Like most pasta dishes, you can prepare mac and cheese ahead of time and store the leftover for later use.
However, does mac and cheese expire?
Expiration of Mac and Cheese
Mac and cheese will eventually spoil regardless of whether it’s frozen mac and cheese or a dry mix. This food item has a definite use-by date, beyond which it spoils. It’s essential to use it before this date. Dry mixes generally last longer than the cooked variety because of their lower moisture content.
Cooked pasta doesn’t last for more than a few days in the fridge.
Meanwhile, the use-by date for ready mixes is specified on the packaging.
Now, the good news is that you can extend the shelf life of mac and cheese by storing it properly.
Let’s look at how to go about it.
7 Ways to Extend the Expiration Date of Mac and Cheese
Mac and cheese contain pasta, cheese, and milk solids, amongst other ingredients, depending on whether it’s a ready-mix variety or a homemade recipe.
Uncooked pasta has a long shelf-life.
However, the same doesn’t apply to cooked pasta or cheese and milk, all of which are integral components of this recipe.
Hence, mac and cheese doesn’t hold up for too long at room temperature.
Nevertheless, storage plays an important role in deciding how long it will last.
Here are seven practical and easy ways to extend the expiration date of mac and cheese.
1. Store It in The Original Packaging
Canned mac and cheese or dry mac and cheese come in well-sealed cans or boxes.
Brands use efficient packaging techniques to maximize the shelf-life and minimize exposure to environmental agents.
Hence, it will not spoil easily.
The best way to store these items is to store them with their original packaging in the pantry, refrigerator, or freezer.
It will hold up till the expiration date on the label unless you break the seal when kept in the pantry.
It will last beyond the expiration date when you keep it in the refrigerator or freezer.
However, if you open the package, immediately transfer any remaining or unused mac and cheese to an airtight container before putting it into storage.
Once the seal is broken, air enters the package. Then, it’s no longer protected from bacteria and moisture.
So change the container and then put it into the fridge or freezer.
2. Choose Dry Mixes for Longer Storage
Dry macaroni and cheese mix has a shelf-life of nearly two years. It may even hold up for longer if stored properly.
So, if you wish to buy and store mac and cheese in bulk and store it for a long time, opt for a dry mix.
Nonetheless, you must ensure that the package seal remains intact while it’s in storage.
Place it in a dry and moisture-free location. Remember that exposure to heat and humidity can reduce the shelf-life.
Once you open the pack, immediately transfer any leftover mix to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator.
This will help it remain usable for much longer.
3. Vacuum Seal for Long-Term Storage
One of the best ways to prep mac and cheese for long-term use is to vacuum seal any leftovers.
This is even better than storing the mac and cheese in an airtight container since it eliminates any air from the surrounding environment.
This reduces the chance of the food getting spoiled.
You can place all the mac and cheese in vacuum storage bags, suck out all the air, and seal it before putting it in the refrigerator or freezer.
These pouches will also occupy less space, making it easy to store in bulk.
This method also ensures that the dish tastes good for a very long time.
4. Store Macaroni and Cheese in The Refrigerator
The refrigerator keeps food below the room temperature, thus slowing bacteria growth and helping it last longer.
However, it can’t prevent the food from spoiling eventually.
If you plan to use any leftover macaroni and cheese within a week, consider putting it in the refrigerator.
Separate the unused portion as soon as it cools down before keeping it in the refrigerator.
Stirring or mixing it several times increases the chances of spoilage.
When storing mac and cheese in the refrigerator, transfer the portion to an airtight pouch or container.
This will keep the moisture out and help it last longer.
To make it remain usable for even longer, store it in the freezer.
5. Store Mac and Cheese in The Freezer
By placing mac and cheese in the freezer, you can extend its life by several months.
This applies to both the box versions as well as cooked mac and cheese.
If you buy mac and cheese from the frozen aisle, directly place it in the freezer after bringing it home.
However, check to ensure that it has not thawed since it’s not recommended to re-freeze food that has thawed.
You can also store box mixes in the freezer for several months, and they will last beyond the expiration date on the package.
When storing mac and cheese in the freezer, use airtight and freezer-safe bags or boxes.
When it’s time to consume the dish, remove it from the freezer and allow it to thaw completely.
You can either place it on the counter or reheat it in the microwave quickly.
However, it’s better to let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight to avoid any frozen bits.
Simply reheat it when it’s time to serve, and it will taste fresh.
6. Make Portions of Mac and Cheese to Store It Efficiently
When you have a large batch of macaroni and cheese left, it makes sense to freeze it for later use.
You can store the entire batch in a single bag or pouch.
However, it’s often more efficient to separate it into individual servings and store it separately.
Divide the entire mac and cheese into as many portions as you will need at once.
Then place it in separate freezer containers or bags and freeze each one separately.
The benefit of doing so is that you can retrieve only the amount you need for a single serving and use it immediately.
The rest will remain untouched, and you can use it later.
7. Allow Freshly Cooked Mac and Cheese to Cool Completely Before Storing
The more moisture a food contains, the faster it spoils.
Mac and cheese contain dairy, which spoils even more rapidly due to the high fat and moisture content.
When you cover and store mac and cheese before it cools completely, bacteria in the food can multiply rapidly and accelerate spoilage.
To avoid this issue, allow the dish to cool to room temperature before putting it in the refrigerator.
After cooking, place the dish away from heat and moisture and let it cool.
Once it has reached room temperature, transfer it into an airtight container or bag and place it immediately in the refrigerator or freezer compartment to keep it fresh for much longer.