The Best Way To Tell If Store-Bought Queso Has Gone Bad

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There's nothing quite like digging into a mountain of mouthwatering nachos during a gameday gathering. And let's be honest, the star of this savory show is the rich and gooey, glorious queso that perfectly cascades off of every chip. Store-bought queso is rooted in convenience and deliciousness, making it a popular addition to party spreads, dips, and recipes.

Made with processed cheeses and preservatives, you may think store-bought queso has an unlimited shelf life. However, processed cheese is still cheese, and once you pop the lid, the clock on freshness starts ticking quickly. While it may be tempting to hold out for every last drop of the queso in your fridge, eating even a little bit of it after it's gone bad is never a good idea — and store-bought queso spoils quicker than you might think. Luckily, there is one simple way to check if your queso has gone off without risking food poisoning.

Use your senses

Before you indulge in another helping from that jar of queso that's been lingering in your fridge, you'll want to make sure it passes the smell test, which is the easiest — and safest — way to tell if the dip is past its prime. Open the jar and give it a whiff; If you're getting a rancid or sour, ammonia-like scent, Chef Reader explains it's time to toss what's left.

While you could also taste your dip, this could result in a bout of food poisoning, so we suggest just following your nose. Queso will also eventually begin to mold if left for too long, but you should stop eating the dip well before it gets to that stage.

For general guidance beyond the expiration date, some brands — like Frito Lay, which is the parent company of Tostidos, and Pace — will give storage directions to follow after opening. Of course, you probably already know to store open jars of dip in the refrigerator, but both companies also include recommendations for how long you should keep the jars once opened. In general, store-bought queso can be stored in the fridge for about a week or two before it starts to go off. By keeping track of when you opened the jar and giving any leftovers a sniff before plating up a new dish, you can avoid spoiling your next queso-centric meal with expired cheese.