Cotija cheese is a delicious and versatile Mexican cheese that adds flavor and texture to many dishes. Whether you’re using it as a topping for tacos or crumbling it over salads, it’s important to know how long cotija cheese lasts and how to properly store it to ensure it remains safe and tasty to eat. In this article, we’ll discuss the shelf life of cotija cheese, the factors that can affect its longevity, and tips on how to store it properly. We’ll also explain the signs that cotija cheese has gone bad and how to tell when it’s no longer safe to eat.
What is Cotija Cheese?
Cotija cheese is a Mexican cheese that is named after the town of Cotija in the state of Michoacán. It is a firm, crumbly cheese that is made from cow’s milk and has a salty, slightly tangy flavor. Cotija cheese is often used as a topping for dishes like tacos, tostadas, and enchiladas, and it can also be crumbled over salads or used as a filling for quesadillas.
Shelf Life of Cotija Cheese
The shelf life of cotija cheese depends on whether it’s been opened or not. Unopened cotija cheese can last for several months, while opened cotija cheese typically lasts for about 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator.
If you have unopened cotija cheese, it’s important to check the expiration date on the packaging to determine how long it will last. Some cotija cheeses are sold in vacuum-sealed packages, which can help to extend their shelf life. If the packaging has been damaged or opened, however, the cheese may spoil more quickly.
Once cotija cheese has been opened, it’s important to store it properly to help extend its shelf life. Keep the cheese in its original packaging or transfer it to an airtight container, and store it in the refrigerator at a temperature of 40°F or below.
Factors That Affect Cotija Cheese’s Shelf Life
Several factors can affect how long cotija cheese lasts, including:
- Temperature: Cotija cheese should be stored in the refrigerator at a temperature of 40°F or below. If the cheese is exposed to temperatures above 40°F, it may spoil more quickly.
- Humidity: Cotija cheese should be stored in a cool, dry place. If the cheese is exposed to moisture, it may develop mold or spoil more quickly.
- Storage Conditions: Cotija cheese should be stored in an airtight container or its original packaging to prevent exposure to air, which can cause it to dry out or spoil more quickly.
How to Store Cotija Cheese
Proper storage is key to ensuring that cotija cheese lasts as long as possible. Here are some tips on how to store cotija cheese:
- Keep it in its original packaging: If the cotija cheese is still unopened, keep it in its original packaging until you’re ready to use it. This will help to keep it fresh for as long as possible.
- Wrap it in wax paper or plastic wrap: If the cotija cheese is already opened, wrap it tightly in wax paper or plastic wrap to help prevent air exposure. Be sure to remove any excess air from the packaging to help keep the cheese fresh.
- Store it in an airtight container: If you prefer to store cotija cheese in a separate container, make sure the container is airtight and can be tightly sealed. This will help to prevent air from entering the container and causing the cheese to spoil more quickly.
- Keep it in the fridge: Cotija cheese should always be stored in the refrigerator. Make sure the cheese is stored at a temperature of 40°F or below, which is the recommended temperature for keeping perishable foods fresh.
- Avoid freezing cotija cheese: Freezing cotija cheese can cause it to become crumbly and lose its flavor. If you need to store cotija cheese for an extended period of time, it’s best to keep it in the fridge rather than the freezer.
Signs That Cotija Cheese Has Gone Bad
Even if you store cotija cheese properly, it can still go bad if it’s been left out for too long or if it’s been stored improperly. Here are some signs that cotija cheese has gone bad and should be discarded:
- Mold: If you see any mold on the cheese, it should be discarded immediately. Mold can spread quickly and may indicate the presence of harmful bacteria.
- Discoloration: If the cotija cheese has turned a different color or has dark spots on it, it may have spoiled and should be thrown away.
- Off odor: If the cotija cheese has a strong, unpleasant odor, it may have spoiled and should not be consumed.
- Texture changes: If the cotija cheese feels slimy, sticky, or excessively dry, it may have spoiled and should be discarded.
Knowing how long cotija cheese lasts and how to properly store it is key to keeping this delicious cheese fresh and safe to eat. By following the tips in this article, you can help extend the shelf life of cotija cheese and avoid any potential health risks associated with spoiled cheese. Remember to always check the expiration date on unopened cotija cheese and to store opened cotija cheese in an airtight container in the refrigerator. And if you notice any signs that the cheese has gone bad, it’s better to be safe than sorry and throw it away.