Are you trying to figure out how long does sour cream last while looking at the tub that’s been sitting in your fridge for a while? The shelf life of sour cream depends on whether the original container is opened or not among other factors. We’ll discuss both scenarios along with storage tips and everything else you need to know to safely handle and consume it!
How Long Does Sour Cream Last?
Short answer: continuously refrigerated, an unopened tub of sour cream will last for 1-2 weeks after the “sell-by” date printed on the package or until the expiration date and an opened package of sour cream stays good for up to 2 weeks after opening.
The fat content of sour cream doesn’t change its shelf life. All types of sour cream require continuous refrigeration and last just as long.
|Unopened Sour Cream
|1-2 weeks (past printed date)
|Unopened Reduced Fat Sour Cream
|1-2 weeks (past printed date)
|Unopened Sour Cream Dip
|2 weeks (past printed date)
|Opened Sour Cream (all types)
The USDA gives only generic information on the shelf life of sour cream, noting it can last up to 3 weeks in the fridge. It doesn’t specify if the sour cream is still sealed or the expiration/sell-by dates. The timelines we provided above are more specific and you can rely on them as long as you store it properly.
Spoiled sour cream is not safe to consume even in small amounts and exposed to high heat. If your sour cream has gone bad, the best option is to discard it.
How To Store
How long sour cream lasts largely depends on how you handle it. No worries, though. Stick to the guidelines below and you’ll have plenty of time to use it!
- Refrigerate purchased sour cream as soon as possible.
- The sour cream container should be covered. If you don’t have a lid that fits, you can make one fast with aluminum foil and a rubber band.
- Store sour cream in the coldest part of your fridge, usually the back of the top shelf.
Tips To Keep Fresh For Longer
Despite our best intentions, we can unknowingly make mistakes that will shorten the shelf life of sour cream, and other perishable foods.
Follow these tips to avoid common problems that can happen when storing and using sour cream and keep it fresh for as long as possible.
- Never store sour cream on the door of the fridge or the front shelves. The coldest spot in your refrigerator is in the back of the frames, and that’s where sour cream should stay.
- Always use clean utensils. Yes, there might be an extra spoon to wash, but your sour cream won’t be contaminated and it will keep longer.
- Place the sour cream upside down on a small plate before transferring it to the fridge. As long as the lid is closed properly you can invert the tub of sour cream. This creates a seal that limits oxygen exposure and as a result, slows down bacteria growth.
What Causes Sour Cream To Spoil?
Commercial sour cream is made from milk that was pasteurized to eliminate most of the dangerous bacteria. Then, healthy bacteria are added and lactic acid is released during fermentation. This is what adds the “sour” to sour cream.
Just as healthy bacteria thrive off the protein and sugars naturally present in milk, so do the harmful bacteria.
In the fridge, bacterial growth is significantly slowed down although it still takes place. No matter how well you store your sour cream it will eventually go bad.
Spoilage will also happen faster if you often take the sour cream out of the fridge or use a dirty utensil to scoop it which will introduce additional bacteria and mold.
When in doubt, check the spoilage signs below.
How To Tell If Sour Cream Has Gone Bad
It’s dangerous to consume spoiled sour cream and you should always do a quick check for the spoilage signs below just to stay on the safe side!
For all dairy products, smell is a good indicator of spoilage. Unlike the tangy scent of fresh sour cream, when it goes bad the odor will become more sour or even rancid. In any case, if it doesn’t smell inviting it’s not safe to eat anymore.
Another sign that sour cream has gone bad is a separated texture.
If you notice liquid separating from the cream you should be able to mix it back in and get back the original smooth texture. If not, check the other clues to see if your sour cream is still good.
Mold And Color Changes
Yellow areas and green or white fuzzy mold mean your sour cream should be discarded.
Any date printed on the sour cream container provides valuable information. After the sell-by date, your sour cream can last for 1-2 weeks.
Properly refrigerated sour cream can stay safe to eat for a few days past the expiration date. I recommend you check for the above signs and throw it away if there are any present!
Can You Freeze?
Freezing sour cream will cause its texture to become separated once it thaws. It will stay good in the freezer for 2-3 months but the altered texture makes it suitable for baked goods and cooked food.
Avoid using thawed sour cream for cold preparations such as dips or as a topping.
How To Freeze & Thaw
Frozen and thawed sour cream will always have a bit of separation. The good news is you can minimize it and also fix it once it thaws!
- Before freezing, give your sour cream a good mix using a whisk to achieve a uniform consistency.
- You can freeze the sour cream in its original container, a freezer bag, or an airtight freezer-safe container. It stays safe to eat for up to 6 months but you should consume it within 2-3 months to enjoy it at its best.
- Freeze smaller portions for easy thawing.
- Always label the bag or container with the date.
- The best way to thaw sour cream is overnight in the fridge. If frozen in the original package, a sealed bag, or a container, you can also place it in cold water to speed up the process.
- If you notice the sour cream has a watery, separated texture, whip it with a whisk to restore its creaminess.
Easy Ways To Use Sour Cream
Frozen or not, that extra sour cream needs to end up on a plate so it doesn’t go in the trash! Whip up a hearty batch of Broccoli Rice Casserole, Chicken Bacon Ranch Casserole, Instant Pot Cauliflower Parmesan Soup or use a big ol’ dollop of it on your Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken or Instant Pot Tomato Florentine Soup. I always use it to enhance flavors of potato dishes like the Instant Pot Ribs with Garlic Mashed Potatoes.
These easy dishes have an enriched flavor thanks to sour cream and the frozen and thawed kind will work great for the air fryer recipes below:
- Air Fryer Copycat Taco Bell Quesadilla
- Air Fryer Taquitos
- Dino Nuggets In The Air Fryer
- Air Fryer Tater Tots
- Waffle Fries In The Air Fryer
- Air Fryer Crab Cakes
Of course, there are many other ways you can enjoy sour cream, and if you have it fresh from the fridge try this flavorful creamy horseradish sauce or the creamy cucumber salad my family always raves about.
Tip: Need a sour cream substitute or an alternative to another staple? Check out our free printable ingredient substitutions chart!
Opened sour cream can last 1-2 weeks in the fridge after opening. How long also depends on the time it was kept unopened and if it was refrigerated continuously at temperatures under 40 °F.
Don’t leave sour cream at room temperature for over 2 hours (or 1 hour if the temperature is over 90°F).
The range of temperatures between 40°F and 140°F is defined by the USDA as the “danger zone“. In this range bacteria multiplies quickly, causing foods to spoil faster.
Sour cream stored in the fridge usually lasts a few weeks. Sour cream can be frozen for long-term storage and it stays safe to eat for 6 months. It should be consumed within 2-3 months for the best quality.
Keep in mind that frozen sour cream will separate once thawed. It’s best used for baked goods and cooked dishes where its texture is unimportant.