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How to Tell if Sour Cream Is Bad

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Sour cream is an excellent topping for many different foods. It’s also frequently used in baking and mixing into sauces to make them creamier.

However, one of the major drawbacks of sour cream is that it doesn’t have a long shelf life. Therefore, you need to eat it soon after you buy it.

How do you know when sour cream is bad?

Typically, mold growth on your cream is a sure sign it’s not fresh. You can also go by smell or taste. When it turns sour or curdles, it’s no longer good.

Finally, you can tell sour cream is bad when the water completely separates from the cream.

Of course, no one wants to eat rotten ingredients. However, if you work for a long time to buy or make a meal, the last thing you want to do is scoop some bad sour cream on top and ruin the entire dish. Hopefully, these tips will help you spot bad sour cream early to keep things fresh and always eat good ingredients.

Here are ways to tell if sour cream is bad and how to store your sour cream to make it last longer.

Spoiled sour cream with mold that has formed in a fridge for several weeks

Signs Your Sour Cream Is Bad

Because sour cream doesn’t stay good for long, it’s easy to spot when it goes bad.

What does sour cream look like and taste like when it goes bad?

Here are some of the most common signs that your sour cream isn’t good to eat or cook.


The smell is one of the first things that changes when your sour cream turns. Good sour cream should have a light, inviting aroma. If left out for too long, sour cream will start to smell sour. The smell will become rancid if it is in the fridge for too long. Give your sour cream a sniff test before you eat it to check if it’s still good.


Mold is one of the surest signs of bad sour cream. Typically, you’ll start to see black, blue, or green spots on parts of your sour cream. While technically, you can scoop those parts out and still eat the white sour cream, the best decision is to throw away the whole thing.

Liquid Separates

If you keep sour cream for too long, it will start to separate. When that happens, the sour cream will lose some of its shape, and you’ll see a lot more liquid in the container. You may also start to see some curdling.

Is sour cream still good if it’s water? Well, that depends. If it’s too watery, the sour cream won’t be good. A little water is normal, however. If you’re worried about the water levels, give it a smell to see if it still smells fresh. If so, it’s good to eat.

bowl of sour cream or yogurt on rustic wooden table

How Long Is Sour Cream Good for After Opening?

Sour cream is only good for several days to a week at most after you open a new container. The more you can do to reduce air exposure, the longer it will stay fresh.

For example, keeping the lid on the sour cream will help. You may also want to transfer all of it into an air-tight container to keep it fresh for longer.

However, your sour cream can’t last very long. If you’re not using everything at once, you should plan to use it in the same week by either cooking something else that requires sour cream or baking with the rest of what you have.

Does Sour Cream Go Bad if Left Out?

Sour cream goes bad quickly if you leave it out. Grocery stores and suppliers keep sour cream in the refrigerated section because it must be kept cool; otherwise, it spoils.

Leaving some sour cream out on the table during dinner is fine, but you shouldn’t leave it at room temperature for too long.

Leaving it out will be a fast track to bad sour cream. Rather than lasting up to a week in the fridge, sour cream at room temperature spoils in a day or so.

woman eating sour cream

What Happens if You Eat Bad Sour Cream?

Hopefully, nothing will happen! Eating bad sour cream doesn’t guarantee you’ll get sick, but it certainly increases the chances of food poisoning.

If you eat bad sour cream, you’ll likely not appreciate the taste of whatever dish you eat after that. It can give off an off-putting smell or taste.

However, people go to the hospital every day because they eat spoiled dairy products. Whether it’s milk, eggs, yogurt, or sour cream, bad dairy products can make you extremely sick, so it’s best to throw bad sour cream away when you spot some of the above signs.

What Does Bad Sour Cream Taste Like?

Bad sour cream tastes sour. It has an acidic flavor. It will feel clumpier or runnier in the mouth compared to fresh sour cream’s creamer texture and taste.

It’s easy to taste when sour cream goes bad. When it’s good, it has a light flavor that highlights whatever dish it’s in. When it’s bad, though, it has a much stronger taste.

The smell is closely linked to taste, so smelling your sour cream before you taste it is the best way to determine if it’s bad.

The smell will be off-putting, so any foul smells should send your sour cream straight into the trash.

ceramic bowl of sour cream or greek yogurt on wooden table

Can You Use Expired Sour Cream for Baking?

To be safe, you should avoid using expired sour cream for tacos or baking. If possible, run to the store and buy a new container. However, if you have an expired container of sour cream, you can open it and smell it to see whether it’s still fresh.

If it smells and looks good, give it a taste. If you think it’s still good, then it’s okay to use it in a cake batter or any other baking recipe.


Sour cream is a great product. However, it doesn’t last long compared to other ingredients you’ll find in the grocery store. Whenever possible, only buy as much sour cream as you need on the day or in the next few days; otherwise, you’ll increase your risk of having bad sour cream in the fridge.