How long does sour cream last?

Sour cream is one of the more popular dairy products used in cooking. Unfortunately, its shelf life is quite short and I’m sure you already experienced sour cream going bad after being stored for too long. Let’s go through some tips on how to store sour cream so it lasts as long as possible.

Sour cream
Photo by Daniel Panev on Flickr.

How to store sour cream?

Sour cream, no matter if the package is opened or not, should be stored in the fridge. That’s the obvious part. The less obvious part is that buying more smaller containers often works out in our favor in terms of storage. We tend to buy larger containers of almost everything to save some money, and that’s okay. But for some products, especially those that degrade quite rapidly after opening, smaller containers usually work better. With small containers, when you need sour cream, you can just open one or two and use all their contents. Other containers remain closed and will last longer than if you would pop-opened a big one, used however much you need and put the rest into the fridge. Of course, if you always buy big containers and never have any issues with some leftover sour cream going bad, stick with your buying routine.

How long does sour cream last?

If your sour cream has a “Best by” date on the label, it’s a fairly good indication of how long it will last. Add a few more days if you’re okay with a slightly lower quality.

If the dairy product has a “Sell by” date instead, it should last for at least a week, up to two weeks, provided it’s continuously refrigerated.

Once the container is opened, sour cream lasts for up to 7 to 10 days. Please note that some sources say it can last for up to two weeks after opening, and that certainly happens from time to time, but it’s definitely not the norm. Generally speaking, try to use container’s contents within 5 to 7 days after opening. The sooner you use it, the better the quality. That’s why I suggested in the storage tips that you should buy small containers instead of big ones.

Dumplings with sour cream
Photo by Eugene Kim on Flickr.

How to tell if sour cream is bad?

Before going bad, sour cream starts to separate. The water you can see on top of the cream or the bottom of the container is the product of separation. The dairy product is still perfectly fine to consume (unless there are signs of spoilage, of course), but its days are numbered. If that’s what’s happening, try to use the product within two to three days.

When it comes to actual going bad of sour cream, it’s usually quite obvious. Visual changes are the first thing to look for. It can be moldy spots on the surface or any other noticeable discoloration. If that’s the case, throw the container out. Don’t even think about try to scoop out the “bad” part and using the rest.

The second thing to examine is the odor. If the dairy product smell off, toss it out. Third and last is the taste test: eat a little and consider the taste. If it’s bitter, just throw it out.

Is sour cream safe to use after “expiration” date?

Dairy products these days aren’t sold with an expiration date. Instead, there’s a “Best by” or, more often for products such as sour cream, “sell by” date. If your sour cream is past its “Best by” date a few days, it’s definitely worth checking out if it’s still edible. It might be, it might not. Use the instructions above to determine if it’s still safe to eat. If your product comes with a “Sell by” date, you have at least a week to consume it after that date. Of course make sure it’s safe to use before using, because it might have spoiled already because of some manufacturing error or lack of refrigeration.

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