How Long Can Sour Cream Sit Out? (5+ Other FAQs)

how long can sour cream sit out?

The question of “how long can sour cream sit out?” is one of the most popular kitchen queries and the answer depends on the type of sour cream you have. 

Sour cream is a dairy product that will spoil if left out for a prolonged period. Depending on its condition and temperature, you can store it for two hours. 

But if you plan to store it for longer than that, you should put it back in the refrigerator as soon as possible.

How Long Can Sour Cream Sit Out?

Sour cream should not be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. The United States Department of Agriculture has established this as the standard guideline for all perishable commodities. Sour cream left out at room temperature for more than two hours is susceptible to bacterial development, leading to foodborne disease if consumed.

Some people believe that because sour cream is already “soured,” spoiling isn’t a significant deal. This is not correct. Sour cream is very perishable and can contaminate food if left out of the fridge for an extended period. Like many dairy products, sour cream may easily get contaminated with germs if kept out of your fridge for an extended period. Let’s get into the specifics.

If possible, return sour cream to the refrigerator immediately after usage. Sour cream is frequently left out for events such as parties or simply because you forgot to put it away after a meal. This is typically not a problem as long as you return it to the refrigerator on time.

Remember that the one- and two-hour limits apply to anything that contains sour cream as an ingredient, not just normal sour cream. Sour cream dips and dishes using sour cream are examples of this.

Does Sour Cream Go Bad?

Yes, sour milk will go bad or expire. If you’ve never had terrible sour cream before, that doesn’t imply it doesn’t happen. Like any other dairy product, sour cream is prone to spoilage due to its delicate and complex components and texture.

Sour cream is manufactured by fermenting pasteurized milk to destroy existing bacteria and produce a distinctive sour flavor. Sour cream still includes natural ingredients, which is why it can spoil quickly under certain conditions, such as inadequate storage, low-quality sour cream, and so on.

With all of the germs and residues in your kitchen, your sour cream will probably go bad sooner or later.

If you buy sour cream from the shop, the danger of having easy-to-go-bad sour cream is lower than if you make your own. Sour cream produced using a conventional pasteurized procedure is guaranteed higher quality.

As a result, it’s clear to see how, no matter how skillfully you prepare your sour cream at home, it’s more prone to spoiling. That is why, rather than creating your own, you should buy high-quality sour cream to guarantee you get a quality serving of sour cream that does not go bad quickly.

Why Can’t Sour Cream Sit Out Longer Than 2 Hours?

First, any milk product, even sour cream, can attract germs within a few minutes after leaving the fridge’s safe and chilly temperature. Sour cream’s symbiotic ecosystem, which includes live beneficial bacteria, provides a perfect setting for debris and environmental bacteria to proliferate.

Bacteria will develop sour cream after 1-2 hours if not properly stored at room temperature since this location creates an optimal habitat. As a result, once you’ve finished using sour cream, put it back in the fridge right away to avoid becoming infected by particles.

Mushy sour cream will not work in any recipe or dish, so storing it at room temperature for an extended period may cause it to deteriorate without your knowledge. Sour cream retains its texture and flavor only when stored at a cold temperature in the refrigerator.

What Happens When Sour Cream is Left Out for Long? 

It Loses Texture And Flavor

Because the constituents in sour cream are all susceptible to chilly temperatures, leaving it at room temperature for too long will reduce the impact of all ingredients. When sour cream sits out for too long, the taste flattens, and the texture breaks down. The cream will no longer maintain its gel form with a sour fragrance.

Of course, if you know how to thicken sour cream, you may keep the cream texture for later, but the quality is no longer guaranteed.

Infection by Harmful Bacteria

Even though your sour cream appears to be good, if you know it has sat in the exact location at room temperature for an extended period, it is preferable to discard it without hesitation. So, what happens if you consume contaminated sour cream?

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.

After 1-2 hours, harmful spoiling bacteria from the environment will penetrate and collapse the sour cream texture, resulting in a fractured texture and a strange odor.

How Do I Tell If Sour Cream is Bad?

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.

Runny Texture

If your sour cream is runny, it might be because you left it at room temperature for too long. If it does not show any of the following indications, it is still safe to use if you give it a brief stir. You may use the same method to thicken salad dressing to thicken sour cream. However, if the texture breaks even after a few hours in the fridge, it’s time to toss that sour cream.

Odd 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.

Off Taste

The final terrible sour cream sign is its flavor. If the sour cream tastes sourer than usual, throw it out right away.

The Expiration Date On Sour Cream

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.

Tips to Limit Sour Cream Spoilage 

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. 

1. Keep in the Refrigerator 

Whether opened or not, you must keep the sour cream in the refrigerator below 40 degrees (4degC). It is essential not to leave it out too long because the growth of bacteria and mold accelerates above that temperature.

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 is best to store it further back, where the temperature remains always stable. 

2. 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.

3. Use Well-Maintained Tools to Scoop It 

As with all perishables, using dry and clean utensils is recommended to scoop out the sour cream. This will prevent food particles, dirt, or bacteria from entering the fresh sour cream.

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. 

how long can sour cream sit out?

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. 

Related Questions

How Long Can Cooked Sour Cream Sit Out?

Cooked sour cream should not be left out for more than two hours; otherwise, food spoiling is possible owing to the Danger Zone temperatures described above. The same holds with cooked sour cream. It should not be left out for more than 2 hours. 

How Long Can Sour Cream Sit Out At Room Temperature? 

You can store sour cream at room temperature for up to two hours. Sour cream will degrade quickly if kept at over 40 °F; sour cream should be thrown if left at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

How Long Can Cream Cheese And Sour Cream Sit Out?

Cream cheese and sour cream can sit out for up to two hours. Cream cheese that has been over 40 degrees for more than four hours should be discarded, according to Bacteria can develop on cream cheese after 2 hours of room temperature contact.

How Long Can Food With Sour Cream Sit Out?

For proper sour cream storage, set your refrigerator to 40°F or below. Food with sour cream can sit out for up to two hours. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, sour cream should not be left out in temperatures above 90°F for more than one hour. It should not be left out for more than two hours if the temperature is below 90°F.

Can Sour Cream Be Left Out For 3 Hours?

Yes, you can leave sour cream out for three hours. Sour cream can be safely left out for a couple of hours before resealing. However, if you’re preparing a large batch, you should put the sourdough out for several hours in a refrigerator before eating.

Can Sour Cream Be Left Out For 4 Hours?

Bacteria multiply rapidly in temperatures ranging from 40 to 140 degrees F. Sour cream is best discarded when it is left for longer than two hours at room temperature.

Is Sour Cream Ok If Left Out Overnight?

No, sour cream is not safe if left overnight. If stored at temperatures higher than 40 degF, sour cream quickly develops signs of spoilage. Sour cream must be thrown away if kept for more than two hours at temperatures at room temperature. Sour cream is typically stored for approximately two weeks following the opening, as long as it is refrigerated continuously.

How Long Does It Take For Sour Cream To Get To Room Temperature?

It takes between 30 and 60 minutes for sour cream to get to room temperature. The best method to bring your ingredients up to temperature is to plan. Set eggs, buttermilk, sour cream, and cream cheese on your counter for between 30 and 60 minutes before starting the recipe, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.

Can You Get Sick From Warm Sour Cream?

Yes, you can get sick from warm sour cream. When the cream remains out in temperatures higher than 90°F, harmful pathogens will multiply quickly, and the cream will deteriorate. However, it may still be safe to consume if microwaved.

How Long Will Unopened Sour Cream Sit Out Of The Refrigerator? 

If you’ve ever bought sour cream, you’re probably aware that it usually comes in a plastic tub. Under the top, there should also be a seal. 


Denzel and Beryl are a food scientist powerhouse couple. They met while attending culinary school, and have been cooking and baking together ever since. They love to watch football, movies, and reality shows in their free time. They have even participated in several cooking and baking competitions globally!

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