Does Ice Cream Go Bad? How Long Does It Last?

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on October 26th, 2023

Ice cream, a timeless treat enjoyed by countless individuals, has a fascinating history and a complex production process. Made primarily from dairy products and sweetened with various ingredients, it requires appropriate storage to maintain its freshness. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss how long ice cream remains fresh, the factors affecting its longevity, and how to determine if it has spoiled. Our aim is to provide all the necessary information for ice cream enthusiasts to enjoy their dessert at its prime.

cup of ice cream

Does Ice Cream Go Bad?

Indeed, ice cream can spoil. Even though it’s stored in a freezer, ice cream isn’t exempt from degradation. Components like dairy can become rancid, and the dessert can also become tainted with bacteria or other pathogens. The longevity of ice cream depends on factors such as storage conditions and whether it has been opened. 

While “best by” dates offer a general guideline, some suggest that ice cream can still be consumed a few months past its printed date, albeit with potential quality concerns.

How Long Does Ice Cream Last?

Ice cream’s shelf life is affected by its state and how it’s stored. In the freezer, an unopened ice cream container can maintain its quality for up to four months. Once opened, the best practice is to eat the ice cream within three weeks. A consistent storage temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit is key. Ice cream stored beyond these time frames may be edible but might suffer in quality.

Why Does Ice Cream Last That Long?

Ice cream’s longevity is due to several factors. The change in ice crystals helps to limit the growth of microorganisms, which extends its edible period. Also, stabilizers such as sodium alginate and xanthan gum are often added in ice cream production. These ingredients help retain the ice cream’s texture and reduce the formation of lactose crystals.

What is Freezer Burn?

Freezer burn affects the quality of frozen foods, including ice cream. It happens when moisture from the ice cream moves to the surface and turns into ice crystals. While still safe to eat, the affected ice cream might not taste or feel as good.

How to Prevent Freezer Burn

Effective storage is key. When buying ice cream, select well-sealed containers. At home, keep the ice cream in the freezer’s coldest section. Avoid leaving the container outside for long, and if the ice cream starts to melt, freeze it immediately. Using smaller, airtight containers can also help reduce air exposure.

How Long Does Ice Cream Keep in the Fridge?

The fridge isn’t the best place for ice cream, as it’s too warm. Ice cream left in the fridge might become grainy and less palatable. Moreover, there’s an increased risk of bacterial growth at these temperatures. If you accidentally refrigerate ice cream, try to eat it within a day.

Refreezing Melted Ice Cream

Refreezing is an option if the ice cream hasn’t been outside for too long. However, the texture might change, becoming grainy. If it’s been out for over two hours, especially in hot weather, it’s safer to discard it.

Is it Safe to Eat Melted Ice Cream?

Eating melted ice cream comes with risks. If left outside, bacteria might grow, making it unsafe. If the melt is minimal and the ice cream is quickly frozen again, it’s usually fine. But if there’s doubt, especially if there’s an off smell, it’s better to discard it.


Ice cream, loved by many, needs proper storage to remain fresh. By understanding its storage requirements and being aware of spoilage signs, you can ensure that your ice cream remains delightful with every scoop.


Editorial Staff

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