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

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on September 29th, 2023

Sour cream is a versatile staple that can elevate a simple dish to something extraordinary. But, like all good things, sour cream has a shelf life. Understanding its longevity, storage, and signs of spoilage is not just about food safety—it’s also about preserving the quality of your culinary creations. This article will offer you an in-depth guide on how long sour cream lasts, how to store it effectively, and how to recognize when it’s time to let it go.

Is Sour Cream Perishable?

Yes, sour cream is a perishable item, resulting from the fermentation of dairy cream by lactic acid bacteria. During this fermentation process, the cream thickens and becomes sour. Because sour cream is a dairy product, it can spoil quickly if not stored correctly. Knowing how to identify spoilage is key to ensuring you’re consuming a safe product.

Baked Nachos Tortilla Chips with Salsa, Minced Meat and Jalapenos served with Sour Cream

For instance, if your sour cream appears slightly watery on top, that’s not a red flag. Just stir it back in before using it. Always check the expiration date on the label to avoid unnecessary surprises.

What Causes Sour Cream to Spoil?

Although sour cream is made from pasteurized milk, it still contains live bacterial cultures. These beneficial bacteria make the cream sour, but they also make it a potential breeding ground for harmful microorganisms.

Factors that contribute to spoilage:

  • Molds and Bacteria: The natural proteins and carbohydrates in sour cream offer a rich medium for both beneficial and harmful bacteria to thrive.
  • Improper Storage: Leaving sour cream at room temperature or using a contaminated spoon can introduce additional bacteria.

How Long Is Sour Cream Good For?

Your sour cream’s longevity depends largely on its storage conditions. If stored appropriately, it can last:

Type of Sour CreamRefrigerator Lifespan
Unopened2 to 4 weeks
Reduced-fat, Unopened1 to 2 weeks
Dip, Unopened14 days
Opened10 to 14 days

Shelf Life at Room Temperature

Sour cream shouldn’t be left at room temperature for more than 1-2 hours. Exposing it to air and heat for an extended period accelerates its spoilage rate. This is especially important during warmer weather.

Refrigerator Storage Tips

Store sour cream in the back of the refrigerator where temperatures are more consistent. Avoid keeping it in the door, as this area is subject to more temperature fluctuations.

Freezing Sour Cream

Freezing sour cream is possible but not recommended for all applications. Freezing changes the texture, causing separation and resulting in a lumpy consistency. Use frozen sour cream only in cooked or baked dishes where texture isn’t crucial.

Freezing Instructions:

  • Whisk sour cream for an even texture.
  • Portion it based on how much you’ll need per meal.
  • Freeze in sealed containers or ice cube trays.

How to Tell if Sour Cream Has Gone Bad

Be cautious of the following signs:

  • Mold or discoloration
  • Sharp, unpleasant odors
  • Unusual taste

Consequences of Consuming Spoiled Sour Cream

Consuming bad sour cream can lead to food poisoning symptoms such as stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, and fever.


To summarize, sour cream usually lasts 1-2 weeks past its expiration date when stored properly in the fridge. Make sure to always use clean utensils and seal the container tightly. When in doubt, trust your senses—look for signs of spoilage like mold, or a strange odor or taste.

Understanding the shelf life and proper storage techniques for sour cream can save you from potential food safety hazards while ensuring that your dishes remain delicious and high-quality. Trust this guide to keep your sour cream—and your recipes—fresh as long as possible.


Editorial Staff

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