Does Dip Need to Be Refrigerated? | All Types Covered


Chips and dip are a party staple, from a casual night with friends to formal family gatherings and even outdoor barbeque parties. But what do you do with the dip when the party is over? All dips are not the same when it comes to how long they will last after they are opened. From store-bought to homemade and everything in between, the rules vary.

All dips should be refrigerated once opened in order to maximize shelf life. However, before opening you can store them in the same manner they were at the store where you bought them. Homemade dips should always be put in an airtight container and refrigerated.

Type of DipLasts in the Fridge Once Opened
Sour CreamUp to 3 weeks
Cream cheese dip3-4 days
Queso/Cheese-basedUp to 2 weeks
Guacamole3-5 days
SalsaUp to 1 week

While these are not exact indications, they are approximations based on the ingredients that go into a dip. Keep reading to determine which dips need to be refrigerated and how long they will last in the refrigerator.

Sour Cream Dips Must Be Refrigerated

A good bag of potato chips and some french onion dip are a hit combo at gatherings and parties of all kinds. You can purchase a ready-made dip at any supermarket, or you can make your own with sour cream and a mix, or with your own recipe from scratch.

Once opened, sour cream-based dips will last for 7 to 10 days. They should not sit out for long and must be properly stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Sour cream-based dips like french onion must be refrigerated after being opened. Once you open a store-bought sour cream dip, the clock is ticking.

  • It should not be sitting out for more than two to three hours.
  • It should be refrigerated after being opened, no matter how long it has been left out.
  • Properly stored, a store-bought sour cream dip can last in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

The rules are different for homemade dips.

Cream Cheese Dips Are Often Homemade

Sour cream dips are extremely popular, but cream cheese dips are next in line. Made with a base of cream cheese, these dips are most often homemade.

  • Cream cheese dips can be spicy.
  • Cream cheese dips can be sweet, resembling dessert.
  • Cream cheese dips can be incredibly thick with dairy, acting as meal replacements.

After being prepared, cream cheese dips must be properly stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator before and after being served. They will last approximately 3 to 4 days.

Homemade queso, or the side you bought at the Mexican restaurant, should only be left out for up to 2 hours. After that, it’s better to play it safe and throw it out. I recommended using a good airtight container, like this one found on Amazon. Never store queso in the restaurant container!

Homemade dips, or the side you bought at the restaurant, should only be left out for up to 2 hours. After that, it’s better to play it safe and throw it out. I recommended using a good airtight container, like this one found on Amazon. Never store dip in the restaurant container!

How Can You Tell If Cheese Dip Is Bad?

Bad cheese dip will have an unpleasant odor. It will look different than when it was fresh. Additionally, cheese dip that has gone bad can develop mold. Once this occurs, throw out the cheese dip.

You should not eat expired cheese dip. Dairy-based dips can make you sick. Queso often contains raw milk products, which can cause food poisoning by way of salmonella or listeria. If your queso is questionable, go ahead and get rid of it.

Queso, Guacamole, and Salsa

Mexican Queso Dip on a Plate with Nachos

Queso and other cheese-based dips are commonly served with tortilla chips. It might be spicy, mild, thick, or thin.

When you buy it in the store, after it is opened, queso and cheese-based dips will last up to three to four days in the refrigerator. Homemade dips will last about 2 to 3 days.

Guacamole and salsa have considerably more varieties than any other kind of dip. Some salsa varieties include:

  • Tomato-based
  • Corn-based
  • Fruit-based
  • Vinegar-based
  • Heavily spiced

Guacamole uses avocado and many of the same ingredients as salsa. Both types of dip are used with chips, bread, and as condiments for food. They both must also be refrigerated and properly stored after being opened. The time they will last vary according to if they were store-bought or homemade.

Type of DipHomemade in FridgeStore-Bought in Fridge
Guacamole2-3 days3-5 days
Salsa3-4 days1 week

As with sour cream and cream cheese dips, these times depend on how long the dips are out after being opened and what the conditions are where they are served. Homemade guacamole will also turn brown on top soon after the air hits it due to oxidation of the avocado. A squeeze of lemon juice and a tight seal with no air space can help combat that in storage.

“Best By” and “Use By” Dates

Before you open your store-bought dip, you may note the “best by” or “use by” date printed on the container. There is some confusion about what this means. 

  • “Best by” means that you can still eat the dip if it has not been opened by this date. 
  • “Use by” means that the dip is expired by the date and should not be used. 
  • Both dates refer to the dip before it is opened.

There is usually guidance on the dip container about how long a dip can be stored after it is opened.

You can eat a dip after its best by date, provided it has been unopened and properly stored. However, the dip might not taste as good after that date has passed.

Some Dips Do Not Have a Printed Expiration Date

If you lose the container your store-bought dip comes from, or if the dip is homemade, there will not be an expiration date. This does not mean that the dip will not go bad. There are ways to tell if the dip is bad, even if you cannot see the expiration date.

Sour cream and cream cheese dips might have discoloration if they have gone bad. If you cannot tell, check for a bad smell. Lastly, if you are still unsure whether or not the dip has gone bad, taste a tiny amount. You should be able to notice a sour taste similar to sour milk.

Guacamole and salsa are a little different because they are so colorful. You will have to rely on scent and taste to find out if the dip has gone bad. The taste will be sharp and sour if you should not eat it.

Factors That Determine Refrigerator Life

There are multiple factors that determine how long a dip can survive in the refrigerator. Aside from the type of dip, you will need to note:

  • How long the dip is out of the fridge before being stored
  • The conditions where the dip sits outside the fridge
  • If the dip is homemade,
  • The “best by” or “use by” date printed on store-bought dips
  • If a homemade dip was made elsewhere
  • If a store-bought dip was opened
  • How to properly wrap up the dip for storage

Each of these factors will determine if the dip needs to be refrigerated and how long it will last once it is opened, properly stored, and put in the refrigerator.

Final Thoughts

There are many kinds of dips that you will enjoy during your culinary forays. Unless the dip is store-bought and has not been opened, it must be refrigerated. If someone brings a dip to your party and you are unsure, refrigerate it. With these guidelines, you will always be able to safely enjoy a dip.

I hope this article has been helpful. Thanks for reading!

For more, check out Do Eggs Really Need to Be Refrigerated? | Storage Guide.

Anne James

Hi, I'm Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I have over 50 years of experience as a Southern cook and am a retired librarian. I love sharing what I have learned. You can find me on YouTube as well! Just click the link at the bottom of your page. I hope your visit here has been a sweet one.

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