package.

Can Moldy Cream Cheese Be Saved?

Cream cheese that has begun to grow mold should not be saved or consumed. Mold can send tendrils through soft cheeses that are invisible to the eye but can contaminate the entire block. It is unsafe to try to scoop out the moldy parts and use the rest.

Even a small spot of mold on cream cheese signals bacteria growth throughout that requires discarding the entire container. Mold also gives the cheese an unpleasant taste. There are no methods to restore a moldy cream cheese to make it safe for eating again.

Can You Use Sour Cream Cheese?

Sour or tangy smells, tastes, and changes in texture are also indicators that cream cheese has spoiled and should be discarded. Sour cream cheese has an unpleasant flavor and compromised quality.

The sourness comes from lactic acid bacteria feeding on the cream cheese components, breaking it down. This causes the unsavory tastes and textures. Attempting to neutralize the acidity would not make the cream cheese safe to consume again.

What About Separation of Liquids in Cream Cheese?

It’s common to see some liquid at the bottom of the container or separation in cream cheese. This alone does not mean the cream cheese is spoiled. Separation can happen if stored cream cheese experiences temperature fluctuations.

However, excessive watery liquid or complete breaking signal that quality has diminished. Use separated cream cheese for cooking rather than spreading. Discard cream cheese if the watery layer takes up more than a fourth of the container.

Can You Freeze and Thaw Cream Cheese Multiple Times?

It’s best to avoid freezing and thawing cream cheese more than one time. The texture and flavor quality declines with each additional freeze-thaw cycle.

Multiple thaws will cause the cream cheese to become increasingly crumbly and grainy. The proteins break down each time ice crystals form and disrupt the structure. The cream cheese will also oxidize faster with repeated freezing.

For best quality, thaw frozen cream cheese one time only and use within 1 week. Do not refreeze after thawing.

Signs Cream Cheese Has Gone Bad After Freezing

Look for these signs that previously frozen cream cheese has spoiled and should be discarded:

  • Mold growth
  • Separated watery liquid
  • Curdled texture
  • Sour, bitter, or “off” smell
  • Change in color to yellow or orange hues
  • Expired use by date

The freezing process can accelerate degradation of cream cheese over time. Inspect thawed cream cheese closely before using. When in doubt, it’s safest to discard.

How To Extend The Shelf Life Of Opened Cream Cheese

Once opened, cream cheese has a shorter shelf life. But you can extend the use by:

  • Storing in an airtight container in the fridge at 40°F or below
  • Keeping the surface smooth and free of utensil marks
  • Wrapping tightly in plastic wrap directly on the surface before sealing the container
  • Placing away from moisture and heat sources
  • Being diligent about using clean utensils to avoid introducing bacteria

With proper refrigeration and storage methods, an opened cream cheese will stay fresh for up to 2 weeks past the printed expiration date.

What Is The Best Temperature To Store Cream Cheese?

Cream cheese should be refrigerated at 40°F or colder for optimum shelf life and food safety after opening. Temperatures closer to 32°F are even better for minimizing bacterial growth and slowing spoilage.

The refrigerator door is a warmer area that should be avoided. Place cream cheese towards the back on a higher shelf. Monitor your fridge temperatures with a thermometer and adjust as needed.

Can You Freeze Cream Cheese With Add-Ins?

It’s best not to freeze flavored or add-in cream cheeses like veggie, garlic and herb, cranberries, pineapples, pesto, or chocolate chips. The additional ingredients can change the freezing properties and speed up spoilage.

However, plain cream cheese with add-ins mixed in just before freezing can be successfully frozen. The texture may be grainier after thawing. Use for cooking or baking rather than spreading.


Here are some key takeaways on how long cream cheese lasts and how to maximize its shelf life:

  • Unopened, refrigerated cream cheese lasts 4-6 weeks past the printed expiration date.
  • Once opened, cream cheese lasts 1-2 weeks in the fridge stored properly in an airtight container.
  • Look for signs of spoilage like mold, sour smells, and watery separation to determine if cream cheese is expired.
  • Keep refrigerated at 40°F or below and avoid leaving cream cheese out for over 2 hours.
  • Freezing can extend the shelf life for 2-3 months if thawed properly in the refrigerator.
  • Discard cream cheese at the first signs of mold or spoilage for food safety.

Following proper storage methods and food safety practices will help make your cream cheese last as long as possible. Always use your best judgment before consuming cream cheese that is past its prime.

Leave a Comment