how long does ice cream last

How Long Does Ice Cream Last? The Timeline and Science

Have you ever tried a new and “interesting” flavor of ice cream, just to branch out and say you tried it? Ice cream is one of the most beloved desserts in the world—there are flavors for everyone, from tried-and-true classics like chocolate and vanilla, to more out-of-the-box flavors like Raspberry Zodiac or Dr. Key Lime Mango Manhunt. Check ‘em out, you won’t be disappointed.

Unfortunately that macaroni and cheese ice cream (yes, this is a real flavor, we’re not kidding!) probably wasn’t as delicious as you had hoped. It will likely sit in the back of your freezer for a while…until you decide to give it a second try, but inevitably ask, “Wait, how long has this been here? How long does ice cream last, anyways?”

How Long Does Ice Cream Last? The Short and Sweet Answer

As long as your tub of ice cream is unopened and stored in a freezer at a temperature of 0°F (-18°C), the ice cream should last 2-4 months. Most ice cream cartons have a printed shelf life of 2 months, but as long as the ice cream is stored properly and unopened, it can likely last up to 4 months. This applies for most ice cream cartons, but there are other factors that affect shelf life as well. 


what is the shelf life of ice cream

The Science: How Ice Cream Shelf Life is Determined

When properly storing ice cream in the freezer, there’s no risk of ice cream molding or “going bad” if it stays in the freezer too long. (It will just take up space in your freezer.) But the #1 concern of ice cream is the texture. Or, technically speaking, the “physiological changes” of ice cream. 

This refers to things like ice recrystallization, lactose crystallization, changes in ice cream volume, and a change in the size of air cells. All of these physiological changes won’t necessarily change the taste of the ice cream or make it bad for you to eat, but it will significantly change the texture.

Of course, you should never settle for subpar ice cream—that would be just criminal. If you are looking to astound and delight your taste buds with the most luxurious ice cream possible, order your first box of specialty, delivered-to-your door ice cream here. And even though Cold Case Ice Cream has a normal shelf life, you won’t have to worry about that—this ice cream is way too delicious to sit in the back of your freezer! 


ice cream delivery

Top 3 Factors that Impact Ice Cream Shelf Life 

Temperature Fluctuations

When pulling out the ice cream for your most recent celebration, it’s not uncommon to leave the ice cream out on the counter for a few minutes in case someone wants to come back for a second (or third) scoop. However, this can damage your ice cream shelf life. 

When ice cream is first made and frozen, it is made up of small ice crystals that give ice cream its smooth and creamy texture. However, when ice cream is exposed to temperature fluctuations, the ice crystals melt and then refreeze, leading to the formation of much larger ice crystals. These large crystals can give ice cream a coarse and grainy texture, opposed to the smooth and creamy texture of ice cream that we know and love. 

Improper Storage

If ice cream isn’t properly stored, it can decrease the texture, flavor, and quality of the ice cream. A few risks of improper ice cream storage include the following: 

Freezer Burn

When ice cream isn’t stored in an airtight container, ice crystals form on the surface of the ice cream. This leads to a dry, icy texture and flavor loss, commonly known as freezer burn. 

Odor Absorption

If ice cream isn’t properly sealed but stored with other freezer items, it can absorb the odors from other foods. This can negatively affect the taste and aroma of the ice cream. 


Without proper refrigeration and air-tight storage, ice cream can become susceptible to contamination from bacteria and other pathogens. 

Homemade vs Store Bought Ice Cream

Believe it or not, there’s a big difference between the shelf life of store-bought ice cream, and homemade ice cream. 

As mentioned before, store bought ice cream can usually last 2-4 months when stored properly. Store bought ice cream generally includes stabilizers and emulsifiers in the ingredients to increase the shelf life of the ice cream. 

Homemade ice cream, on the other hand, should ideally be consumed within a week for optimal flavor, and can be stored for up to three weeks. Because homemade ice cream generally doesn’t include stabilizers or emulsifiers, the ice cream is more susceptible to freezer burn and a decline in flavor and texture. 


homemade ice cream shelf life

Quick Tips to Keep Your Ice Cream Fresh

The last thing you want is to open your freezer after a long day, only to find that your favorite pint of ice cream has been freezer-burnt. Here’s some quick tips to keep your favorite ice cream fresh as long as possible! 

  • Keep your ice cream in the back of your freezer. The back of your freezer is generally colder, and less susceptible to temperature changes from opening/closing the freezer door. 
  • Store your ice cream in an airtight container. This helps prevent odor absorption and prevent freezer burn. 
  • Don’t refreeze melted ice cream. Once your ice cream has melted or partially melted, it’s better to use it in a milkshake or other recipe.
  • Don’t store your ice cream in the freezer door. This exposes your ice cream to frequent temperature fluctuations, making your ice cream more susceptible to freezer burn and ice crystallization. 
  • Put your ice cream back in the freezer immediately after use. Don’t forget and leave it out on the counter! (We’ve all done it…but it helps your ice cream in the long run!)

So, How Long Does Ice Cream Last? 

Well, not very long if you buy the right kind of ice cream (you know what we mean).

So there you go, if you're looking for a truly indulgent ice cream experience, consider trying Cold Case Ice Cream. Not only does it have a great shelf life, but it's also delivered right to your door, ensuring the freshest and most delicious ice cream possible. With unique and decadent flavors, Cold Case Ice Cream is sure to astound and delight your taste buds. Don't settle for subpar ice cream—treat yourself to the luxurious experience of Cold Case Ice Cream and elevate your dessert game to the next level.

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