Shelf Life of
Soft and Semi- Soft Cheese

How Long Does Soft Cheese Last?

How Long Do Soft Cheese Last?

How long does soft or semi-soft cheese last? Cheese consists of the proteins and fat from milk and is produced throughout the world in hundreds of flavors, textures, and forms. Some common soft cheeses include Mozzarella, Havarti and Monterey jack and semi-soft cheeses include Brie cheese, Feta cheese, Ricotta cheese, and Cream cheese. In addition to its great taste and creamy texture, soft cheese is valued for its high content of protein and calcium.

However, it is important to note that soft cheese does not last as long as hard cheese. The shelf life of soft cheese is influenced by a variety of factors such as the type of cheese, the processing method, the packaging date, its exposure to heat, and how the cheese is stored. 

So, how long does soft cheese last?  When properly stored at or below 40° F, the shelf life of soft or semi-soft cheese after its printed date is approximately…

(Unopened) Refrigerator Freezer
Past Printed Date Past Printed Date
Brie Cheese lasts for 1 Week
Mozzarella Cheese lasts for 1-2 Weeks 6 Months
Feta Cheese lasts for 1 Week
Monterey Jack Cheese lasts for 1-2 Weeks 6 Months
Muenster Cheese lasts for 1-2 Weeks
Havarti Cheese lasts for 1-2 Weeks 6 Months
Gorgonzola Cheese lasts for 1-2 Weeks

In general, the harder the cheese the longer it keeps. Of course, cheese lasts for a shorter period of time if it is not stored properly. But remember, soft cheese, like a lot of other dairy products, usually has a sell by date or use by date which is simply the last date by which a manufacturer will vouch for a product’s quality, not its safety. Because of this distinction, you may safely use soft cheese to compliment your favorite meals even after its best by date has lapsed.

 How to tell if soft cheese is bad, rotten or spoiled?

Practicing proper hygiene and food safety techniques will help prevent food borne illness.  Although not a perfect test, your senses are usually the most reliable instruments to tell if your soft cheese has gone bad.

The most common trait of bad soft cheese is the growth of blue or green mold. Once mold is visible on a soft cheese, you should throw away the entire cheese product (you can cut out mold on hard cheese). Although some molds on cheese are harmless (blue cheese for instance), many can produce dangerous toxins. In addition to mold, some semi-soft cheeses such as mozzarella will darken or harden around their edges. If your favorite cheese has gone bad and you need a quick substitute then check our cheese substitute page.

There are, of course, certain health risks associated with spoiled cheese, so always remember to practice food safety and enjoy your soft and semi-soft cheeses prior to their expiration.

 How to store soft cheese to extend its shelf life?

Proper food storage is the key to extending the shelf life of soft cheeses such as brie cheese, feta cheese, ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, or mozzarella cheese. You can help these types of cheeses keep fresh longer by storing them in your refrigerator at 40°F or lower immediately after each use. They should also be stored in a tightly closed container or in plastic wrap to keep out moisture and other contaminants. Because bacteria grows more rapidly in moist environments, soft cheese does not keep as long as hard cheese.  Soft cheeses should not be kept out at room temperature for extended periods of time as the cheese will quickly degrade as its temperature increases.  

For a long-term option, you can freeze your soft cheeses for up to six months if you use a freezer safe container BUT it is NOT recommended. The texture and consistency of soft cheeses will change if frozen, see our post called can you freeze cheese? for details. 

Some benefits of proper food storage include eating healthier, cutting food costs and helping the environment by avoiding waste.

 Interesting facts about the shelf life of soft and semi-soft cheese:

  • The harder the cheese, the longer it keeps.  Bacteria grows more rapidly in  moist environments. Soft cheese should be eaten within a week of purchase or frozen.
  • Federal agencies recommend avoiding cheese made from unpasteurized milk.
  • If a soft cheese looks moldy, the entire cheese product should be discarded. Properly storing cheese in plastic wrap can inhibit mold growth.
  • Molds can tolerate refrigeration temperatures, so be sure to inspect refrigerated soft cheese before consuming.
  • The mold rinds that encase brie and other ripened soft cheeses are often edible.
  • Brie and other ripened cheeses display more of their natural flavor and texture at room temperature.  However, we do not advise warming mozzarella, cream cheese, and other unripened soft cheeses to room temperature unless they will be entirely consumed within 2 hours.

  •  How long is cheese good for when prepared in a dish?

    How long does cheese last? That depends. How long does bread last? In general, soft cheese like brie lasts only as long as the quickest expiring ingredient it is mixed with. To find out how long those other ingredients are good for, please visit the Dairy, Drinks, Fruits, Grains, Proteins, Vegetables and Other sections of Eat By Date or search below!

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     What are our shelf life resources?

    Our content incorporates research from multiple resources, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. In addition, we scour the web for informative articles and reports related to food safety, food storage and the shelf life of cheese.

     *An important note about the expiration dates of brie, feta, ricotta, cottage and mozzarella cheese …

    Although the brie, feta, ricotta, cottage and other soft cheese shelf life information provided by Eat By Date is generally reliable, it is in no way intended to substitute for the advice of a qualified health care provider.  Please eat responsibly.