Does Feta Go Bad? How To Know?

Does your feta cheese go bad? What will happen if you accidentally eat a spoiled one? And most importantly, how to know if feta has gone off? In fact, feta has a natural sour yeastly tang that resembles the feet or vomit for some people.

Yes, feta will go bad. Fresh feta smells mildly acidic with a little pungent aroma. It should look sleek dry, crumbly, and slimy on the outside but not the inside when you cut it. And it tastes milky, savoury, tangy and salty.

The spoiled feta will have an overly strong sour smell. The texture can get dried and darkened. For brined feta, the surface can get more slimy than usual, mushy and also sticky. Check to make sure no molds or darken spots on the cheese.

In short, the fresh feta smells like baby vomit while the spoiled feta smells like adult vomit…if that’s the right word.

How long does feta last?

Feta cheese will not last long if sit out unrefrigerated, where It will only last for about 2 to 4 hours at room temperature. It should be discarded if longer than that, as mold and bacteria will start to take place and multiply.

Opened feta that comes in brined water can normally last for about 2 to 4 weeks in the fridge. If unopened, it can last for months in the fridge – the printed expired date is usually 3 months after the production.

As for the crumbled feta or block feta, in the fridge, can last for 3 months if unopened. It reduces to a week or less if opened. Below is the comparison table:

Crumbled/Block Feta (unopened)Crumbled/Block Feta (opened)Brined Feta (unopened)Brined Feta (opened)
Refrigerated shelf life3 months1 week or less3 months 2-4 weeks

What happens if you eat expired feta? Can you get sick from that?

If you accidentally stored feta cheese for too long and it doesn’t look fresh, while you may not get sick, it sure is unpleasant to eat. But, if the feta cheese smells sour, looks slimy or mushy, and has molds growing on it, you should definitely not eat it.

It can contain harmful molds and bacteria like Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli. Some molds will produce a poisonous substance called mycotoxins, which can cause adverse health effect from mild to severe. You could get an upset stomach, allergic reaction, or even a life-threatening scenario.

Is feta supposed to smell?

A fresh feta smells like, well… a fresh feta. It carries a mild acidic tangy smell by nature. That’s because the (Greek) feta production ages the cheese for at least 2-3 months brined in an oak barrel. A certain salt-loving molds and bacteria will then start to take place breaking down the lactose and protein. The process will release a slightly sour or “off” smell that you’ll find in spoiled food.

Same goes for other salt-fermented foods as well, e.g. the Chinese stinky tofu and Surströmming.

There is also a yeast-like or mushroom smell, especially in the artisanal feta cheese. Different types of yeast found in feta cheese play an unclear role, which could be responsible for the off-flavor and spoilage.

You might also find feta smells feet-like or dirty socks odor, or even similar to mulched lawn clippings. It could be due to the bacteria E. faecium found in all stages of feta cheese manufacturing, where the smell compounds released by this bacteria. This bacteria also found in bowel & gut, its odor had been discussed.

Notably, L. brevis (1) producing a harsh, vinegar-like flavor (2). Some other Lactobacillus strains of bacteria in feta cheese are responsible for the production of stinky Volatile Sulphur Compounds (VOCs) (3), which also commonly found in sweaty feet.

How to tell if feta has gone off?

First the obvious, check the expiry date. Make sure it’s still safe to eat, at least from its label.

Next, inspect the cheese surface. It should be tofu-like but crumbly. Make sure there’s no molds or dark spots on it. Sometimes, molds can be too tiny to see or in various colors and shapes. They can also be in one big cluster, or scattered.

Check the texture and consistency of feta. If it feels mushy, slimy or stick, discard it.

For crumbled feta, fridge for too long can make it hard and dry. It may be still safe to eat, but would be unpleasant.

Lastly, smell the feta cheese. Trust your nose, it should smell fresh with pleasant sourness. A bad feta might develop an overly sour smell, strong “off” odor, and even beer-like smell.

Feta also has this umami taste if you are not familiar.

How to store feta cheese fresh longer

You can keep your unfinished crumbled feta or brined feta fresh for an extended period of time. Block feta or crumbed feta becomes dry very quickly in the fridge. Usually, the refrigerated shelf life (opened) is 1 week or less.

You can use this method to extend it up to 3 weeks.

Simply by preparing a brine water (dissolve 2 tsp. salt in 1 cup of water) in a container. Alternatively, you can use salted milk too for a better result.

Use an airtight container, or a sealable zipper bag. For zipper bag, squeeze out as much air as possible. Cover your feta cheese completely in the solution and keep it in the fridge.

If your feta comes submerged in brine water, you can use the solution back.

Check for molds every time in between the movement.