How Long is Deli Cheese Good for?

Deli cheese is one of the greatest inventions of the modern world. Gone are the days of having to keep the entire cheese wheel in your house, cutting away parts every time you want some cheese. Now all you have to do is pull a slice out of the container and you’ll have delicious, fresh cheese in a matter of seconds.

The one downside of deli cheese is that since it has been cut out of the wheel and its protective rind, it does not last very long. It is more heavily exposed to oxygen and bacteria causing the cheese to spoil more quickly.

Normally, deli cheese will last for anywhere from 2 to 3 weeks if it is stored quickly. However, this will depend on the type of deli cheese that you have. Cheese with a higher moisture content will spoil more quickly than a dryer, aged cheese like cheddar cheese.

How Long Does Cheese from the Deli Last?

The exact length of time that cheese from the deli will last depends on a variety of factors. Cheese that is stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator can last for several weeks. In contrast, when stored at room temperature most cheese will only last for a matter of hours before it should be thrown away.


Once the package of the deli cheese has been opened that significantly shortens the shelf life of the cheese. This is because opening the package allows oxygen and bacteria to enter. Both of these things will cause the cheese to spoil more quickly, even when it is being stored properly. 


Storing your cheese on the counter is a no-go even if the package is still closed. Cheese falls into the category of foods that spoil rapidly at room temperature. The USDA recommends that cheese is thrown away after it has been left at room temperature for two hours. This is enough time for significant bacterial growth to occur which can make the cheese dangerous to eat.


After it has been opened and is being stored in the fridge, deli cheese will typically stay fresh for around 7 to 10 days. The time will be on the shorter side if you are dealing with a high-moisture cheese like cream cheese or Velveeta. Harder aged cheese will last slightly longer and may make it to a full two weeks before spoilage begins.

The most important thing to remember with opened deli cheese is to keep it in an airtight container. This will help to keep bacteria from making their way into the cheese and causing it to spoil. It will also help to keep the cheese from drying out while it’s in the fridge.


Unopened cheese that has been placed in the freezer will stay fresh for several months. You’ll just want to make sure it’s in an airtight storage container or freezer bag. This will help to prevent moisture loss and freezer burn, both of which can alter the flavor and texture of the cheese.

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Unopened deli cheese will usually last quite a bit longer than opened cheese. This is because unopened deli cheese has not been exposed to bacteria and oxygen. It is also less prone to drying out since the container is completely sealed.


Just like opened deli cheese, unopened deli cheese will only stay fresh at room temperature for a matter of hours. After a few areas, the bacterial growth will have dramatically increased and it will no longer be safe to eat the cheese. 

The only time that you should store the cheese at room temperature is with large cheese wheels. In some cases, the rind of the cheese is thick enough to keep bacteria out of the cheese when it’s at room temperature.


If unopened cheese is stored in the refrigerator, it can last for quite a bit longer than opened deli cheese can. Normally, unopened deli cheese will stay fresh for up to three weeks before it starts spoiling. As long as the container is sealed, the number of bacteria and oxygen that can enter the container will be limited.

As soon as you open the container the countdown begins and you’ll only have about a week to finish the container of deli cheese.


Just like with opened deli cheese, unopened deli cheese will stay fresh in the freezer for several months. If you’re looking to preserve a lot of cheese this is the best way to do it. Just be warned that some of the cheese slices may stick together once frozen and the texture may be slightly different.

How Can You Tell if Deli Cheese Has Gone Bad

Once you get to around the two week mark you’ll want to start checking your deli cheese before you eat it. This is important to ensure that the cheese has not gone bad. Cheese that has gone bad can easily cause food poisoning and make you sick from the bacteria that it carries.


One of the easiest ways to tell if your deli cheese has gone bad is by simply observing its appearance. Most cheeses should have a fairly uniform appearance and the surface should be smooth. You shouldn’t see any fluffy patches as this is a sign of mold. Cheese that has mold should be thrown away to prevent illness.

The one instance where this isn’t the case is with cheeses like blue cheese. To make this cheese the producers actually allow some mold to grow on the cheese to flavor it. In these cases, you’ll need to rely on other signs like the smell and taste to tell if it has gone bad.


The next way to tell if your deli cheese has gone bad is by checking the smell. Cheese should smell fresh and like you expect cheese to smell. If it has an exceptionally funky smell this could be a sign that the cheese has begun to go bad. 

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Yet again, there are some instances where this test may not work. Some cheeses, like vieux boulogne, always have a funky scent and you will always think that they smell a little bit off. With these cheeses, you’ll have better luck paying attention to the appearance and flavor of the cheese.


The last factor that you can observe is the taste of the cheese. Of course, if the other signs are suggesting that the cheese is spoiled you should not eat it. Only taste the cheese if you are unsure and the other signs are not pointing you in any direction.

You’ll need to be familiar with what your deli cheese should taste like for this test. You’ll be looking for differences in the flavor which are difficult to observe if you’re not sure how the cheese should taste in the first place.

What Happens If You Eat Spoiled Deli Cheese?

If you’re lucky nothing will happen when you eat spoiled deli cheese or you might have a slight stomach ache.

In a lot of cases, you’ll be left with symptoms similar to food poisoning. You can expect stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms come from consuming the bacteria that live on spoiled cheese. In most cases, symptoms will resolve on their own but in severe cases, you may end up in the hospital so you can receive fluids.

Proper Ways How to Store Deli Cheese

To maximize the life of your deli cheese you will want to store it properly. Different types of deli cheese may have different needs, but a few general tips should still apply.

  • Store in an airtight container
  • Don’t leave it at room temperature
  • Keep away from sources of moisture
  • Keep away from other foods
  • Handle deli cheese as little as possible
    • This avoids bacteria transfer

Final Thoughts

If you love making sandwiches or having an easy source of cheese to use in your favorite recipes, deli cheese is the way to go. Deli cheese is basically just sliced cheese that has been packaged making it easy to only remove one serving at a time.

If it is stored properly, a package of unopened deli cheese can stay fresh for up to three weeks. Once it has been opened it usually has a shelf life of anywhere from 7 to 10 days. If you choose to leave your deli cheese out on the counter you can expect it to only stay fresh for about two hours. Bacterial growth occurs rapidly at room temperature which will spoil the cheese.