The creaminess and cheesy taste of this dish with black pepper, unsalted butter, and the creamy cheese sauce make it hard to resist for kids and adults.
But at some point, we may want to know, can mac and cheese expire? If you have some leftovers, how long can we keep mac and cheese?
Below in this post, find out “how long is mac and cheese good for” and how to store it properly.
Does Mac and Cheese Go Bad?
Like any perishable food, our cheesy mac & cheese also has a limited shelf life. If your mac and cheese is homemade, it can quickly go bad because of the spoilage process.
For boxed Mac and cheese like Kraft Mac and Cheese, the shelf life is significantly longer due to their dry ingredients and cheese powder.
Eventually, these ingredients will become rancid when they are exposed to the air and physical forces.
Can Kraft Cheese Powder Go Bad?
Kraft chili mac and cheese has a cheese powder created by spraying cheese dry. The cheese mixture is liquified with additional sugar or food color.
Thereafter, they will spread a combination of cheeses powder into droplets and vaporize with hot air to result in cheese powder.
As they have been processed into dry ingredients, the Kraft cheese powder can last up to 15 years if they are unopened. If their package is damaged, the powder shelf life might be reduced.
How Long Is Mac And Cheese Good For?
Mac and cream cheese is such a tasty dish with a relatively long shelf life. For boxed macaroni and cheese, you can expect a long duration, which is up to years of storage.
However, when it is cooked, the time can reduce to a few hours at room temperature to a few days in the fridge.
Let’s get into detail for each kind!
1. How Long Does Unopened Macaroni And Cheese Last
So, you had an unopened dry mix of macaroni and extra cheese, and you wonder how long does mac and cheese last? A simple way you can find out is by looking at their best-by date on the package.
The best by date will determine the freshness duration of your macaroni and cheese. Usually, it can be a few months after the production date.
However, how long can mac and cheese sit out after the best-by date?
The best-by date of a product is simply an indication of the peak quality of the product. Thus, the boxed mac and cheese’s real shelf life can last from one to two years if you have stored it properly.
2. How Long Is Baked Mac And Cheese Good For
Homemade macaroni with pre-shredded cheese or sharp cheddar cheese is such a spot-on dish that you can have it for any time of the day.
But maybe you have made a big batch of macaroni and cheese left out overnight. So, how long can macaroni and cheese be left out?
Unfortunately, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the shelf life of baked macaroni and cheese is much shorter because of the rapid bacterial growth.
When your dish is at room temperature, from 68 degrees Fahrenheit to 72 degrees Fahrenheit, the bacteria can double its size in just 20 minutes.
Therefore, it is recommended to discard any perishable food after 2 hours at room temperature. That’s why people tend to store homemade cheese sauce in the fridge and freezer to extend their shelf life.
3. How Long Does Mac And Cheese Last In The Fridge
If you have a large batch of leftover mac and cheese, it is necessary to keep them in the fridge to get the best out of them in your next meals. So, how long is mac and cheese good for in the fridge?
When they are correctly stored at a cool temperature, cooked macaroni noodles can last from three to five days.
So, it is a perfect method if you plan to consume your creamy Monterey Jack’s mac and cheese soon.
But maybe you don’t know when you want your Macaroni cheese again. Then, can you freeze macaroni and cheese?
The answer is yes; you can save these leftovers without the white sauce and grated cheese in the freezer for an even longer time.
4. How Long Is Leftover Mac And Cheese Good For In The Freezer
Having baked mac and cheese in the freezer is an excellent way to keep them edible for an extended period.
As the degradation of food becomes extremely slow because of the cold temperature, your mac and cheese can last up to 6 months without any problem.
How To Tell If Mac And Cheese Are Bad
As I mentioned above, mac and cheese can become bad after their shelf life or are affected by external factors.
For unopened Kraft Mac and cheese, there is hardly a case of being bad. If the box is sealed, unopened, and intact, it is likely to be safe from any bad influences.
However, you should look for any open marks, tearing parts on the package as it might indicate insects that destroy the texture and flavor of the whole box.
Moreover, any open areas can also mean a high chance of moisture influence inside the bad mac and cheese. This would lead to a worse scenario, which is mold infection.
In this case, you can open the box to check any signs of mold. If there are any white or black spots on your macaroni, it is undoubtedly impacted by the mold and should be discarded right away.
You can also check the cheese package to see if it is still usable. However, if the package is clumpy, the moisture may have got inside, which can lower the quality of the package.
For cooked mac and cheese, you can check any gray, black, or green spots on the surface. This is a sign of mold infection, which you should discard away to avoid food poisoning.
What happens if you eat expired mac and cheese? Mac and cheese have a generally long shelf life. As they are dry ingredients, unopened mac and cheese can last two years after their expiration date.
However, there are also exceptions in which well-maintained canned food can last for 100 years.
So, this shows that if you happened to come across an expired mac and cheese box, you could still eat it without any serious health problems.
Nevertheless, after a specific time, the flavor may reduce and change to a blender taste.
How To Store Mac And Cheese
A whole package of Mac and cheese can serve you well in many meals. So, it is best to keep it clean and tasty for a longer time.
A dry box of mac and cheese should be stored in a dry and cool place without any dampness. You can leave them in your kitchen cabinets or at a high ground place to avoid insects.
For cooked macaroni & cheese, you can use two common ways to store them for a longer time: refrigerate or freeze them.
You need to note that refrigerated mac and cheese can only keep it for a few days. So, it is a great method if you have plans to finish them in a week. Or else, you should freeze it instead.
To store mac and cheese, firstly, you need to put them in an airtight container to separate them from other food odors in the fridge.
Then you can keep it in a separated section from fresh food to avoid cross-contamination. And when you need them, just simple reheat it for a few minutes before using.
Does mac and cheese freeze well? Freezing mac and cheese is a good way to save food when you don’t have plans for them in a few days ahead.
To prepare them, you need to remove all the cheese sauces out first to keep the texture. Then, you can put the chewy macaroni inside a freezer bag or a container and leave it in the fridge for up to 6 months.
A tasty mac and Mozzarella cheese dish is the best comfort food I want on a cold winter day. The creamy and cheesy flavor can keep you going for days. If you wondered, “How long is mac and cheese good for?” I hope you got your answer.