Cottage cheese is one of the dairy products that work well in many different settings. Many people put it on bread, others prefer to add some fruit to it, and many eat it on its own as a good source of protein. Similar to milk, there are a few types of cottage cheese. You can find it full fat, reduced fat and even lactose-free. Fortunately, the basic rules for storing, shelf life and signs of spoilage are pretty much the same for all these options. Let’s go through those rules.
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How to store cottage cheese?
Cottage cheese should be stored in the fridge, no matter if it’s unopened or already opened. To make sure its quality stays good as long as possible, keep it away from the door. Temperature fluctuations in the fridge are the highest near the door, so more vulnerable products should be kept away from there.
Can you freeze cottage cheese?
Generally speaking sure, you can freeze cottage cheese. But whether or not doing it makes sense is more complicated than that. Freezing and thawing will change the texture of cottage cheese and alter its flavor a bit. Eating frozen and thawed cottage cheese on its own won’t be nearly as enjoyable as eating this dairy product unfrozen. Because of that, it’s only recommended to freeze cottage cheese if you plan to use it in a cooked dish, like a soup or a casserole. In a cooked dish the altered texture and taste won’t be noticeable.
Freezing cottage cheese is quite simple. Transfer the cheese to an airtight container or a freezer bag and put it into the freezer. Leave just a bit of head-space in case it expands. If the cottage cheese is in its original packaging, just throw it into the freezer. When it comes to thawing, leave it in the fridge overnight and it should be good to go in the morning. If you’re in a hurry, you can thaw it in the microwave or cold water. If you do that, make sure to use it right away. Once cottage cheese is thawed, there might be some liquid in the container. That’s perfectly normal and expected, just stir it back into the rest.
When it comes to keeping frozen cottage cheese in the freezer, its quality should remain the best for a few months. The quality slowly deteriorates over time, so the sooner you use it, the better it will be. Obviously cottage cheese won’t go bad in the freezer, but if you store it there for long enough, the quality after thawing might be not that great.
How long does cottage cheese last?
No matter what type of cottage cheese we’re talking, each one has a “best by” or a “sell by” date on its label. That’s not an “expiration” date, but rather information on how long the product should be of best quality. As long as the package is unopened, it should be just fine for another 7 to 10 days past the date on the label if you store it properly. In some cases it can remain good for two weeks or even more, but don’t count on it.
Once the package is opened, cottage cheese should last for about 5 days up to a week. But the rule of thumb is to eat it within 48 hours to get the best quality. Once the package is opened and it sits in the fridge for a few days, the quality starts to deteriorate pretty fast, hence the 48 hours recommendation.
How to tell if cottage cheese is bad?
Your senses will easily tell you whether cottage cheese is spoiled or not. If there’s mold, throw it out. If the dairy product started to change color (i.e. becomes yellowish), toss it out. Same story if it develops an off odor. If it looks and smells good, give it a taste. If the taste is off (sour, or just doesn’t taste right), discard it. If it tastes okay, feel free to enjoy it.
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Is cottage cheese safe to use after “expiration” date?
As mentioned earlier, the date on the label of cottage cheese isn’t an “expiration” date but a piece of information on how long its quality should be best. If it’s only a couple of days after the “sell by” or “use by” date, cottage cheese is most likely just fine. If it’s over a week, it might be fine, but it might as well we spoiled. Generally speaking, if cottage cheese is near (before or after) its “sell by” or “use by” date, before consuming or using it in a dish, make sure it’s not spoiled.