Shelf Life of
Hard or Semi-Hard Cheese

How Long Does Hard Cheese Last?

Shelf Life of Cheese

Shelf Life of Cheese

How long do hard and semi-hard cheeses 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 hard cheeses include Parmesan, Romano, Asiago, Buffalo and Pecorino cheese. These cheeses have been cooked, pressed and aged making them good for grating. Some common semi-hard cheeses include Cheddar, Swiss, Gouda, and Provolone cheese. These cheeses have been cooked and pressed, but have not been aged so they contain more moisture.  All cheeses are valued for their high content of fat, protein, calcium, and phosphorus while hard and semi-hard varieties enjoy added value for their compacted flavor and longer shelf life.

The shelf life of hard cheese is influenced by a variety of factors, such as the type of cheese, the processing method and packaging date, its exposure to heat, how the cheese is stored and the best by date or sell by date. So how long does cheese last?  When properly stored at or below 40° F, the shelf life of cheese is approximately …

(Unopened) Fridge Freezer
Past Printed Date Past Printed Date
Hard Cheese (Parmesan, Asiago, Romano) lasts for 2-4 Months 6-8 Months
Shredded Hard Cheese lasts for 1-2 Month 6-8 Months
Semi-Hard Cheese Chunk (Cheddar, Swiss) lasts for 1-2 Months 6-8 Months
Sliced Semi-Hard Cheese lasts for 1 Month 6-8 Months
(Opened) Refrigerator Freezer
Hard Cheese Chunk (Parmesan, Asiago, Romano) lasts for 3-6 Weeks 6-8 Months
Shredded Hard Cheese lasts for 3-4 Weeks 6-8 Months
Semi-Hard Cheese Chunk lasts for 3-6 Weeks 6-8 Months
Sliced Semi-Hard Cheese lasts for 2 Weeks 6-8 Months

In general, the harder the cheese the longer it keeps. Of course, it lasts for a shorter period of time if it is not stored properly. But remember, cheese, like a lot of other dairy products, usually has a sell by date or a best 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 cheese to compliment your favorite meals even after its best by date has lapsed.

How to tell if Semi-hard 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 its gone bad.

Some common traits of cheese going bad are a darker color and harder texture accompanied by a stronger smell. Your cheese has gone bad when you see or smell mold growth. Once mold is visible, you should throw away any of the softer cheeses. Likewise, if there is mold on some of your shredded cheese, the entire container should be thrown out. For firmer cheeses, if you cut away the mold and an inch of the cheese surrounding the mold (without touching the mold with your knife) it is still fine to cook with .[1] Although some molds on cheese are harmless (as with blue cheese), some produce very dangerous toxins.

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 cheeses prior to their expiration.

How to store hard or semi-hard cheese to extend its shelf life?

Proper food storage is the key to extending the shelf life of hard or semi-hard cheeses such as parmesan cheese, swiss cheese or american cheese. You can help cheese keep fresh longer by storing it in your refrigerator at 40°F or lower immediately after each use. It should also be stored either in its original wrapper or a tightly closed container to keep out moisture and other contaminants. Bacteria can’t grow as readily in dry environments, which is why hard cheese keeps longer than soft. Cheeses should be kept out for no longer than two hours at a time as it will quickly degrade as its temperature increases.

The exception is containers of Kraft dry parmesan cheese which does not have to be refrigerated, in fact they last just a long in a pantry and actually better since it tends to form clumps if left in the fridge.

For a long-term option, with the exception again of parmesan blocks, you can freeze your hard cheese for a few months while preserving its taste if you use a freezer safe container that is void of oxygen. While letting the formerly frozen cheese thaw in your refrigerator is the preferred method, some may be used in their frozen state for baking. Cheeses may change texture when frozen and appear to be dry and crumbly when thawed.  Some cheeses, like semi-soft mozzarella, freeze better than others and can be baked from their frozen state. 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 hard and semi-hard cheese?

  • The harder the cheese, the longer it keeps. Because bacteria can’t grow as readily in a dry environment as it can in a moist environment.
  • The longer a cheese is aged, the sharper its taste.
  • Processed cheese may blend more than one natural cheese and is often supplemented with milk, preservatives and food coloring.  A perfect example is American Cheese, which melts smoothly and is considered a semi-hard cheese.
  • If unpasteurized milk is used, government regulations require the cheese be aged for at least 60 days before it is sold.
  • Most of the lactose is removed during the manufacture of hard cheese.
  • According to the National Dairy Council, it is okay to keep cheese if mold growth is confined to a small area (but remember to cut the mold off!).
  • Can you freeze cheese?

    How long is hard cheese, semi-hard or processed cheese good for when prepared in a dish?

    How long does cheese last? That depends. How long do eggs last? In general, hard, semi-hard or processed cheese 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!

    Search the Shelf Life Guide!

    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 hard cheese, semi-hard cheese and processed cheese.

    *An important note about expiration dates …

    Although the Swiss cheese, Cheddar cheese and Parmesan 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.