How Long Does Ice Cream Last?

A reader recently wrote to ask, “How long does ice cream last in the freezer?”

Oddly, I never gave it much thought since it doesn’t seem to linger too long around here. So I looked around and found the answer at the FDA website: 2-4 months.

The most common problem when ice creams and other frozen desserts spend too long in the freezer is the texture changes and if not covered properly (ideally with plastic wrap on the surface, then covered with a lid), they can get icy and pick up other flavors from the freezer.

If they do get icy, most sorbets and sherbets can be melted down and re-churned, as can Philadelphia-style ice creams made without eggs. But I find custard-based ice creams don’t re-freeze as successfully, so don’t let those sit around too long.

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The Easiest Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe…Ever

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Buying an Ice Cream Maker

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The Perfect Scoop: Now in Softcover!

Ice Cream Making FAQs

Recipes for Using Leftover Egg Whites



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10 comments

  • Trusting the FDA to be right about something? Not me.

    However, the key to the answer is how cold you keep your freezer….the colder it is the longer the ice cream will keep.

  • The site also says the freezer should be at 0 degrees F (-18 C). As for trusting the FDA, I think for storage times, they generally air on the side of caution. Unlike some other things…

  • I’ve been reading so much about ice cream on the food blogs today! You’re really making me wanna go grab an afternoon pick-me-up!

    Thanks for sharing this information. I never thought about it much either, but I do know I have found many a frostbitten pint of ice cream in my freezer throughout the years.

  • Ours gets ice crystals much faster than that–within a couple of weeks, maybe? Like chocolate, ice cream is best eaten right away, that’s what I think. The sooner the better, even.

  • Hi David,
    I hope you don’t mind, I’ve got a couple ice cream-related questions for you. I would’ve emailed them but the pop-up thingy wouldn’t work on my computer, so I hope it’s ok that I clutter your comments section.

    I have this crazy project to do about 15 ice creams in August and post them on the blog, just for fun, and because I’m insane. Or at least, as many as I can do while still fitting into my jeans. Anyway, I’ve done most of my brainstorming and have been testing recipes, but I had a couple questions:

    1. citric acid + cream?
    A lot of recipes call for lemon or citrus juice to be added directly to milk/cream. Won’t this curdle the mixture?

    Also, I tried making a quince ice cream by using chopped membrillo, but when I poured warm milk mixture over the chopped membrillo (hoping it would melt), it curdled.

    2. I’ve got flavor ideas coming out of my ears, and lots of books and other resources, but I thought it would be worthwhile to ask: What are some flavors or ice creams you love but didn’t manage to include in your book?

    Many, many thanks!

  • Hi Hillary: I never thought about it either, but I’ve learned if there’s a possible hole for a question, someone’s gonna ask you to fill it! But it was interesting to get the FDA’s low-down on it. I had no idea it was so short. (And presumably their guidelines are for food safety rather than taste & texture.)

    Mercedes: I would say to try them not using warm milk (unless you’re making paneer, that Indian cheese made by curdling warm milk.) Barbara Tropp’s Super Lemon Ice Cream in my book has fresh lemon juice and comes out great.

  • Quite inspiring.

  • Hi David,

    Sending you an e-mail didn’t work… and I have a few general ice cream questions. I’m a very big fan of “The Perfect Scoop” and would like a few suggestions from you. My soon to be turning 12 daughter is having a Mexican Fiesta birthday party and insists that for dessert she have a sundae stand with homemade ice creams and sauces. I have to choose 3 types of ice creams/frozen yogurts/sorbets, 3 sauces, and 3 good toppings or things that can be mixed into the ice cream.

    I would appreciate your help! Thank you so much!

  • Gabrielle: On my contact form, there’s a request for folks with ice cream questions to post them at my Ice Cream Questions and Answers page, as that’s where I look for questions and respond there.

    For a Mexican-themed party, I would suggested Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream, Vanilla Ice Cream (using real Mexican Vanilla) and Dulce de Leche Ice Cream. For sauces; I’d suggest hot fudge, perhaps a pineapple sauce flecked with lime zest, and marshmallow sauce. Mix ins would be chopped caramel, pretzels, and candied peanuts.

  • Hello David,

    I have a follow up question on the post you did for Ice cream expirations. I had a tub of ice cream in my freezer for two years. I picked at the freezer burns today and underneath it was the possibility of yumminess. So I made a two scoop cake cone and ate one scoop. Am I swimming towards food poisoning or what are the implications?

    Sincerely,

    Santos