How Long Is Heavy Cream Good For?

You use a third of a container of heavy cream in a recipe. The rest ends up in the fridge. How long is heavy cream good for?

In most cases, you don’t need a whole carton of heavy cream to make dessert. And if you don’t use this dairy product regularly, those leftovers often end up being poured down the drain. That’s too bad.

This article is to help you deal with the leftovers in a better way. In it, I cover storage, shelf life, and going bad of heavy cream.

I also touch upon freezing, so you know what course of action is best for your situation.

Interested? Read on.

Heavy cream in a container
Heavy cream in a container

How Long Is Heavy Cream Good For?

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the first thing you should do is to check the date on the label. If you store that container properly (there are a few suggestions later in the article), it might last three days to maybe a week longer.

And I say “might,” not “should,” because just as well it could spoil the day before its date.

Don’t count on heavy cream keeping its quality past its date.

Once you open the container, heavy cream should usually keep for 3 to 5 days. It’s best to check the label and see what the producer of yours says. Some of them suggest using the products within 48 hours, while others have much looser guidelines. If there isn’t any specific info, go with my general suggestion.

Whipped cream on whisks
Whipped cream on whisks

Heavy cream from some producers lasts longer than from others. Check the labels and find one with a longer period if you won’t use the whole carton at once.

If you’re going to whip that leftover heavy cream, do it as soon as possible for best results. Keeping the half-open container in the fridge for the whole storage period and then whipping it will likely end up in soft whipped cream.

As usual, if you’re about to use old heavy cream, you should first check whether it’s okay to eat. Let’s talk about that.

Pouring whipped cream on jello
Pouring whipped cream on jello

How To Tell If Heavy Cream Is Spoiled

Like with similar products, such as buttermilk [link] or kefir [link], there are a couple of things to look for. Those are:

  • Product has separated, or the texture has changed significantly. If it looks like water and a bunch of dairy grains, or it was thick and is now runny, it’s gone.
  • Mold. I’m sure you know what to do with moldy heavy cream.
  • Sour smell. Unless you’ve opened sour cream by mistake, discard it.
  • Bad taste. If everything else seems to be okay, eat a tiny bit. If it doesn’t taste right, get rid of it.

When checking the texture, compare it to the usual texture of this specific product. Heavy cream may be thick (like sour cream) or quite runny (like buttermilk), and comparing one variety to the other is like comparing apples to oranges.

Long story short, if your heavy cream looks, smells, and tastes like heavy cream, it’s most likely fine.

Jello topped with whipped cream
Jello topped with whipped cream

How To Store Heavy Cream

Let’s start with the obvious: you should keep heavy cream in the fridge. And if you want it to last the longest, put it somewhere in the back and not on the door.

When it comes to leftovers, make sure they’re sealed tightly. If your container doesn’t come with a lid or a cap, use a resealable food container.

Put your heavy cream in the freezer for a few minutes before whipping it for better results. Make sure all the utensils you use for whipping are cold as well.

Last but not least, don’t keep heavy cream on the counter for too long. If you need only a bit for a recipe, measure out the amount and return the rest of the refrigerator right away.

Whipped heavy cream sprinkled with chocolate
Whipped heavy cream sprinkled with chocolate

Can You Freeze Heavy Cream?

You can freeze heavy cream, but there are a couple of things you should know before you grab the container and throw it into the freezer.

First, if you freeze fresh heavy cream, it won’t whip after thawing.

If you need whipped cream, whip it fresh and freeze whipped.

Second, the texture of your heavy cream will alter.

If it’s of the thicker variety, it will change only a bit. But if it’s of the thinner kind, it’ll separate after thawing similarly to milk kefir.

Long story short, frozen and defrosted heavy cream works best in cooked and baked dishes.

If you add it to a soup, stew, or any kind of baked good (not as the topping, of course), it should work just fine. But if you’re making dessert, stick to fresh cream.

Jello and whipped cream, sprinkled with grated chocolate
Jello and whipped cream, sprinkled with grated chocolate

Freezing heavy cream is super simple. Here’s how:

  1. Pour the cream into container(s). Each one should have enough for a single recipe, so defrosting is a breeze.
  2. Put the container(s) into the freezer.

If you need really small portions, consider using an ice cube tray or a muffin tin instead.

As usual, defrost the cream in the fridge, or throw it in frozen to whatever you’re cooking.

Summary

  • Heavy cream usually lasts for a few days past its date. Once you open it, it should keep for 3 to 5 days.
  • Fresh heavy cream whips more consistently than old.
  • Keep heavy whipping cream in the fridge, and always sealed tight.
  • If there’s something off about how this dairy product looks, smells, or tastes, throw it out.