A favorite on game day and for a quick snack with chips, queso is one of the most popular dips. But sometimes you may need to store some leftovers. So, how long does queso last in the fridge?
Queso is a mainstay of Tex-Mex food, as a popular dip with tortilla chips at parties and get-togethers. And it’s also used in traditional Mexican cuisine including enchiladas and quesadillas.
And while delicious, sometimes you may not be able to finish it all. So, how do you store queso, and how long will it keep?
Opened store-bought or homemade Queso will generally stay good for 3-5 days if kept refrigerated in a covered container.
But queso shelf life varies depending on the type of queso you have and whether it’s homemade or not.
Read on to learn more and to find out how to help your queso stay fresh as long as possible.
What is queso?
While “queso” means cheese in Spanish and can refer to several different types of Mexican cheese, in this post, we’ll be covering queso dip, rather than the different varieties of cheeses themselves.
Traditional queso dip is made by melting Queso Blanco, a soft Mexican cheese which is typically made from cow’s milk. Then it’s mixed with chile peppers to provide a bit of spice and some extra texture.
The first published recipe for queso dates back to 1896 and it highlighted the chiles more than the cheese.
Though nowadays there are several different types of queso, most Mexican restaurant-style queso in the United States is made using white American cheese, as it melts well. And it’s sometimes mixed with other types of cheese to enhance the flavor like Pepper Jack or Monterey Jack cheese.
You can also add other ingredients like bacon, bell peppers, diced tomatoes, and more to make it your own. And you can even make dairy-free queso, by replacing the dairy products with non-dairy cheeses.
How do you store queso?
Unopened store-bought queso like Tostitos queso doesn’t need to be refrigerated. The best way to store it is in a cool, dark place like a pantry. It can usually keep for up to 6 months. Your jar will also have an expiration date or best-by date on it which will indicate when to consume it for peak freshness.
After you open queso, you will need to store it in the refrigerator. It will generally stay good for up to 3 days in the fridge if sealed tightly in its original packaging or in an airtight container.
Fresh homemade queso can last for 3-5 days in the fridge if stored in an airtight container.
How to extend the shelf life of queso
To help make your queso last longer while serving it, here are a few tips:
- Keep it covered with plastic wrap or aluminum foil when it’s out to prevent air exposure.
- Stir it occasionally or reheat it in the microwave if it begins to solidify.
- Keep in a heat-safe dip container over a hot plate so the cheese stays soft and melty.
- Keep it out of direct sunlight to prevent it from overheating, which can promote harmful bacterial growth.
- After it’s been out for a couple of hours, it’s a good idea to put it back in the refrigerator. Leaving it at room temperature for longer than that can cause the queso to spoil, which can lead to food poisoning.
How to freeze queso
If you need to store your queso for a long time, opt for the freezer.
Here’s how to freeze queso for later use:
- Allow the leftover cheese dip to cool completely.
- Place queso in a freezer-safe airtight container or freezer bag. This will help prevent freezer burn.
- The cheese will solidify, so if you use a freezer bag, be sure not to place anything on top of it that can crush or smush it.
- Once frozen, it should keep for up to 1 month.
To reheat frozen queso, simply let it thaw in the fridge for several hours or overnight. Once it’s defrosted, place it in a skillet and warm up over medium heat.
💡 Tip: Freeze queso in smaller portions so you only need to defrost what you need when you’re ready to consume it, rather than the entire leftover queso.
How can you tell if queso has spoiled?
Queso can go bad if stored improperly or if left out for too long. Here are some signs to look for.
Sour smell – If you notice a sour or rotten odor, your queso may have started to spoil, or at least some of the ingredients in it may have. This can be especially true if it includes a lot of vegetables, as they can omit odors when they start to oxidize.
Discoloration – Traditional queso should be milky white (or yellow depending on the cheese used). If you notice the queso has developed a darker color, or appears to have strange-colored flecks, that could be a sign of spoilage.
Mold – If you see mold growth or green spots on the surface of your queso, it has gone bad, so do not consume it.
Slimy texture – If you notice a film or slick texture on your queso, that could also indicate that you have bad queso.
Any of these cases could be signs of spoilage, is it’s best to simply discard the queso.
Don’t keep queso at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Harmful bacteria can form in foods after that time and they can begin to spoil.
If your store-bought queso is starting to solidify, pop it in the microwave for 30-45 seconds and stir it. That should re-melt the queso.
If you’re making homemade queso, stirring some evaporated milk into the melted cheese can help keep queso stay soft and creamy for longer. Though it will eventually begin to harden if left out.
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