How To Tell If Sour Cream Is Bad

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I love adding sour cream to a variety of dishes, but I don’t always use it up right away. The container sits in the fridge for a while, and I often question whether I should use it. So, how do you tell if sour cream is bad, and what do you do if it is?

While sour cream has a longer shelf life than most milk products, it will separate, become lumpy, develop an unpleasant flavor, smell bad, and ultimately grow mold over time. If your sour cream has any of these signs that it is bad, it’s time to toss it out.

Sometimes it goes bad sooner than you expect. But don’t worry, I’ll show you six signs to watch out for to help prevent you from using bad sour cream and getting sick.

How To Know If Sour Cream Is Bad

It’s Expired

Always check the date on your tub of sour cream before using it. Even if it’s never been opened, sour cream can go bad after the expiration date. If it’s past the date, throw it out and get a new one.

Don’t rely on the printed dates alone and assume your product will be good up until then. Many factors affect the shelf life of sour cream, the biggest being storage temperature at the grocery store and at home.

If for some reason, you can’t locate the date, one of the other signs is sure to help you know if your sour cream has gone bad.

It Smells Awful

Dairy products like milk and yogurt will often have a strong foul smell when they’ve gone bad. The same goes for sour cream. If it smells extra sour, vinegary, or not quite right, it’s time to toss it out.

When in doubt, give it a sniff before using it in your recipe. If the odor is off, don’t risk eating or cooking with it. Just throw it away.

It Tastes Off

I don’t recommend willfully taste testing off products, but if you happen to and it has a sharp sour or bitter flavor, dispose of it.

There is a risk of food poisoning from consuming spoiled sour cream that could require a trip to the emergency room.

It’s Lumpy

Curdling or lumpy sour cream is another telltale sign when dairy goes bad. This will often happen when it’s kept at a temperature too high, on the counter, or left out overnight. If you’re grocery shopping on a hot summer day, consider transporting it in a cooler for the trip home.

Don’t make the same mistake I’ve made before. If it looks lumpy, make sure you are checking your sour cream and not the cottage cheese.

Unfortunately, the lumpiness is another sign that it can’t be saved, and it’s time to get rid of it.

It’s Watery And Separated

You might open your tub of sour cream only to notice some liquid pooling in the low spots on the surface. Some separation of liquid is okay, you can mix the sour cream, and it will still be good to eat.

However, if you find that there is a lot of liquid in your tub of sour cream that looks separated, you shouldn’t consume it. You may also find that the remaining solids are lumpy. You know that your sour cream is bad when two signs show up.

There’s Mold

If you notice any discoloration or mold, don’t use it. I’ve seen mold on sour cream that is dark blue and fuzzy, but many people have also seen pink mold as well.

Don’t assume you can scrape any mold off the top and use the rest. Mold has a complex network of roots that can extend well below the surface and into your sour cream. Because they are so tiny, you won’t be able to see them unless you’re using a microscope.

Sour cream should remain a white color while still good. Bacterial growth can also show up and change its color to yellow, blue, or pink. If you see any color change, throw it out.

Bad Sour Cream FAQs

What Does Bad Sour Cream Look Like?

Bad sour cream can look lumpy, watery, or have a different color from mold or bacteria growing on it.

What Does Bad Sour Cream Smell Like?

Bad sour cream smells like sour milk, cheese, or yogurt. The best description, and most common smell, is that it smells rancid.

What Does Bad Sour Cream Taste Like?

Sour cream that has gone bad can tastes rancid or bitter. If it doesn’t taste as you expect, it’s probably gone bad. Do not use it.

What Happens If You Eat Bad Sour Cream?

Yes, bad sour cream can make you sick. Mold or bacteria growing on the sour cream can cause food poisoning, which can be mild or severe. If you’re unlucky enough to develop food poisoning, you may experience stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, fever, or worse. It may present within a few hours of consuming bad sour cream or in a few days. Seek medical attention immediately if you develop any symptoms.

Written By Justin Micheal

Justin is not just the creator but also an author and editor for KitchenSanity. He does the majority of the cooking at home with his wife. His friends and family look forward to eating his delicious creations, which often leads to many questions about how they can replicate his meals at home. In his writing, he shares his passion and knowledge as a home chef from his kitchen to yours.