The Last Day You Can Still Use Sour Cream After Opening It

Sour cream may not be the first thing people think of when ruminating on the top condiments of the culinary world, but a closer look at this tangy spread proves just how integral it is to your refrigerator's stock. Typically, sour cream is used to cut through the heat of spicy dishes like fajitas or add some luxurious texture to creamy dishes like macaroni and cheese. But its usefulness doesn't end with spicy or savory foods — it can also be used in sweeter applications, and you can even use sour cream instead of water in pie crusts for softer results. Regardless of how you enjoy sour cream, it's safe to say that there's no sense in letting it go to waste. That's why it's best to be aware of how much time you have to use up a container of sour cream once it's been opened.


According to the USDA, refrigerated sour cream stays good for up to three weeks. You can also look at the sour cream's expiration date to get an idea of how long you'll have to eat it. A "sell-by" date is when the grocery store must pull the sour cream from the shelves, and a "best-by" date is when the sour cream is expected to be at peak freshness. While helpful, neither of these dates are hard boundaries of when any product will go bad, so you should employ your senses to verify the freshness of sour cream.

How to tell when sour cream has gone bad

The first sign that your sour cream is past its prime will likely be an unpleasant odor. An overly sour or otherwise "off" scent is usually an indicator that the product has gone bad and should be thrown out. While giving the tub a good sniff, also look out for signs of mold or any bit of cream that isn't milky white, and toss it if you find any. During your inspection, you may notice that some liquid has separated from the sour cream. Don't worry — this liquid, called "whey," is normal and can either be poured out or mixed back into the rest of the cream.


One way to potentially keep bacteria out of your sour cream container is to completely remove the foil layer under the plastic lid. Once the tub has been opened, the foil seal doesn't serve much purpose, and it can trap germs that you don't want mixing with your food. It's also worth noting that sour cream does not hold up well in the freezer, so that's not a viable option for extending its shelf life. Just don't stock up on sour cream before going on a month-long vacation, and you probably won't have any issues. Whether you scoop it onto spicy nachos or homemade turkey chili from your slow cooker, three weeks should be enough time for you to get the most out of your sour cream.