Does American Cheese Go Bad? A Comprehensive Guide on Its Shelf Life and More

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on September 28th, 2023

When it comes to the world of cheese, few options are as versatile and misunderstood as American cheese. Perfect for sandwiches, burgers, and a range of comfort foods, this processed cheese is a staple in many American households. But how long does it last, and what makes it different from other types of cheese? We have the answers you’re looking for, grounded in expertise and factual research.

What Is American Cheese?

American cheese is primarily found in pre-sliced form rather than traditional blocks or wheels. You can also find bags of grated American cheese. For those on the hunt for shredded varieties, neighborhood delis are great sources.

American Cheese

This cheese is a processed product, meaning it’s made by blending various types of cheese. Added to this mix are chemicals for preservation and color, as well as emulsifiers and flavor enhancers.

Why Is American Cheese Different?

Stroll down a cheese aisle, and you’ll encounter an array of choices like Cheddar, Colby, Pepper Jack, and Swiss. Yet American cheese stands apart because, while it originates from real cheese, it isn’t considered “authentic” by purists. It comes from blending different types of cheeses into a processed product, which is then typically sliced.

You’ll find a considerable variety in the quality of American cheese. Some are individually wrapped in plastic, while others come in non-individually wrapped slices. The majority contain a mix of chemicals and processed ingredients. However, if you’re seeking higher-quality American cheese, opt for deli-sourced options and read the ingredient labels diligently.

Health Implications: Is American Cheese Bad for You?

Contrary to popular belief, American cheese isn’t inherently bad for you. A single slice contains roughly 60 calories and provides 10 to 20% of your daily recommended calcium intake. However, it’s essential to consume it in moderation.

Shelf Life: How Long Does American Cheese Last?

American cheese can last for a decent amount of time, but it doesn’t last forever. While many people assume it will keep indefinitely due to its processed nature, this isn’t true. The cheese may lose its quality and could turn rancid.

It’s crucial to refer to the manufacturer’s label for information on its shelf life. Even after the best-by dates, American cheese can still be consumed for two to three weeks if stored correctly in the refrigerator.

Storage Tips:

  • Keep unopened or opened packs in the refrigerator.
  • For extended shelf life, you can freeze it, following proper wrapping procedures.
  • Once thawed, consume within three to four days.

Is Refrigeration Necessary?

Yes, refrigeration is essential for American cheese. Keeping it at temperatures between 35 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit ensures it remains fresh and free from mold.

How to Detect Bad American Cheese

Signs of spoilage include changes in texture, odor, or flavor. Visible mold or slime is a definite indicator that it’s time to discard your American cheese.

How to Store American Cheese Properly

For the Refrigerator:

  • Use an airtight container for individually wrapped slices.
  • For non-wrapped slices, place them in a sealing bag or container.

For Freezing:

  • Wrap each slice in plastic or wax paper.
  • Place wrapped slices in a freezer-safe container.
  • Label with the freezing date.

Cooking with Thawed American Cheese

Frozen American cheese works well in various dishes, such as grilled cheese sandwiches, casseroles, and soups. However, for recipes where American cheese is the main ingredient, like mac and cheese, it’s advisable to use fresh cheese for optimal flavor and texture.


American cheese is a versatile and widely used food item, but like all perishables, it has a shelf life. Proper storage is crucial to extending its usability, and recognizing when it’s time to discard it is essential for your health. Whether you’re a fan of its convenience or appreciate its unique blend of flavors, understanding how to properly store and use American cheese can make a real difference in your culinary endeavors.


Editorial Staff

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