Shelf Life of

How Long Does Cream Last?

Dairy Cream Shelf Life

How long does dairy cream last?  The shelf life of dairy cream is influenced by a variety of factors, such as the type of cream, the processing method, packaging date, its exposure to heat, and how the it is stored. Cream is a dairy product that is composed of the higher-butterfat layer skimmed from the top of milk before homogenization. In un-homogenized milk, over time, the lighter fat rises to the top.  Different grades of cream are distinguished by their fat content, whether they have been heat-treated, whipped, and so on.  The most common varieties are half-and-half with 10-18% milk fat, light cream with 18-30% milk fat, whipping cream with 30-36% milk fat, heavy cream with 36-48% milk fat. In the United Kingdom, the most common varieties are single cream which is equivalent to light cream in the U.S. and double cream with 48% milk fat which is equivalent to heavy whipping cream in the U.S.
So, how long does cream last? When properly stored at or below 40° F, containers of cream last for:

(Unopened) Refrigerator Freezer
Past Printed Date  Past Printed Date
Half and Half lasts for 7-10 Days
Light Cream lasts for 7-10 Days 2-3 Months
Whipping Cream lasts for 1-2 Weeks 3-4 Months
Heavy Cream lasts for 2-3 Weeks 3-4 Months
Double Cream lasts for 2-3 Weeks 3-4 Months
Canned Dream Whip lasts for 2-3 Months
Cool Whip lasts for 1-2 Weeks 5-6 Months
(Opened) Refrigerator Freezer
All liquid Creams last for 5-7 Days
Canned Dream Whip lasts for 2-3 Months
Cool Whip lasts for 7-10 Days 3-4 Months

Of course, cream lasts for a shorter period of time if it is not stored properly. Like a lot of other dairy products, it usually has a sell by date which is simply when it should be sold, not consumed. Because of this distinction, you may safely use it on your strawberries even after its sell by date has lapsed.

How to tell if cream 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 has gone bad. You can tell if half-and-half, light, whipping and heavy cream have gone bad if they curdle (the liquid begins to contain lumps) and begin to develop a distinct sour smell. When you pour it into your coffee and circles form on the top of the coffee, you can tell that the cream is beginning to go bad. When it actually forms clumps in the container before hitting any hot liquid, then it has already gone bad.
If your heavy cream has gone bad and you need to find a quick substitute, check our cream substitute page.
There are, of course, certain health risks associated with spoiled dairy products, so always remember to practice food safety and enjoy your dairy creams prior to their expiration.

How to store cream to extend its shelf life?

Proper food storage is the key to extending the shelf life of cream. Prior to purchase, you should leave all dairy products on the grocery shelf until you are ready to check out.  Once at home, you can help all types of dairy products stay fresh longer by storing them in your refrigerator below 40°F immediately after use. Like with most dairy products, you should store half-and-half, heavy, light and whipping creams in air-tight containers that help keep out moisture and other contaminants (the original closed containers actually work fine as they were designed for this purpose).  If you plan to keep your cream outside of the refrigerator for an extended period of time, we highly suggest that it be stored on ice.
Although opinions vary, for a long-term option you can freeze lighter creams in freezer-safe containers.  You should leave some space in the container to accommodate for expansion.  Freezing whipping cream, however may result in a less than perfect consistency.  Most frozen dairy products, although safe to consume, will become less desirable for consumption after freezing. Some benefits of proper food storage include eating healthier, cutting food costs and helping the environment by avoiding waste.

What if you have too too much?

  • Make Alfredo sauce

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

    That depends. How long does coffee last? In general, it 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 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.

     *An important note about the expiration date of creams …

    Although the 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 drink responsibly.