Does Mac and Cheese Go Bad? How Long Does Mac and Cheese Last?

Macaroni and cheese is a staple in most American’s diets, begging the question of does mac and cheese go bad? There are a few different circumstances that can help answer that question.

Quick Answer

Macaroni and cheese can go wrong if it has already been made in 3-4 days if stored properly. The dairy used in the recipe has a short shelf life, making leftovers only suitable for a short time. If macaroni and cheese have not been made, the boxed version can last in the pantry for up to one year. Frozen macaroni and cheese can be kept in the freezer till heated.


Knowing the shelf life of macaroni and cheese can keep your family healthy and avoid food poisoning. Read on to determine the factors in defining how long macaroni and cheese can remain good.

Does Mac and Cheese Go Bad? How Long Does Mac and Cheese Last?

Mac and cheese can go wrong depending on the conditions in which it has been stored. Depending on these conditions, the amount of time it remains edible is very different.

How Long Does Mac and Cheese Last Outside?

Macaroni and cheese does not last very long outside of the fridge if it has already been made. It should be eaten when it is warm, and then if there are leftovers, they should be stored in the fridge.

If the macaroni and cheese is boxed, it can remain in the box for up to a year. Since the cheese mix is typically powdered, it has a long shelf life due to its preservatives. There is an expiration date on the container, and it should be used by then.

Homemade macaroni and cheese is more likely to last an even shorter time outside the fridge. The fresh cheese, milk, and butter can cause the macaroni and cheese to spoil easily if left out for too long.

How Long Does Mac and Cheese Last in the Fridge?

The type of macaroni and cheese determines how long it will be able to last in the fridge. If you are using fresh ingredients, the shelf life is a lot less compared to that of powdered ingredients.

If you are making homemade macaroni and cheese, the shelf life is undetermined. You will need to pay close attention to your macaroni and cheese when it is in the fridge. If it starts to smell bad, it should no longer be eaten.

If you are making boxed macaroni and cheese, it can be left in the fridge for 3-5 days. The preservatives used in the boxed cheese will hold up for only a short time once butter and water are added.

How Long Does Mac and Cheese Last in the Freezer?

Macaroni and cheese can last in the freezer for an indefinite amount of time. If you are not sure if you will be able to eat all the mac and cheese in 3-5 days, freezing it will allow its shelf life to last longer.

Freezing slows down the degradation and helps it to maintain its use for upwards of three months. Before heating, make sure you check the food for mold to make sure it is still viable.

The dry mix of mac and cheese is good for up to one year. If you want to prolong the shelf life even further, you can freeze the mixture and use it when you want to.


Mac and cheese can last a long time, depending on how you store it and homemade. These factors can help you enjoy your macaroni and cheese for a long time.

How To Tell If Mac and Cheese Has Gone Bad / How To Know Mac and Cheese is Fresh?

After storing macaroni and cheese, you need to check to make sure it is still fresh. Knowing if mac and cheese is always fresh and edible, you can check a few things.

Smell: If mac and cheese has gone bad it will smell unpleasant and sour. This smell will not like the creamy pleasant smell mac and cheese initially has if it is fresh. You should notice this scent immediately because it will be strong.

Appearance: When looking at mac and cheese, if you notice white spots or mold upon the food, it is no longer good. Fresh mac and cheese should not have any discoloration or specks on it, along with no lumps in the sauce’s consistency.

Taste: The taste of unspoiled mac and cheese will be creamy and flavorful. The flavor is very cheesy and tastes decadent. Spoiled mac and cheese is sour tasting with abnormal lumps in the sauce.

Moisture: Before making the mac and cheese from a box, you need to make sure the packet has not been subject to moisture. If it has been opened or has absorbed moisture do not use it because the ingredients could have become spoiled.

How to Store Mac and Cheese?

After you make macaroni and cheese, there are many different ways to store it to maintain its freshness.

Airtight Container: After cooking macaroni and cheese, store it in an airtight container in the fridge. Make sure the container is airtight because if not, moisture can seep in and cause it to spoil more quickly.

Freezer Bags: Portion out the macaroni and cheese into freezer bags. This will allow you to store it in airtight containers and freeze it. The pre-portioning can also help keep it for a more extended period and meal preparation.

Can You Freeze Mac and Cheese? How?

It is possible to freeze mac and cheese, but there are specific ways you need to do it to ensure it will stay longer in the freezer.

Cook the Pasta: When making the mac and cheese, cook the pasta to al dente. Al dente means it still has some undoneness to the pasta. This will help avoid the mushiness of reheated pasta.

Pasta to Sauce Ratio: If you notice that the pasta to sauce ratio lacks, meaning your macaroni and cheese seems dry when defrosted, cut back on the pasta and let there be more sauce.

Store It: The best way to store the mac and cheese is to portion it out. Freezing it in small chunks will keep its shape and not be subjected to ruining if you take the whole thing out of the freezer.

Containers: Wrap your macaroni and cheese in saran wrap and foil and then place it in freezer bags. This will ensure no moisture gets to the dish and ruin it.

Time: Mac and Cheese can be frozen for up to three months. After that, the pasta may be good for a short time but could become spoiled.

How to Thaw Mac and Cheese?

When thawing macaroni and cheese, there are two ways you can do it. Each way has its benefits and can help your dish stay tasty.

Fridge: The best way to thaw mac and cheese is in the refrigerator overnight. Place your mac and cheese in a bowl to catch the moisture.

Microwave: You can also thaw mac and cheese in the microwave. Place the mac and cheese on a microwave-safe plate and cook it at a lower temperature. It will slowly melt from the heat.

Frequently Asked Questions About Mac and Cheese’s Shelf Life

Is it Safe to Eat Expired Mac and Cheese?

If it came from a box, expired macaroni and cheese is still safe to eat due to the preservatives used in the mix. Homemade mac and cheese is not as safe due to fresh ingredients that could cause some foodborne illnesses.

How Do I Avoid Dry and Mushy Leftovers?

If you want to reheat your mac and cheese and make it taste as fresh as the day you made it, you can add a few ingredients. You can add two tablespoons of cheese and one of milk for every cup of macaroni and heat it in the microwave. This will help keep the mac and cheese from being unappetizing.

Wrap Up

Mac and cheese is a standard part of your diet in America. Upon knowing how to store and keep fresh mac and cheese, you can enjoy the dish for days and months to come!

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