Learn how to store cottage cheese like a pro, along with some expert tips and tricks to ensure its prolonged shelf life and peak quality.
Cottage cheese, with its delicate curds and creamy texture, has been a favorite in many households for generations. Whether enjoyed as a protein-packed snack, a culinary ingredient, or a tasty side dish, it has earned its place in our fridges.
But what if you’re faced with the challenge of having a lot left over?
…can you store it to extend its shelf life?
…is there a way to maintain that perfect balance of taste and texture for a little while longer?
This guide will walk you through the steps and considerations on how to store cottage cheese properly, ensuring that you preserve its taste and texture as long as possible.
How long does cottage cheese last?
Cottage cheese, like many dairy products, has a limited shelf life. How long it lasts can depend on various factors, including how it’s stored, whether it’s been opened, and how it was made.
Store-bought cottage cheese
- Unopened. When unopened and kept in the refrigerator, store-bought cottage cheese will generally last 1 to 2 weeks past the expiration or sell-by date printed on the package, provided it has been stored correctly.
Daisy Brand cottage cheese products that have been refrigerated and sealed are “generally safe to consume past the “Best By” date on the package unless there is evidence of spoilage.”
- Opened. Once opened, it’s best to consume it within one week, though it can last up to two weeks if it’s stored in the fridge in an airtight container. But Friendship Dairies recommends consuming their cream cheese products within 3 to 5 days of opening for the best quality. As per Daisy Brand, their product will stay fresh for approximately 2 weeks after opening the container.
Quick tip: Always make sure to use a clean utensil when scooping out the cheese to prevent bacterial contamination.
Homemade cottage cheese
- Unopened (freshly made). If you’ve made your own cottage cheese and stored it in an airtight container without opening it, it should last up to a week in the refrigerator. Homemade cottage cheese doesn’t have the added preservatives that store-bought versions might have, so its shelf life is typically shorter.
Pro tip from Housewife How-Tos: Store it upside down with the lid on the bottom. This will create a “seal” that will help keep the food fresh for a little longer.
- Opened. Once you’ve opened or started using the homemade cottage cheese, it’s best to consume it within 3 to 5 days. Again, always use clean utensils to avoid introducing bacteria.
How to store cottage cheese?
Storing cottage cheese properly helps maintain its freshness and prevents spoilage. Here’s how you should store both store-bought and homemade cottage cheese:
Store-bought cottage cheese
- Original packaging. When you buy cottage cheese from the store, it usually comes in a sealed container. Keep it in its original packaging until you open it. The packaging is designed to keep out contaminants and maintain freshness.
- Refrigeration. Always store cottage cheese in the refrigerator. Never leave it out at room temperature for extended periods, as this can cause it to spoil quickly.
- Seal tightly. After opening the store-bought container, make sure to seal it tightly after each use to keep out air and contaminants. If the original lid doesn’t seal well, you can transfer the cottage cheese to an airtight container.
- Use-by date. Always check the expiration or “use-by” date on the packaging. Try to consume the cottage cheese before this date. If it looks or smells off, it’s best to err on the side of caution and discard it.
Homemade cottage cheese
- Cooling. After making homemade cottage cheese, allow it to cool to room temperature.
- Airtight containers. Transfer the cooled cottage cheese to clean, airtight containers. This helps in preventing the growth of bacteria and molds.
- Refrigeration. Store the airtight containers in the refrigerator. Homemade cottage cheese should be consumed within 5 to 7 days for best quality, although it might last a bit longer depending on the freshness of the ingredients and the cleanliness of the preparation method.
- Check regularly. Since homemade cottage cheese doesn’t contain preservatives, it’s important to check it for signs of spoilage before consuming. If it has an off smell, changes in texture, or visible mold, discard it.
Does cottage cheese spoil if not refrigerated?
Yes, cottage cheese can spoil if not refrigerated. Both store-bought and homemade cottage cheese, like other dairy products, are perishable and require refrigeration to maintain its safety and freshness. If it’s left out at room temperature for extended periods, bacteria can multiply rapidly, making it unsafe to eat.
The general guideline for perishable foods, including cottage cheese, is that they shouldn’t be left out for more than two hours under normal room temperatures or more than one hour if the temperature is above 90°F (32°C).
Spoiled cottage cheese might have an off or sour smell, change in texture (becoming overly watery or slimy), or show visible signs of mold.
Is it good to freeze cottage cheese?
No. it’s not good to freeze cottage cheese. Though it’s possible, freezing cottage cheese often results in textural changes. When frozen, the water content forms ice crystals, which can alter the curd structure of the cheese. Once thawed, the cheese may become grainy or crumbly. The whey (liquid part) and curds might separate more than before freezing.
While the flavor remains relatively unchanged, the textural changes can be off-putting, especially if you plan to eat it fresh or in dishes where the texture of the cottage cheese is prominent.
This notion is also supported by the recommendations of Daisy Brand and Friendship Dairies, which advise their consumers to “avoid freezing the cottage cheese, as it can adversely affect the creamy texture and all-natural flavor of the product.”
How do you keep cottage cheese from spoiling?
Daisy Brand provides the following stay-fresh tips to help consumers preserve the freshness and quality of their cottage cheese products:
- Store the product in the fridge immediately after buying.
- Use clean tools, and don’t touch the inside of the plastic lid to keep the product fresh.
- After use, return it to the fridge quickly.
- Flatten the product’s surface before refrigerating to prevent whey separation.
- Once opened, discard the foil seal and use the plastic lid for sealing.
- If not used often and separation occurs, gently stir to mix.
The bottom line
Mastering the art of properly storing cottage cheese is essential in preserving its freshness and flavor. By following the guidelines outlined above, you can significantly extend the shelf life of this versatile dairy product and minimize unnecessary waste.
Just remember that airtight containers are your allies in keeping cottage cheese safe from external contaminants and odors. Opt for smaller containers to reduce exposure to air and moisture every time the container is opened.
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- Storebought or homemade cottage cheese
- To store store-bought cottage cheese, keep it in its original container in the refrigerator and ensure the lid is tightly sealed.
- For homemade cottage cheese, cool it to room temperature, then transfer it to a clean, airtight container and refrigerate.