Sour cream is a fresh dairy product that is produced by fermenting cream with special bacteria. This produces a thick, white, rich product that looks and tastes similar to Greek yogurt or crème fraiche. Despite the name, sour cream isn’t actually “sour” as in “off”.
Rather, the name refers to the way the cream is soured by the bacteria. Sour cream is a great addition to any kitchen as it’s incredibly versatile. It comes in several varieties such as regular (full fat), light, and fat-free.
The milky, rich, slightly tangy taste lends itself to a variety of dishes from cheesecake to dips and dressings. It’s a classic addition to tacos, nachos, and chilis and can be used to enrich sauces and soups.
Find sour cream in the refrigerated dairy area of your grocery store, next to the yogurt, cream cheese, cheese, and butter. Check the expiry date before purchasing it.
Because this product is already “sour” some people want to know if it can be kept past the expiry date – even up to 3 months afterwards. Keep reading and we’ll answer this question for you.
Can You Use Sour Cream Past 3 Months Expiration?
The short answer to this question is no, sour cream cannot and must not be used past three months’ expiration. This is a fresh dairy product and will not be safe to consume after expiring.
After you’ve purchased it, sour cream must be kept chilled until you get home and then put straight into the refrigerator. Do not store it in the pantry. Once opened, it must be used within two weeks or within the expiry date, whichever comes first.
As it gets older, the cream will thicken and a pool of watery liquid will form on the surface. This can either be mixed back into the cream or drained off.
The Shelf Life Of Sour Cream
According to the food authorities, sour cream is only safe to consume after three weeks of the sell-by date (it doesn’t matter if it’s opened or unopened). However, for this purpose, it needs to have been stored in the fridge throughout.
For instance, if sour cream is refrigerated at 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the product can be safely kept or used for up to 21 days. How the cream looks is not the only indication of its safety to eat.
Here’s what to look out for to make sure the sour cream is safe to consume:
- Your safest bet is to check the sell-by and expiry date on the packaging. Adhere to these dates for health reasons. You have been warned!
- Next, smell the product. It should have a fresh, slightly tangy, “yogurt” smell. It should not have a nasty or off-putting odor. If it smells bad, it is bad. This is due to the growth of unsafe bacteria.
- Check the color. Sour cream that’s good to use is white to pale yellowish or creamy white in color. There should be no trace of pink, black, or any other color as this indicates the presence of mold or harmful bacteria.
- Check the consistency. A slight separation is normal but the product should not be runny or hard and cheesy in texture.
How to keep your sour cream fresh for longer
Here’s how to keep your sour cream fresh until the very last day before the expiration date:
- After purchase, transport the cream – along with any other dairy products – in a cooler with ice blocks until you get home. Once home, unpack it into the fridge straight away.
- Dairy products should be stored on a lower shelf of the fridge towards the back as this is where temperatures are lowest.
- Never leave sour cream out of the fridge while cooking with it. Take out the amount you need and put the container back into the fridge immediately.
- Always use a clean spoon for removing the cream.
- Store it in its original container with a tightly sealed lid.
Some of you may be wondering at this point if sour cream can be frozen. It is not recommended as freezing affects the texture. The cream separates and becomes grainy.
The Bottom Line
Sour cream has a shelf life comparable to cream cheese or yogurt. If you don’t intend to use much of it, purchase a small tub. So, the answer to the question is: No, you definitely should not use sour cream 3 months after the expiration date!