Ricotta cheese is a delicious and versatile ingredient that can be used in many dishes, from lasagna to cheesecake. But how long does ricotta cheese last after opening? And how can you store it properly to extend its shelf life? In this blog post, we will answer these questions and more, so you can enjoy your ricotta cheese without wasting it or risking food poisoning.
What is Ricotta Cheese?
Ricotta cheese is an Italian whey cheese made from the leftover liquid (whey) of other cheese production, such as mozzarella or provolone. The word ricotta means “recooked” in Italian, because the whey is heated again to form curds. The curds are then drained and cooled, resulting in a fresh, soft, moist cheese with a mild and milky flavor (1)
Ricotta cheese can be made from the whey of different animals, such as cows, sheep, goats, or water buffalo. In the United States, most commercial ricotta cheese is made from a combination of whey and cow’s milk, either whole, low-fat, or skim. Ricotta cheese can also be made at home with just milk and an acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar (2)
Ricotta cheese is widely used in Italian cuisine, especially in pasta dishes, such as lasagna, cannelloni, ravioli, and gnocchi. It can also be used to make desserts, such as cheesecake, tiramisu, cannoli, and ricotta pie. Ricotta cheese can also be eaten plain or with bread, fruit, honey, or jam.
Shelf Life of Ricotta Cheese
Ricotta cheese is a perishable food that should be consumed within a short period of time. The shelf life of ricotta cheese depends on several factors, such as the type of milk used, the processing method, the packaging date, the storage conditions, and the exposure to air and bacteria.
According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), unopened ricotta cheese can last for 2 to 4 weeks in the refrigerator if stored at 40°F or below. However, once opened, ricotta cheese should be used within 5 to 7 days for best quality and safety.
The shelf life of ricotta cheese can also vary depending on the brand and the type of packaging. Some ricotta cheese products may have a “sell-by” or “best-by” date on the label, which indicates how long the product will retain its peak quality. However, these dates are not safety dates and do not necessarily mean that the product is spoiled or unsafe after that date.
The best way to tell if ricotta cheese is still good is to look for signs of spoilage, such as changes in color, texture, smell, or taste. If ricotta cheese develops mold, yellow or green spots, a sour or rancid odor, or a bitter or off flavor, it should be discarded immediately. Do not taste ricotta cheese that looks or smells bad, as it may contain harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.
Proper Storage of Ricotta Cheese
To extend the shelf life of ricotta cheese and prevent spoilage, proper storage is essential. Here are some tips on how to store ricotta cheese correctly:
- Refrigerate ricotta cheese as soon as possible after purchasing or opening. Keep it in its original container or transfer it to an airtight container to prevent moisture loss and contamination.
- Keep it cold by storing it in the coldest part of the refrigerator (usually the back or the bottom), away from the door where the temperature fluctuates.
- Use it quickly by consuming it within 5 to 7 days after opening or before the expiration date on the package.
- Freeze ricotta cheese if you want to keep it longer than a week. Ricotta cheese can be frozen for up to 3 months without affecting its quality too much. However, freezing may change its texture and make it more crumbly and less creamy. To freeze ricotta cheese, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or place it in a freezer-safe bag or container. Label it with the date and use it within 3 months for best results.
- Thaw frozen ricotta cheese in the refrigerator overnight before using it. Do not thaw it at room temperature or in the microwave, as this may cause uneven thawing and increase the risk of bacterial growth.
- Do not refreeze thawed ricotta cheese, as this may further degrade its quality and safety.
Freezing Ricotta Cheese
If you have more ricotta cheese than you can use within a week, you might want to freeze it to prevent it from spoiling. Freezing ricotta cheese is possible, but there are some things you need to know before doing so.
Can ricotta cheese be frozen?
Yes, you can freeze ricotta cheese, as long as you do it properly. Freezing ricotta cheese will not affect its safety, but it might change its texture and flavor slightly. Therefore, it is best to use frozen ricotta cheese in cooked dishes, such as casseroles, pies, or sauces, rather than in fresh or cold recipes, such as salads, dips, or desserts.
How to freeze ricotta cheese
To freeze ricotta cheese, follow these simple steps:
- Divide the ricotta cheese into portions that you will use in one recipe. This will make it easier to thaw and use later.
- Place each portion in a covered airtight container or a heavy-duty freezer bag. Label and date each container or bag.
- Squeeze out as much air as possible from the containers or bags to prevent freezer burn.
- Place the containers or bags in the freezer and store them for up to 3 months.
How long ricotta lasts in the freezer
Frozen ricotta cheese will maintain its best quality for about 3 months, but it will remain safe beyond that time if kept constantly frozen at 0°F. However, the longer you keep it in the freezer, the more likely it is to lose some of its moisture, flavor, and texture.
Thawing Frozen Ricotta Cheese
When you are ready to use your frozen ricotta cheese, you need to thaw it properly to avoid compromising its quality and safety.
How to thaw frozen ricotta cheese
The best way to thaw frozen ricotta cheese is to transfer it from the freezer to the refrigerator and let it thaw slowly overnight. This will help preserve its texture and flavor as much as possible. Do not thaw ricotta cheese at room temperature or in the microwave, as this can cause uneven thawing and increase the risk of bacterial growth.
How long thawed ricotta lasts in the refrigerator
Once you have thawed your frozen ricotta cheese in the refrigerator, you should use it within 3 to 4 days for the best quality. Do not refreeze thawed ricotta cheese, as this can further degrade its texture and flavor.
Changes in texture and flavor after freezing and thawing
Freezing and thawing ricotta cheese can cause some changes in its texture and flavor. You might notice that your frozen ricotta cheese has become grainy, crumbly, or watery after thawing. This is because freezing causes some of the water molecules in the cheese to form ice crystals, which break down the structure of the cheese.
To improve the texture of your thawed ricotta cheese, you can try stirring it well or blending it with a hand mixer or food processor. You might also notice that your frozen ricotta cheese has lost some of its freshness and richness after thawing. This is because freezing can affect some of the volatile compounds that give cheese its flavor. To enhance the flavor of your thawed ricotta cheese, you can try adding some herbs, spices, lemon juice, or salt to taste.
Signs of Spoiled Ricotta Cheese
Even if you store your ricotta cheese properly in the refrigerator or freezer, it can still go bad over time due to natural aging or contamination. Eating spoiled ricotta cheese can cause food poisoning or other health problems, so you need to be able to recognize the signs of spoilage and discard any questionable cheese.
How to tell if ricotta cheese has gone bad
The best way to tell if your ricotta cheese has gone bad is to smell and look at it. If your ricotta cheese has developed an off odor or flavor, such as sour, bitter, or rancid, it should be discarded for quality purposes. If your ricotta cheese has changed color or appearance, such as turning yellow, brown, green, or pink, or developing a slimy or fuzzy texture, it should be discarded for safety purposes. These are signs of mold, yeast, or bacterial growth, which can produce toxins that are harmful to your health.
Appearance, odor, and flavor of spoiled ricotta cheese
Here are some examples of how spoiled ricotta cheese might look, smell, and taste:
- Yellow or brown ricotta cheese: This is a sign of oxidation, which occurs when the cheese is exposed to air. Oxidized ricotta cheese might have a metallic or cardboard-like flavor.
- Green or pink ricotta cheese: This is a sign of mold growth, which can occur when the cheese is contaminated by spores from the air or other sources. Moldy ricotta cheese might have a musty or earthy flavor.
- Slimy or fuzzy ricotta cheese: This is a sign of yeast or bacterial growth, which can occur when the cheese is stored at improper temperatures or for too long. Yeasty or bacterial ricotta cheese might have a sour or fermented flavor.
What to do if you find mold on your ricotta cheese
If you find mold on your ricotta cheese, you should not try to salvage it by cutting off the moldy part and eating the rest. Mold can penetrate deep into the cheese and produce toxins that are not visible to the naked eye. Therefore, you should discard the entire package of ricotta cheese if you find any mold on it.
Hi, I’m Ben Holland. I love cooking, traveling, and spending time with my family! Here you’ll find simple and delicious recipes, travel tips, and stories about my adventures with my wife and kids.