Shelf Life of
Cream Cheese

How Long Does Cream Cheese Last?

How Long Does Cream Cheese Last?

Cream Cheese Shelf Life

How long does cream cheese last? The shelf life of cream cheese is influenced by a variety of factors, such as the form of cheese, the processing method, packaging date, its exposure to heat, and how it is stored. Cream cheese is a soft cheese with a high fat content. It is made from unskimmed milk enriched with additional cream.  It comes in a variety of forms such as regular,, reduced-fat, whipped and even flavored cream cheese. It is often mixed with vegetables and/or fish or even nuts. Modern processing and packaging methods help cream cheese retain its smooth, spreadable texture longer.

However, it is important to note that cream cheese does not last as long as hard cheeses. So how long does cream cheese last? When properly stored at or below 40° F, the shelf life cream cheese is: 

(Unopened) Refrigerator Freezer
Past Printed Date Past Printed Date
Cream Cheese (Foil Wrapped) lasts for 3-4 Weeks 2 Months
Cream Cheese (Plastic Container) lasts for 3-4 Weeks
Flavored Cream Cheese lasts for 3-4 Weeks
Reduced Fat Cream Cheese lasts for 2-3 Weeks
Neufchatel Cheese lasts for 2-3 Weeks
(Opened) Refrigerator Freezer
All Cream 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, like a lot of other dairy products, it usually has a sell by date which is simply the last date the product should be sold, not consumed. Because of this distinction, you may safely use it on your bagels even after its sell by date or best by date has lapsed (see above table).

How to tell if cream 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 cream cheese has gone bad.  

While fresh regular cream cheese has a light cream color and a spreadable texture; spoiled cream cheese will taste sour, have a slightly sour smell and a cracked or lumpy texture under a watery surface. Expired cream cheese may even develop 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, some may produce toxins and soft cheeses should be tossed at the first signs of mold.

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 cream cheese to extend its shelf life?

Proper food storage is the key to extending the shelf life of cream cheese.

Prior to purchase, you should leave it on the grocery shelf until you are ready to check out. Once at home, you can help regular, reduced fat, flavored and whipped cream cheese keep fresh longer by storing them in your refrigerator at 40°F or lower immediately after use. Most containers come with a lid which keeps our moisture and other contaminants. Once foil wrapped cream cheese is opened, it will keep better if placed in an air tight container because re-sealing the end of the foil does not make an air tight seal. Because bacteria grows more rapidly in moist environments, soft cheese does not keep as long as hard cheese. Cream cheeses should not be kept out room temperature for more than an hour (2 hours maximum) and you should not contaminate with utensils that have touched meat, or anything else for that matter.
For a long-term option, you can freeze cream cheese BUT although it is safe it is NOT recommended as you will end up with a very crumbly product.

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 cream cheese:

  • Most cream cheeses contain natural or artificial preservatives that inhibit the growth of mold and other types of bacteria that cause spoilage.
  • Neufchatel cheese has about one third less calories than regular cream cheese and was first made in Neufchatel, France.
  • Whipped cream cheese has a similar shelf life to regular cream cheese.
  • Flavored cream cheese has a similar shelf life to regular cream cheese because of additives and sterilization methods.
  • Plastic containers and foil packaging preserve the moisture content of cream cheese and shield the cream cheese from other causes of spoilage.
  • Cream cheese processed by the “hot-pack” method (this is most grocery varieties like Kraft) have a shelf life of 3-6 months. “Cold-packed” cream cheese is good for just 2-3 weeks unopened in the refrigerator.
  • To find a suitable substitute for cream cheese if you’ve run out check our cheese substitution page.
  • How long is soft cheese good for when prepared in a dish?

    How long does cream cheese last? That depends. How long does bread last? In general, cream 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.

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    What are our shelf life resources?

    Our how long does cream cheese last 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 cream cheese.

    *An important note about the expiration date of regular, reduced-fat, flavored and whipped cream cheese …

    Although the regular, flavored, reduced-fat and whipped cream 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.