How Long Does Heavy Cream Last? How To Tell For Sure!

image of heavy cream on coffee

Heavy cream is a delectable dairy product that adds creaminess and incredible flavor to many dishes, from starters to desserts.

However, as we all know, heavy cream is a dairy item, which means it can go bad fast. So, how can I tell if heavy cream is bad?

Short Answer:

The USDA states that heavy cream can last unopened in the fridge for up to a month. However, once opened, it will last up to seven days.

We don’t know about you, but eating bad dairy is one of our worst cooking experiences, so knowing when it has gone bad is important, so it never happens to you again.

This article will explain how to tell if heavy cream is bad and the best way to store it to keep it fresh.

Read on to find out more.

What Happens When Dairy Goes Bad

So, dairy is so nasty when it goes bad due to bacteria, and heavy cream is no exception.

The heavy cream that you buy at the grocery store has been pasteurized, which kills most bacteria present. However, some will still be present, and they are what causes heavy cream to go bad.

The growth of bacteria is slowed by keeping the heavy cream refrigerated.

Eventually, over time, the bacteria will start to multiply and produce lactic acid. This is what caused the sour smell and flavor that we associate with bad dairy.

Luckily, since the way dairy goes bad so obviously, we can learn to avoid the signs, so you never have to taste bad dairy ever again.

How Long Until Heavy Cream Goes Bad? 

If kept in the fridge, heavy cream can last up to a month if it remains sealed.

Once opened, the cream will last 7-10 days. This shelf-life strongly rests on how well you store the cream. 

You need to learn how to tell if it has gone bad so you can check before each time you use it.

Fresh heavy cream will be:

1. Slight Creamy Aroma

When you open the container, the heavy cream will have a very faint creamy smell.

It will only be detectable if you really get close.

2. White to Slightly Off White in Color

The color of the cream can vary from batch to batch, but it should generally range between white and a very pale yellow.

3. Sweet, Subtle Flavor

We love the taste of fresh heavy cream!

It has a cool, sweet flavor that is very light and works with many more complex flavors.

How to Tell if Heavy Cream is Bad

image of Heavy Cream

So now we need to answer the question of the day, how can you tell when your cream has gone bad?

There are some obvious signs to look out for.

Off-heavy cream will be:

1. Rancid Smell

The first thing you will notice when you open the bottle is a strong sour odor.

It will be very strong and highly unpleasant.

2. Mold May Be Present

The second sign that your heavy cream has gone off is mold growing on it.

It will start around the edges and the bottle’s opening where the old cream has dried.

It will start out white and turn blue as it grows across the surface.

3. Darkened Yellow Color

As we said, a very pale yellow is perfectly normal for cream, but if it is any darker, then your cream might be off.

The top layer of the cream will be darker in color than the bottom portion as it has been exposed to the air for longer.

4. Sour Flavor

The last way to tell if your cream has gone off is to taste it.

We know this can be gross, so we only recommend tasting a small portion.

It will taste rancid and very sour.

What is the Best Way to Store Heavy Cream?

The best way to store heavy cream is in the fridge in a sealed container.

Most cream containers have a tight-fitting lid, which should help keep the cream fresh for as long as possible.

If your cream carton has a foil peel-off lid, we recommend transferring it to a clean, airtight plastic container to keep it fresher for longer.

Be careful to keep your cream from sitting out at room temperature for an hour, as this will cause it to soil faster.

Can You Freeze Heavy Cream?

If your cream is about to go off and you want to save it, you can freeze it.

However, it will separate once frozen but not to the extent that lower-fat dairy will. 

Once thawed, it is best used in stews, soups, and sauces rather than as a garnish on its own.


Is sour cream the same as cream that has gone bad?

The sour cream that you buy in the shops is cream that has been soured using an acid of some form, like buttermilk or lemon juice. [*]

Sour cream that is just past its expiration date can be used as sour cream in a baking recipe, but only if you catch it just as it goes off. 

Using the cream any later will make you feel sick.

Will spoiled heavy cream make you sick?

Once the cream has gone off, bacteria will start growing in it, and this is detrimental to your health.

Eating spoiled cream will cause food poisoning, resulting in stomach cramps, nausea, and diarrhea.


Well, that was certainly a lot of information about heavy cream! What have we learned?

  • Heavy cream can last up to a month in the fridge.
  • It will last 7-10 days once opened.
  • It should always be stored in the fridge.

We hope this has saved you from ever experiencing bad heavy cream again and helps you keep it fresh for longer.

Up Next: What’s The Shelf life of Dairy Products?

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