How Long Does Mac & Cheese Last? Can it Go Bad?

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It will be the answer to all parents’ prayers if Mac and Cheese would just last forever so that they wouldn’t have to whip it up all the time. While ready-to-eat mac and cheese or frozen mac and cheese are obvious solutions, nothing tastes as good as freshly made macaroni with oodles of warm and gooey cheese.

So, how long will mac and cheese last? Is it better frozen or refrigerated? What if it is boxed mac and cheese, does it still have to be refrigerated? Let’s find out if there is a simple answer to all these questions.

Mac and cheese is one of the quickest, easiest, and most relished dishes to make. It is comfort food at its simplest. Made with elbow macaroni or shells, butter, cheese, and a variety of seasoning options, this dish can be made in a matter of minutes. It doesn’t make it any less laborious. So, if you are like me and you make mac and cheese at least a couple of times a week, then here are a few handy tips to make them last longer, along with a couple of suggestions for various kinds of mac and cheese, from boxed to frozen, and how best to store them.

How Long Does Mac and Cheese Last?

Let’s look at the different kinds of Mac and Cheese that are available and break it down to figure out the shelf life of each. There is fresh, homemade mac and cheese, mac and cheese dry mix or boxed mac and cheese, and frozen mac and cheese, and they all have different expiry dates.

Homemade mac and cheese using fresh, quality ingredients will taste the best, but also has the quickest expiry date. It lasts between 2 and 4 days in the fridge. Now, if you are using cheese that is already past its best-by date or is close to spoiling, then don’t leave it longer than a couple of days in the fridge. Else, store the cooked mac and cheese, after it has cooled, in an airtight container and keep in the coldest part of the fridge. If you are planning to eat it every day, it is recommended to portion it out, so that you are not constantly opening the box to take out the food and then store it back. The constantly changing temperature will accelerate its decline.

If you are making a big batch or want to save it for future use, then freezing the mac and cheese is a good option. Let the cooked mac and cheese cool down, then within an hour or two of making it, store it in an airtight container and keep it in the freezer. It will last comfortably for 2-3 months.

Boxed mac and cheese or mac and cheese dry mix comes with an expiry date and a best-by date, which is usually for about a year. The best-by date refers to how long the quality of the product will last; it does not refer to when it will spoil. The boxed mac and cheese will last for a few months past the best-by date and a couple of weeks past the expiry date. If you store the boxed mac and cheese in the fridge, it can last even longer.

Frozen mac and cheese from the store also comes with an expiry and best-by date. Although it is cooked, it is frozen and will last for about 2-3 months past the best-by date.

Homemade mac and cheese1-2 hours2-4 days2-3 months
Boxed mac and cheeseBest-by date + 3 monthsBest-by date + 6 months
Frozen mac and cheese

Best-by date + 2-3 months

How to Store Mac and Cheese?

Now, we saw how long mac and cheese can last, but with a few tweaks, we can make them last even longer. There are some broad rules, like storing mac and cheese in an airtight container, that are pretty simple to follow, but it is still possible for mac and cheese to spoil if we don’t take proper precautions.

  • The best way to store mac and cheese is to refrigerate or freeze it in an airtight container. You can also wrap it tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap.

Things to keep in mind when refrigerating or freezing it:

  • If you are planning to refrigerate or freeze your mac and cheese, first make sure you cool it down before storing it in the fridge or freezer. Do not freeze hot food, as it takes longer to freeze, which increases the risk of spoilage.
  • Make sure there is no moisture in the container you are using to store it, as this again increases the chances of it spoiling,
  • Store your mac and cheese in the fridge or freezer within an hour or two of making it. The longer it stays out, the easier it is to spoil, especially in warmer climates.
  • You can also freeze it in portions, so you only take out what you need so as to not expose the food to changing temperatures.
  • If you are storing boxed, uncooked mac and cheese you can leave it in the pantry away from direct heat and sunlight. If you want to make it last longer, you can store the box in the fridge, it will last longer.
  • For store-bought, frozen mac and cheese, do not remove it from the packaging. Keep it as is in the freezer.

How to Tell If Your Mac and Cheese has Spoiled?

Despite the number of ways there are to store and extend the shelf life of the beloved mac and cheese, it can and will spoil. How to figure out if your mac and cheese is spoiled or spoiling. If you have been looking to dig into your favorite bowl of mac and cheese that has been in your fridge or freezer and you aren’t sure you can eat it, here are a few ways to figure out if it is still safe.

The smell is the first thing you notice when food has gone off. Unfortunately, with mac and cheese, especially if you are using particularly strong-smelling cheese, you cannot always be sure. If it has a distinctive “off” note, then your mac and cheese is spoiled and has to be thrown out. Remember, the cheese is the first thing that spoils, and rancid cheese has a very strong and unpleasant odor.

The second thing to watch out for is mold. Even if you have taken all steps to store your food properly, it can still spoil. If your mac and cheese has something green or white growing on it, then it is definitely spoiled. Cheese can spoil very quickly and eating spoiled cheese can give you a whole host of health issues, so don’t ever eat spoiled mac and cheese.

If there is no discernible decay, you can take a small bite to make sure. Rotten cheese or dairy has an extremely sour taste, and you will know immediately if the mac and cheese has spoiled. In that case dispose of it immediately. If you are still unsure and can’t make out if your mac and cheese is spoiled by look, smell, or taste, just throw it out, as it is better to err on the side of caution. And if you are in any doubt, always throw it away.

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