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Does Parmesan Cheese Go Bad?

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Parmesan cheese is a bit of a unique food. While there is true, fresh parmesan cheese, many of us are more familiar with the grated parmesan cheese that you use to sprinkle over foods.

You know what we’re talking about, right? That tub or container of finely grated parmesan cheese that you sprinkle into sauces and on top of pastas and pizza. 

Now we’re on the right track! Even fresh Parmesan cheese has a slightly unique texture and feel to it. Parmesan cheese has a pretty long shelf life, either way that you have it at your home.

It’s one of those foods that you might have in the fridge or pantry for forever and you just keep using it and using it. 

But does parmesan cheese go bad? Parmesan cheese eventually goes bad. Whether it’s fresh or grated in a bag, you can likely enjoy it for many months. Unopened or block parmesan can last up to a year in cold storage; opened parmesan may last up to a couple months. However, it is possible that it will degrade in quality.

In this guide, we will walk you through all of the details surrounding the question ‘does parmesan cheese go bad?’ We will talk about fresh parmesan as well as those store bought containers of parmesan. We will also cover proper storage and general timeframes for how long you can expect your cheese to last. 

We have a lot of information to share so stick with us to understand if parmesan cheese goes bad and when. So let’s get cracking!

Does Parmesan Cheese Go Bad? A Complete Guide

There is really a lot of information when it comes to understanding parmesan cheese.

We want to point out right away that fresh parmesan and store bought grated and processed parmesan may not handle exactly the same ways.

We will also cover both of these topics as we progress through the guide and we will always differentiate so you know which type we are discussing as well. 

How Long Does Fresh Parmesan Cheese Last in the Fridge?

Now, let’s make this really complicated. Okay, not really!

But we have more than one type of fresh cheese we want to touch on. There is a block of fresh cheese that is truly fresh or you can purchase refrigerated, grated fresh cheese that is still different from the dry, extra crumbly parmesan we will talk about later. 

Make sense? Essentially, what we are saying is this section is not at all about the dry sprinkle parmesan you can buy in a tub. 

Pre-grated, Fresh Parmesan

First, let’s talk just shortly about pre-grated, fresh parmesan that you buy in the refrigerated dairy section at the grocery store. This grated parmesan is made using fresh cheese but we don’t really know just how fresh. 

Grated, fresh parmesan from the store typically has a best-by date on the package. You don’t necessarily have to toss it out after the best-by date but that is what the company recommends for using by for the best quality. You can also freeze those bags to make them last longer. But we digress. 

Since you are purchasing already shredded parmesan cheese, it actually will not last as long as a fresh block of cheese. The best-by date on the bag will probably give you a date that is a few weeks out.

Take note, that this time period is really for an unopened bag. 

Once you open that bag of grated parmesan cheese, it can quickly go downhill. It’s important to keep it sealed up tight for storage. After opening, the cheese is typically best if used within about 7 days before the quality really starts going out the window.

Remember, you can freeze it if you need to for extended preservation as well. 

Fresh Parmesan Block

NOW, let’s talk about a block of fresh, parmesan cheese. If you like to buy fresh blocks of cheese from your local deli or the deli in your favorite grocery store, you can typically keep these around a little longer. 

Even if you are slicing pieces off or using chunks, the remaining unused part of the block will stay fresh for several weeks when stored properly.

Parmesan cheese is considered a hard cheese. That is one of the characteristics that sets it apart. It will dry out quickly more often than it will go bad. However, parmesan can still go bad. 

Parmesan cheese is hard because it has far less moisture in it than some other types of cheese. There isn’t anything wrong with it, this is just the nature of this cheese.

Did you know that if you have a small area turn moldy, you can cut that off and the rest of the cheese is still safe to eat? 

It is best to leave unused cheese in block form because once it is grated or cut off the block, the shelf-life possibilities shorten and you might be more limited on how long you can use your cheese. 

To store a block of parmesan cheese, be sure to wrap it up tightly and place it in an airtight container or perhaps a storage bag. You want it to be airtight so that it doesn’t get negatively affected by the surrounding air in the fridge. 

A block of parmesan cheese could last at least 8 weeks for the best quality. It is quite possible that it will last even longer than that as well. Be sure to keep the rind of the cheese intact for best results.

We recommend storing your parmesan block in a fridge that is somewhere between 39 and 46 degrees, which is pretty standard. 

How Long Does Sprinkle Parmesan Cheese Last in the Fridge?

Sprinkle parmesan cheese is that cheese you buy in the tub. It’s finely grated or even ground and it’s often used to sprinkle into recipes or sprinkle over things like pasta, pizza, and more.

This is considered a processed parmesan cheese and it has a rather extensive shelf-life. Once you open the container, it is recommended that you store this type of cheese in the fridge but you can leave an unopened canister in the pantry for possibly up to a year. 

This type of parmesan cheese will also be stamped with a best-by date. This is required for most foods and is basically the guarantee from the manufacturer for the best quality.

Rest assured that this type of parmesan will probably stay good long past that date. 

It is possible for this cheese to go bad and we will cover some signs of that late in this guide. Remember that once you open the cheese, it is best if you store it in the fridge as this helps to preserve it even longer. 

You can probably keep your open sprinkle parmesan in the fridge for up to a year and it will stay good. You can also toss it in the freezer if you are concerned and preserve it fine through that method as well. 

What Happens if You Eat Expired Parmesan Cheese?

The simple truth is probably nothing will happen if you eat expired parmesan cheese. Whether it’s fresh cheese or the sprinkle canister of cheese, parmesan generally has a long shelf-life.

In fact, most parmesan will rarely go bad before it gets used and can be stored for a tremendous length of time before it does start going bad. 

As long as there is nothing rancid about the cheese and it truly has not gone bad, it should still be safe to eat well past the expiration date. Remember from our tips in the previous sections that you can cut off moldy sections of fresh parmesan and still use the rest of the block. 

Check for those signs of bad parmesan cheese (which we will share shortly) and continue to enjoy your cheese. In this case, the expiration date is simply a best-by date and it does not necessarily mean that the cheese has truly expired or gone bad. 

You probably will never have any issue with using parmesan cheese after that date, be it fresh parmesan or sprinkle parmesan either one. 

How Long Does Grated Parmesan Cheese Last After the Expiration Date? 

In this instance, we are going to specifically discuss the canister of ‘grated” parmesan cheese. What you see in the canister is probably more like a finely grated or even a ground parmesan than your traditional shredded cheese that you picture with the word grated. 

We refer to this as sprinkle parmesan as well because that is typically how the tub or bag is used. Regardless, the point we’re making is we are not talking about fresh parmesan in this section. 

If you store sprinkle parmesan cheese correctly, it can last several months past that expiration date, possibly even a year. Much like what we have been saying prior to now, this cheese is not likely to go bad anytime soon. 

It CAN go bad, but that just takes a long time. Sometimes it goes bad because it simply wasn’t stored properly. Store your grated (sprinkle) parmesan cheese in the fridge or the freezer and it will last far longer than you can imagine. 

Most experts say it could last up to a year longer than the expiration date when stored in this manner. Always be sure to check for telltale signs of rancid cheese. We will give you some specific pointers of those signs here shortly. 

Does Parmesan Cheese Go Bad if Not Refrigerated? 

We want to break this out into two parts and keep it as simple as possible. We will discuss first fresh parmesan and then grated sprinkle parmesan to keep the details separate for you and yet answer this question from every angle as well. 

Fresh Parmesan Cheese

It is important that you refrigerate fresh parmesan cheese. While you can leave it at room temperature, it will last much longer if you keep it refrigerated.

Whether you have a fresh chunk from the deli or a pre-packaged fresh cheese from the dairy aisle, it’s always recommended that you refrigerate your fresh cheese. 

This is a hard cheese and hard cheeses can typically survive not being refrigerated just fine for a couple of weeks. However, they tend to keep better and last longer if they are refrigerated. 

If you store your fresh parmesan cheese in the fridge, you might be able to enjoy it for up to 8 weeks. However, if you store it at room temperature, you might only get 2 weeks out of it, depending upon where and how you have it stored. 

If you decide to store it at room temperature, be sure that it is wrapped up tightly and store it in a cool, dry place. You don’t want it to be subject to moisture or heat as this will make it go bad much faster. 

If the fresh cheese is still unopened in the original packaging, it might last 3-4 weeks at room temperature but it will last more like 6 months in the refrigerator. Go ahead and refrigerate for the best shelf life possible. 

Grated Sprinkle Parmesan Cheese

Grated sprinkle parmesan cheese is a whole different type of product. This cheese has been processed and is totally different. Off the shelf, if your parmesan cheese is unopened, you can store it in your pantry for up to a year

However, once you pop the seal and open up the cheese, you should plan to store it in the refrigerator. Storing it in the refrigerator keeps it fresh and preserves it much better. 

If you choose to store it at room temperature, keep it in a cool, dry place. You will notice that your canister probably actually says “refrigerate after opening” and we recommend always following that instruction for safety purposes. 

If you store it in the refrigerator or freezer, you will be able to use it for so much longer and it will have less possibility of going bad as well. 

As a best practice, we recommend storing it in the fridge

How to Tell When Parmesan Cheese Has Gone Bad

Finally, we reach the section we’ve been promising throughout the guide. We have some helpful tips and information for understanding when parmesan cheese has potentially gone bad.

We won’t put any confusing disclaimers in here. The tips we have to share are true of both grated sprinkle parmesan and fresh parmesan cheese. 

These tips are simple and effective and a great way to gauge whether or not it might be time to toss out that cheese. For the most part, your cheese is probably good for as long as you don’t notice any of these issues. 


One telltale sign is mold. Here’s the thing, though. Mold doesn’t mean the entire portion of cheese has gone bad. If you notice mold on a block of parmesan, you can remove the portion with mold and keep the remaining portions

If you happen to notice mold in grated sprinkle parmesan, it’s probably best to go ahead and toss the whole container as it can be hard to pinpoint where exactly the mold is or is coming from. 


Next, you can look for discoloration. First, remember that if you have a block of parmesan cheese, it does have a rind that is naturally darker than the rest of the cheese. This is not bad cheese.

However, apart from that, if you notice spots or areas of the parmesan that seem to have odd colors, this could be a sign that the cheese is bad. 


You probably recognize the smell of fresh cheese and our noses can pick up on the smells of spoiled cheese or cheese that has begun to go rancid.

Take a sniff of the parmesan cheese if you question whether it’s good. If it has any type of off odor or smells sour or rancid in any way, it is probably best to go ahead and toss it out. 

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