Do Half And Half Need To Be Refrigerated? (Let’s See)

Last updated on October 26th, 2022 at 05:19 pm

Some milk and dairy-based products like half and half are likely to go rancid if they’re not refrigerated.

Since half and half combine whole milk and cream, you may wonder if you need to put it in the refrigerator. Also, you have to know how long it can stay refrigerated. 

Half and half must be refrigerated, especially when you’ve opened the container. But, half and half in those little cups don’t need to be refrigerated. Refrigerating half and half increases the shelf life and keeps it fresh.

Does Half And Half Need Refrigeration After Opening?

Does Half And Half Need To Be Refrigerated

It would be best to refrigerate half and half cartons immediately after opening them.

Half and half also come in little packs, like the kind you see in coffee shops. 

You don’t have to put those in the refrigerator. However, you won’t use the contents all at once for the larger cartons, so you have to refrigerate them. 

Unopened cartons of half and half can last longer without refrigeration than open cartons.

However, you should put both opened and unopened cartons in a refrigerator. The combination of milk and cream makes half and half go bad very quickly.

You will find unopened half and half cartons in the grocery store refrigerator section.

Unopened half and half cartons will last at least 3-5 days past the best by date. 

So, when you’re buying half and half, make sure you check the expiry date. The larger cartons of half and half go rancid quickly after opening if they’re not refrigerated.

The smaller half and half are usually sealed and sterilized, so you don’t need to refrigerate them to keep the product fresh.

However, with proper refrigeration and preservation, you can preserve it for at least seven days after you’ve opened the carton.

Additionally, if you want to increase the product’s shelf life past the 7-10 days you get from refrigerating, you should consider freezing it.

When you freeze half and half, it will last for at least three months. And even beyond that.

Remember that frozen half and half will lose their original flavor and texture. The cream and dairy will separate, and the product will take on a grainy texture.

You may not be able to use it for coffee, but it’s still suitable for baking and cooking.

Since you’ve already opened the carton, pour the rest of the creamer into an airtight container.

Make sure you don’t fill it to the brim as half and half usually swells when frozen. So instead, put it in the freezer and only take it out when you want to use it.

How Long Can Half And Half Last Unrefrigerated?

Unrefrigerated half and half does not last very long.

Both opened, and unopened half and half need to be refrigerated, so the shelf life will reduce when you don’t put both unopened and opened cartons of half and half in the refrigerator.

For most products that require refrigeration, you need to refrigerate within an hour of opening them.

Also, you should know that an unopened carton of half and half will last longer without refrigeration than an opened one. But it won’t last very long either.

So, when the carton of half and half is unopened, it can last more than two hours, but once it’s opened, two hours is the best it can do.

Half and half is a dairy product, although it is a mixture of whole milk and half cream. 

And like most dairy products, you can’t store half and half at room temperature.

If you don’t refrigerate half and half, it will go rancid in about two hours. And if the day is scorching, maybe 90°F, that time becomes one hour.

So to keep half and half suitable for consumption, you need to keep it in a refrigerator or below 40°F. 

However, unlike the larger cartons of half and half that go bad very quickly, the smaller containers can sit out at room temperature without going bad.

So, those small packets you find at coffee shops are more shelf-stable. Thus, they don’t require refrigeration.

You can keep the small packets at room temperature for at least six months.

Finally, most brands of half and half are ultra-pasteurized, so they have a reasonably long shelf-life.

Usually, the mini-cups have a longer shelf life than the cartons, and they do not require refrigeration.

Also, half and half usually last longer than the best-before date, but make sure to check before you make a purchase.

Can Half And Half Be At Room Temperature?

Do not store a container of half and a half at room temperature. Except if you’ve bought those tiny containers of half and half that you most likely use once.

But the half and half you buy in a carton in the grocery store’s refrigerated section must always be refrigerated.

Even at the store, you will find the product in the refrigerated section with other dairy products.

And just like other dairy products, half and half go bad very quickly when it isn’t refrigerated. The weather also contributes to spoilage. 

Most brands will instruct that you store half and a half at temperatures of 40°F. It will spoil in about two hours when you leave half and half-open at room temperature. 

If the day is hot at maybe 90°F, it will spoil faster. In that case, you should store half and half in a refrigerator and not at room temperature.

On the other hand, the little creamer containers you find in coffee shops don’t need to be refrigerated.

The small containers are usually ultra-pasteurized and sealed tight. You can store those at room temperature.

Ultra-pasteurization means that before the manufacturers seal the creamers, they heat them at very high temperatures.

The process kills off all the harmful bacteria. Also, refrigeration is not essential for the smaller creamers because the optimal temperature is between 45-80°F. 

That means that room temperature will not make the half and half wrong.

But, for half and half packaged in cartons, the recommended storage temperature is 40°F and below. Anything above 40°F is not ideal for half and half. 

Once you unseal the container, you have to refrigerate it. Thus, for the small creamers, you only need to refrigerate them if you open one and there is any leftover.

But, for the half and half, you buy in cartons, you need to refrigerate whether it’s opened. 

How Do You Preserve Half And Half?

The most efficient way to preserve half and half is by refrigerating it. The half and half in cartons go bad very quickly if it isn’t refrigerated.

The instructions are to store the product at 40°F or lower temperatures, so keeping your half and half at room temperature is a no.

When storing half and half cartons in the fridge, seal the carton tightly if you’ve already opened it.

Also, keep the carton in the far corner of the fridge and not close to the door.

You most likely open the door a lot, so the temperature in that part of the refrigerator is unstable, which is not suitable for the half and half. 

Also, if you want to preserve your half and a half for extended periods, you can freeze it.

For example, you can put it in a plastic container with a tight lid or an ice-cube tray.

Once frozen, the half and half will last longer than it would have with just regular refrigeration.

However, half and half may take on a weird texture when you freeze it. It won’t go bad, but it will not be the texture you’re used to. But you can still use it for other purposes like cooking and baking. 

When you take it out, you’ll have to blend it so that the cream and milk will reintegrate. You can also preserve half and half in a freezer-safe plastic bag.

The little cups of creamer have a longer shelf-life and don’t need to be refrigerated, but you need to keep them in a cool and dry place, away from heat sources.

So, don’t keep the smaller cups near the heater, the cooker, or the stove. Also, keep the cups away from light.

This summary will describe the best storage options for half and half.

Half And Half TypeOpened Or UnopenedLifespanBest Storage Options
Half and half cartonsOpened5-7 daysRefrigeration 
Half and half cartonsUnopened7-10 days after best-by Refrigeration
Half and half cupsUnopenedTwo months after best-byShelf/pantry

Mostly, the signs of spoilage are noticeable. Once half and a half stay too long, it becomes rancid even if you refrigerate it.

And, consuming half spoiled and half is not suitable for anyone’s health. 

So, look for the following signs if you think your half and half may have stayed too long.

  • There may be lumps in the half and half.
  • The creamer has a strange sour smell.
  • It has a curdled appearance, especially when you put it in coffee.
  • Lastly, you may not need to check. If the item has been in the fridge or on the shelf for too long, throw it out.


Half and half need to be refrigerated, especially the one you buy from the fridge in the store’s dairy section.

But, the smaller creamers don’t need to be refrigerated. All you need to do is store them in a cool, dry place.

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