How Long Can Sour Cream Sit Out For Unrefrigerated?

Have you ever been in the middle of preparing a dish, only to find out that your sour cream has been sitting out a bit longer than recommended? If so, you’re not alone! This issue can be quite common, especially when you didn’t realize how quickly time passes while cooking.

But how long is too long for sour cream to sit out unrefrigerated before it’s unsafe to eat?

Well, According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, sour cream should not be exposed to temperatures above 40°F for more than two hours! If so, the sour cream should be discarded to avoid any potential food poisoning.

What Happens When Sour Cream Is Left Out Longer Than 2 Hours? 

When sour cream is left out for more than two hours, it does become susceptible to various issues that can affect its safety and quality.

Harmful Bacteria Can Build Up

The primary issue you face when leaving sour cream out for an extended period of time is the growth of harmful bacteria! You see, for bacteria, temperatures above 40°F are perfect conditions for it to grow rapidly, multiplying and contaminating the sour cream.

Some common types of bacteria that may grow in sour cream left at room temperature for too long include:

  • Salmonella
  • Bacillus cereus
  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Escherichia coli (E. coli)

The build-up of bacteria can be very harmful if digested, especially for children! Even if your sour cream appears to be good, if you know it has sat in the exact location at room temperature for longer than 2 hours it’s always best to discard just to be on the safe side.

It Loses Texture And Flavor

Of course, then there’s the loss of taste and texture! When sour cream is left out for an extended period, it not only becomes a breeding ground for harmful bacteria but also loses its texture and flavor.

The change in temperature can cause the sour cream to become watery or separated, and the taste may become off or rancid, making it unappealing for consumption.

Can You Be Sick If You Consume It After Two Hours?

We all know that sour cream contains beneficial bacteria that aid in the immune system, such as Streptococcus lactic and Leuconostoc citrovorum. After resting at 40-140 degrees for so long, these bacteria can be attacked by hazardous spoiling microbes “harmful bacteria”.

After 2 hours, the harmful bacteria will penetrate and collapse the sour cream texture, resulting in the cream going bad and giving off a strange odor.

Although consuming sour cream after two hours won’t be life-threatening! For some, it may give you a slight stomach ache, or diarrhea, depending on how much you eat, and how strong your stomach is.

How Do I Know If My Sour Cream Is Bad?

If you’re unsure what to look for to determine whether or not your sour cream has gone bad. Here are some of the common signs:

  • Signs Of Mold Or Weird Color: The hue of fresh sour cream is pale beige to white. If you discover any yellow, brown mold, or dark color on the cream, throw it away, since unusual colors indicate bacterial invasion.
  • Strange Smell: Of course, sour cream will smell unpleasant, but discard it if the sourness gets too much for you. You must rely on your sense of smell to detect poor sour cream.
  • Horrible Taste: The final terrible sour cream sign is its flavor. If the sour cream tastes sourer than usual, throw it out right away.
  • Check The Expiration Date: If the expiration date on your sour cream has gone, you should no longer use it. Consuming outdated sour cream might result in severe food illness.

Is It Safe To Put The Sour Cream Back In The Fridge After 2 Hours?

No! If sour cream has been left out at room temperature for more than two hours, it’s generally not considered safe to put it back in the fridge and consume later. The risk of harmful bacterial growth increases significantly after this time, making it potentially unsafe to eat.

To ensure food safety, it is best to discard the sour cream that has been exposed to room temperature for more than two hours.

How Long Can Sour Cream Typically Last For In The Fridge?

To ensure its quality and safety of your sour cream it’s always important to know how long sour cream can last in the refrigerator. Whether it’s unopened or opened, proper storage conditions play a crucial role in maintaining its freshness.

  • Unopened sour cream: Can typically last up to three weeks past the printed expiration date when stored in the refrigerator at temperatures below 40°F.
  • Opened sour cream: Should be consumed within 7-10 days for optimal freshness and taste when stored in the refrigerator.

Tips To Limit Your Sour Cream Going Off

Sour cream provides an excellent environment for bacteria and mold. But there are methods to stop this process so that you can get the most out of it. 

Keep in the Refrigerator 

Whether opened or not, you must keep the sour cream in the refrigerator below 40 degrees. Placing the sour cream in a specific fridge section is essential.

It’s not recommended to put it on the refrigerator’s door due to temperature fluctuations. Instead, it’s best to store it further back, where the temperature remains stable. 

Seal It Properly 

To extend the shelf-life of your sour cream following the opening, keep it covered inside the packaging that it came in or in an airtight, clean container. 

This stops air and particles from getting into the container and causing spoilage. Suppose you’re still using your original container, specifically for larger containers. 

In that case, you can place an item of polystyrene directly onto the top of the sour cream before making the lid to ensure more secure sealing and preserve the product.

What Can I Do With Too Much Sour Cream?

1. Make Flavorful Batters

Many people love to dip their pierogies in sour cream, but how do you fold the sour cream inside the pastry? The fatty dairy product keeps the dough soft and flaky when it fries. 

We employ an ingredient in making our dessert cheese pierogi and the ones loaded with spinach-artichoke dip and all the flavors that come with Philly cheesesteak. 

The same principle applies to sweeter recipes, such as the dough used for our sweet kringle with sour cherries.

Naturally, you could utilize sour cream to improve more than just texture. It gives texture and a fermented flavor to delicious buttermilk biscuits that are extra flaky. 

We even put it in the sweet potato pancakes to balance the sweetness with a tart tang.

2. Salad Dressings

Are you not a fan of mayo-style salads? You’ve likely created many mayonnaise-based dressings for pasta or potato salads in the past; however, there’s absolutely no reason for sour cream not to be an even more rich alternative. There are many instances where you must use it. 

Take a fingerling potato salad, for example; it comes with a generous portion of scallions, mustard, and Dill. The sour cream ingredient is the extra-tangy and creamy macaroni salad and the dressing used in the apple coleslaw. 

Try this salad made of charred corn with cherries, zucchini, and radishes. A small portion of sour cream goes far.

3. Flavorful Base Dips

Sour cream by itself is a fantastic dip for anything from veggies to everything cooked. Like mayonnaise, it’s simple to increase the spice level by adding herbs, aromatics, and other spices. Horseradish adds flavor and contrasts with the heat. 

It’s an ideal companion to our crisp and sweet beets latkes. If you want to make it more versatile, you can try making it into a puree using scallions, lime, and cilantro or added to mayonnaise to make the most nuanced chipotle-spiked dip.

4. Tangier, Richer Desserts

Like its fermented dairy products like buttermilk and yogurt, it has a distinct acidic-tangy taste that can cut through sweetness while providing depth and nuance, all of which are great attributes in altering your desserts routine. 

It reduces the weight of cheesecakes in this airy and light Japanese version and prevents the chocolate cupcakes from slipping into the overly sweet realm. 

Sour cream adds the softness of baked products such as mini oatmeal and chocolate chip muffins to a moist bundt cake adorned with freshly picked blackberries. 

If it’s whisked into the frosting, it offers an energetic, bright, and uplifting contrast to a rich pretzel-layered cake. 


So, hopefully this article has answer your question to how long can sour cream sit out for unrefrigerated. If you want to read more articles like this feel free to explore this site and see what else you can learn.

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