Does Sour Cream Expire?
Sour cream is one of those products that isn’t necessarily consumed quickly like milk. It tends to be used for things like topping a plate of nachos or making a small dip. It then goes back into the refrigerator and sits, sometimes for a long time. You might have asked yourself “Does sour cream go bad?” since it always seems to be fresh when you go to use it. Let’s take a look at if sour cream actually does expire.
Sour Cream Ingredients
The ingredients of a food are one of the key ingredients to determine if and when it will go bad. Sour cream is made from fermented cream. It is fermented by adding a nonharmful bacteria know as lactic acid bacteria (LAB). This helps give sour cream that classic taste and also thickens the product. Additionally, lactic acid bacteria assists in deterring the bad bacteria that creates spoilage.
While sour cream can simply be made from just fermented cream, it is common for manufacturers to add thickening agents and preservatives as ingredients. An example of some the ingredients you might see on a label may include food starch, guar gum, sodium phosphate, carrageenan, locust bean gum, sodium citrate, and potassium sorbate. Light sour cream will also include milk in addition to cream as an ingredient.
Sour Cream Shelf Life
How long does sour cream last? While sour cream contains cultured cream and usually preservatives, it does go bad. Generally, unopened (sealed) sour cream will go bad approximately two weeks after the date on the container. This date is typically called the “sell-by date” or “best by” date. However, if an unopened container reflects an expiration date you likely have about 7 days to use it beyond on the stamped date. If the sour cream is opened (unsealed), you have about 10 days to use it.
Of course, the above time frames are only general references. Things like temperature, contamination, and storage conditions factor into when sour cream will expire. Sour cream should not be left at room temperature for longer than 2 hours, according to the USDA. If temperatures exceed 90 °F, you should be very cautious of spoilage and the sour cream should be returned to the refrigerator within 1 hour. Additionally, be sure to scoop out the sour cream with clean utensils to avoid contamination and early spoilage.
Sour Cream Storage
Sour cream should be stored in the refrigerator at temperatures below 40 °F. Avoid temperatures exceeding 40 °F for long time periods as stated above. Most sour cream products come in a plastic container with a lid. This container is suitable for long-term storage as long as the lid is secured tightly.If you must use a different container than the original, be sure it is airtight.
Signs of Sour Cream Spoilage
Sour cream will separate or become runny as it sits for lengthy periods of time. This is normal and does not necessarily mean the product is bad. Signs of spoilage might include mold growing on the top, discoloration (color other than white), and a strong or bitter odor that is unfamiliar to sour cream. If all things appear Okay on the surface (no mold or bad smell) and it is beyond the sell-by date or you suspect spoilage, you can taste a small portion to ensure it is still fresh. In most cases, if sour cream is spoiled you will know right by the taste of it. Sour cream should be disposed of if you have any doubts about spoilage.
Freezing Sour Cream
It is possible to freeze sour cream if you are unable to eat it by its expiration date. Check out our article on freezing sour cream.
Photo Source: Larry