Can you eat expired sour cream?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you eat expired sour cream?” and discuss the risks related to eating expired sour cream, the shelf life of sour cream and how to safely store sour cream properly.

Can you eat expired sour cream?

Yes, you can eat expired sour cream unless it is spoiled. Once the sour cream is past its use-by or expiry date, you need to carefully inspect it for spoilage before you use it for cooking or baking. If stored correctly at a steady cold temperature, sour cream may be consumed after the expiration date (1).

Dairy products are susceptible to spoilage by Enterobacteriaceae and Gram-positive bacteria, as well as yeasts and molds (2). The losses of quality of sour cream during storage are related to loss of aroma and texture, and to lipid oxidation (2,3).

What are the risks of eating expired sour cream?

The risks of eating expired sour cream are of experiencing an episode of foodborne illness. As mentioned above, sour cream as other dairy products is susceptible to spoilage by many microorganisms, including pathogens (2,3,4).

The most critical pathogen related to dairy products is Listeria monocytogenes, although Salmonella, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas, yeasts and mold can also cause spoilage of milk and fermented milk products. Improper processing of the milk, contamination during production and poor storage conditions can lead to spoilage.

Symptoms related to infections caused by the consumption of food contaminated by pathogens or their toxins are diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps and flu-like symptoms, such as fever (5).

What is the shelf-life of sour cream? 

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (6), the shelf life of sour cream is 2 weeks stored under refrigeration. However, the shelf life can vary, depending on the ingredients of the sour cream, as well as other factors, such as processing conditions and quality of the milk (2,3).

As a consequence, studies have been reported indicating that the shelf life of sour cream can be extended to 20 days and even over 30 days (3). In addition, storage conditions, such as temperature fluctuations inside the refrigerator can reduce the shelf life of the product.

After opening of the package, sour cream is exposed to oxygen, which can trigger oxidation processes of the fat lipids, and to the external environment, which can cause the contamination of the product (4).

How to store sour cream?

Like other dairy products, sour cream should always be stored in the refrigerator, unopened and after being opened (6). 

Refrigeration will reduce the risks of spoilage through the action of microorganisms as well as due to oxidation reactions that cause the generation of undesirable sensory qualities of the sour cream.

Although it is possible to freeze sour cream to extend its shelf life, it is not recommended, as considerable changes in the texture are expected by freeze-thawing processes. Phase separation and syneresis occur, where liquid is exuded from the sour cream, in addition to changes in the texture of the solid phase (4). 

Therefore, frozen sour cream is best used for baking or cooking. For example, sour cream will be easily incorporated into soups because the liquid will dissolve the cream so its altered texture won’t be noticeable. Plus the spices will mask its slightly changed flavor. The same goes for baking.

How to tell if the sour cream has gone bad?

To tell if the sour cream has gone bad, you should be aware of the possible signs indicating that sour cream is spoiled or no longer safe to consume.

Sour cream has a mild sour aroma resulting from the fermentation process of milk cultures added to the cream. Over-fermentation or contamination can lead to the development of off-odors and off-flavors. In addition, rancidity may occur due to the oxidation of the fat lipids (2,3,4). 

Sour cream has a firm and homogeneous texture. During long storage of sour cream, texture may change, leading to syneresis, or the phase separation and formation of a liquid film on the surface. 

In addition, molds and yeast can develop in sour cream and form visible / colored alterations in the product. Bacteria can also cause the change in the color of dairy products, such as slight fluorescence (7), pink spots and others.

Other FAQs about Sour Cream that you may be interested in.

Can you microwave sour cream?

What can I substitute for sour cream?

Does sour cream go bad?


In this article, we answered the question “Can you eat expired sour cream?” and discussed the risks related to eating expired sour cream, the shelf life of sour cream and how to safely store sour cream properly.


  1. Food product dating. United States Department of Agriculture. 
  2. Salem, Aida S., Wafaa M. Salama, and Wahed A. Ragab. Prolonged shelf life of sour cream by adding Moringa oleifera Leaves Extract (MOLE) or Moringa oleifera Oil (MOO). Am. J. Food Technol, 2015, 10, 58-67. 
  3. Aryana, Kayanush J., and Douglas W. Olson. A 100-Year Review: Yogurt and other cultured dairy products. J dairy sci, 2017, 100, 9987-10013.
  4. Kilcast, David, and Persis Subramaniam, eds. The stability and shelf-life of food. 2000.
  5. Foodborne illness and disease. United States Department of Agriculture.
  6. Food keeper. United States Department of Agriculture.
  7. Ledenbach, Loralyn H., and Robert T. Marshall. Microbiological spoilage of dairy products. Compendium of the microbiological spoilage of foods and beverages. 2009.

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