How Long Does Cottage Cheese Last?

There’s an open container of cottage cheese in your fridge, and you’re not sure how long it can sit there before it spoils. How long does cottage cheese last?

Or you’ve bought a few containers that are now nearing their dates. How long past its date is cottage cheese good for?

If either of those questions has brought you here, you’re in the right place. Let’s dive into the shelf life and storage of cottage cheese.

Cottage cheese and other ingredients
Container of cottage cheese

How Long Does Cottage Cheese Last?

Cottage cheese comes with a date on its label. Usually, it’s a “best-by” or “sell-by” date, and it’s definitely not an expiration date. It informs you of how long, at the very least, the dairy product should retain freshness.

That means it frequently keeps for longer. Even producers mention that their cottage cheese often stays good to eat after that date ([KSN]).

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to say how many days past that date your cottage cheese will be fine for consumption. It depends on several factors. Those include ones that you control (like storage conditions), and others you have no control over (e.g., how it was handled in the supermarket).

Unopened cottage cheese often lasts for 5 – 10 days past its date, but that’s not a given. Always check its quality before eating.

Cottage cheese in a container
Cottage cheese in a container

When it comes to open cottage cheese, it should stay fresh for about two weeks after opening ([DB]).

As usual, take the date on the label into account. If it’s three weeks in the future, the dairy product should last those full two weeks after being opened. But if it’s in three days, expecting it to last about a week is much more realistic.

Finish cottage cheese within two weeks of opening, even if its date is in the future.

Now that you know how long cottage cheese is good for, it’s time to talk about how to tell if it’s okay to eat or not.

Cottage cheese, flour, and eggs
Cottage cheese, flour, and eggs

How To Tell If Cottage Cheese Is Bad?

Your cottage cheese is spoiled if:

  • There’s mold on the surface or the neck of the container. Don’t even think about discarding the moldy chunk and eating the rest.
  • It’s super chunky. If there’s a layer of liquid and beneath it the cottage cheese in chunks (sort of dehydrated), it’s gone.
  • Off odor. It doesn’t smell fresh anymore.
  • The taste is bad. If its taste isn’t quite right, don’t eat it.

What you need to do is to check the product’s look, smell, and taste ([KSN, DB]). And do it in that order. It’s the same thing you do with buttermilk or yogurt.

If there aren’t any changes in appearance, you check the smell. If it’s not off, you taste it. Then, based on the taste, you eat it or discard it. If it tastes good, it’s okay to eat ([KSN]).

Pancake batter prep
Pancake batter prep

Now let’s talk about a couple of situations where people often think their cottage cheese is bad, but it’s not. Those include:

  • The surface is slightly yellow. If it’s all-natural cottage cheese, the cheese being yellowish isn’t a problem. The cream’s color depends on the time of year and the cow’s diet ([KSN]).
  • Consistency is different from the previous batch. Some producers don’t homogenize their cottage cheese and don’t add stabilizers. If that’s the case, the texture varies batch to batch and that’s normal ([KSN]).
  • Separation on top. If you opened the container a couple of days ago and some of it separated, don’t panic. It’s normal, and you can fix it by stirring it gently ([DB]).

If you’re not 100% sure your cottage cheese is fine, discard it. Better safe than sorry.

Pancake batter ready
Pancake batter ready,

How To Store Cottage Cheese

To make sure your cottage cheese lasts as long as possible and doesn’t go bad prematurely, you need to take good care of it. Fortunately, it’s not that difficult.

For starters, put the container in the fridge as soon as possible after buying it. And avoid leaving it in the fridge door, where the temperature fluctuates the most ([DB]).

Put cottage cheese on the lower shelves and near the back of the refrigerator for optimal storage conditions.

Pancakes topped with jam
Cottage-cheese based pancakes topped with jam

Once you open the container, remove the foil seal, and use the plastic lid to reseal it ([DB]). If yours doesn’t come with one, use a food container or go with a makeshift seal made with aluminum foil and a rubber band.

When you use cottage cheese, always use clean utensils and avoid double-dipping. And once you spoon out what you need, return the leftovers to the fridge right away ([DB]).

If whey separates after a couple of days after opening, there’s a solution to that. Before you put it back in the fridge, flatten the cottage cheese’s surface with a spoon ([DB]).

Cottage cheese based pancakes
Cottage cheese based pancakes

Cottage Cheese FAQs

Is it okay to eat cottage cheese past the expiration date?

If the product isn’t spoiled and only a couple of days past its date, eating it is a-okay. If it’s more than two weeks past its date, I suggest you err on the side of caution and get rid of it.

Again, make sure your cottage cheese is fresh before you eat it, especially if it’s past its date.

Summary

  • Cottage cheese lasts at least until the date on its label, and often 5 to 10 days more.
  • Once you open the container, it can last for up to two weeks if it’s far from the date on the label. Otherwise, it should keep for at least a couple of days.
  • Keep cottage cheese in the fridge and always sealed tightly.
  • To tell if your cottage cheese is okay, check its looks, smell, and taste, in that order.

References