After you unwrap or open a package of cheese, you may wonder how long it can last in your fridge.
This popular dairy product is nutritious, versatile, and tasty. Though it has a relatively long shelf life, you’ll want to avoid it if it goes bad.
This article explains how long a variety of cheeses keep in the fridge and provides several storage tips.
The length of time cheeses last in the fridge after opening depends largely on the type of cheese. Soft varieties tend to spoil more quickly than hard varieties.
This table shows how long a variety of popular cheeses last in the fridge (1).
|Cheese||Type||Shelf life (after opening)|
|cottage cheese||soft||7 days|
|cream cheese||soft||14 days|
Hard cheeses last 3–4 times longer in the fridge than soft cheeses since they contain less moisture and are therefore less prone to spoilage from bacteria (1,
Generally, unopened hard cheeses don’t need to be refrigerated but will last much longer if they are. Unopened blocks of hard cheese last 6 months in the fridge (3).
Soft cheeses last 1–2 weeks in the fridge after opening while most hard cheeses last 3–4. Hard cheeses generally don’t require refrigeration but keep longer in the fridge.
Most packaged foods like cheese provide a best-by date. Although commonly confused with an expiration date, it instead indicates the date until which a food is of the best quality (4).
This means that a food item — with the exception of infant formula — may still be safe to eat once this date passes. It may simply lack the optimal flavor or texture.
However, cheese can still go bad before this date depending on quality control issues during manufacturing or improper storage at the store or in your home.
As such, it’s always best to inspect your cheese to make sure it’s safe to eat, regardless of the best-by date.
If you notice specks of blue or green surface mold on hard cheese, simply cut off at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) around and below those spots (5).
If you have a healthy immune system, you’ll likely be fine if you accidentally eat a moldy spot, but you should monitor for symptoms of food poisoning like vomiting, stomach pain, or diarrhea, as some molds are more dangerous than others.
White specks or crystallized patches on certain aged hard cheeses like cheddar, parmesan, and Gouda are normal and safe to eat. These spots are most likely not mold but calcium lactate crystals, which form when the lactic acid in cheese combines with calcium (5).
In contrast, discard soft cheeses like cottage cheese and cream cheese, as well as crumbled, shredded, or sliced cheeses — whether soft or hard — that contain mold (5).
You can also smell the cheese to determine whether it’s safe to eat. Although some types of cheeses may smell stinky, they shouldn’t have a sweaty, chlorine-like, or ammonia-like odor (
Closely examine refrigerated cheese to make sure it’s safe. If you see spots of mold, cut off at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) around and below the areas and enjoy the rest. Cheese that smells off may also need to be thrown out.
A safe fridge temperature is below 40°F (4°C). Higher temps significantly increase the rate at which bacteria multiply, which raises spoilage risk (7).
Some fridges have built-in thermometers. You can also purchase a fridge thermometer to ensure that it stays at a safe temp. Place the thermometer in the warmest spot (near the door), not tucked away in the back.
Wrap blocks of cheese (or other types that don’t come in resealable packaging) in wax, parchment, or cheese paper and store the cheese on the top or middle shelf, or in a drawer. Keep it above raw meats, poultry, and fish to avoid contamination.
Avoid wrapping cheese in tight, non-porous material like plastic wrap, as this can dry it out and harden it.
You can also freeze cheese — but processed cheese slices, such as American, and soft cheeses like ricotta, cottage, and cream cheeses don’t freeze well. All other types may be frozen for 6 months at a safe temp of 0°F (-18°C) or below (3, 7).
Keep your fridge below 40°F (4°C) and wrap cheeses in porous material like cheese or wax paper to prevent it from drying out.
Cheese is a kitchen staple due to its rich flavor and versatility.
After opening, you can safely store most soft cheeses in the fridge for at least 7 days and most hard cheeses for 3–4 weeks.
Carefully inspect hard cheeses for mold and cut off any spots, but toss soft cheeses and crumbled, shredded, or sliced cheeses (whether hard or soft) if you see mold.
Store your cheese at a safe fridge temperature — below 40°F (4°C) — and wrap it using wax, parchment, or cheese paper after opening to help maintain its moisture.
Just one thing
Try this today: Curious about what else to keep on hand in your fridge? Check out our article on healthy fridge staples!