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Do You Have to Refrigerate Jell-O Pudding? (Cups and Dry Mix)

Do You Have to Refrigerate Jell-O Pudding? (Cups and Dry Mix)

We all love us some Jell-O pudding! Whether it’s the original cups or the dry mix you have to prepare at home, Jell-O is just so delicious, isn’t it?

As so many people buy and enjoy this type of pudding, many out there also wonder how to store Jell-O pudding correctly and if you must refrigerate it.

While you don’t have to refrigerate Jell-O’s dry pudding mix, the popular ready-to-eat Jell-O pudding cups have to be stored in the fridge, as they contain dairy. Unopened, the cups can be stored in the fridge for several months, but once opened, they should be consumed within 3 to 5 days.

Keep reading this article and find out more about the shelf life of Jell-O pudding, whether you can freeze it, and how to know if your pudding has gone bad. 

This article includes information from credible sources to support its recommendations.

Does Jell-O Pudding Need to Be Refrigerated?

a pack of chocolate vanilla jell-o pudding cups

Jell-O Pudding, which comes in refrigerated and shelf-stable versions, has different storage requirements.

Ready-to-eat Jell-O Pudding cups must be stored in the refrigerator. This type of Jell-O Pudding contains dairy products and hence requires refrigeration to maintain its freshness and prevent spoilage. 

For optimal taste and quality, you should consume your Jell-O pudding within a few days once you’ve opened them. 

Of course, they’ll taste best if you eat them right away, but eating them later the same day or the day after is generally fine if you cover the cups well. (for example, with plastic wrap or aluminum foil)

If you don’t cover them, the pudding’s surface will quickly dry out and give it a pretty off-turning taste and texture. 

However, if still unopened, Jell-O pudding packs can remain fresh in the fridge for several months. About three months is the standard time for this type of food, but always check the best-before date on your Jell-O cups to be sure!

Keep in mind, though, that the best-before date is an indicator of quality rather than food safety! 

Your Jell-O pudding might still be safe to eat beyond its best-before date, even though its overall quality, flavor, and texture won’t be as good anymore. 

a pack of instant chocolate jell-o pudding mix

Shelf-stable Jell-O Pudding, the instant powder type you have to prepare at home, on the other hand, does not need to be refrigerated as long as it is in its dry form.

Once the mix is ready, though, it’ll also have to be stored in the fridge! You can keep your pudding mix there for about 5 to 7 days

How Long Can Jell-O Pudding Cups Sit Out?

Both ready-to-eat Jell-O cups and Jell-O pudding made from dry mix shouldn’t sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. 

If foods like that are kept at higher temperatures for longer than 2 hours, there is a considerable risk that harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning and other serious illnesses grow on them. 

Bacteria generally grow most rapidly at temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F, a range commonly referred to as the “danger zone.”

So a room temperature environment (68 to 77 °F) is perfect for such bacterial growth! That’s why this 2-hour rule is so crucial to remember when it comes to food!

DID YOU KNOW: If the temperature is above 90 °F, your food shouldn’t sit out for more than 1 hour!

So if your pudding has been left out for more than 2 hours (or 1 hour at temperatures above room temperature), it’s best to toss it. Better be safe than sorry, right?

Can You Freeze Jell-O Pudding?

You can definitely freeze your ready-to-eat and mixed Jell-O pudding, although, if you ask me, freezing the dry mix variant yields better results once thawed!

The ready-to-eat pudding in the cups may change texture and consistency once thawed. 

That’s because Jell-O pudding contains dairy products, and when dairy is frozen and then thawed, it can separate and become grainy or watery.

So if you love that creamy and smooth texture of Jell-O pudding, that might be gone when you take it out of your freezer. The flavor should, however, remain unaffected.

If you still wish to freeze your Jell-O Pudding, here are some helpful tips:

  1. Packaging: Leave the pudding in its original, unopened cup, as this provides the best protection against freezer burn.
  2. Freezing Time: Aim to consume your frozen pudding within 1-2 months. Beyond this point, freezer burn and other quality issues may develop.
  3. Thawing: To thaw frozen Jell-O Pudding, put it in the fridge and let it thaw overnight. Don’t let it thaw at room temperature, as this can lead to uneven thawing and potential bacterial growth (remember that 2-hour rule?)
  4. After Thawing: Due to the potential changes in texture and smoothness, thawed Jell-O Pudding is best used in recipes where the altered texture won’t be as noticeable. Why not put it in your cake fillings or use it as an ingredient in dessert recipes?

REMEMBER: the above guidelines are for quality purposes only! Freezing and thawing your Jell-O may affect the texture and overall enjoyment of the pudding, but it won’t make it unsafe to eat. Unless it was already spoiled before you froze it, that is!

How Do You Know if Jell-O Pudding Has Gone Bad?

an opened pack of ready-to-eay jell-o pudding

If you need clarification on whether or not your Jell-O pudding is spoiled, there are a few simple ways of checking

First, check the best before or best by date on the cup. 

This date indicates when the product is expected to remain at its peak quality. Again, this isn’t a safety indicator, but the quality of the product may start to decline if it has passed that date.

Next, closely check your pudding for signs of spoilage. 

Changes in color or the presence of mold are clear signs that the pudding has gone bad. Any off-looking discolorations or patches on the pudding, particularly if they’re green, black, or pink, can indicate mold growth.

You can also smell your pudding. 

Good pudding has a sweet and pleasant smell! If it has an off or sour smell, it is highly probable that your pudding is too old.

And lastly, check the texture of your pudding. 

Jell-O pudding should have a smooth and creamy texture, so it may be spoiled if its texture is lumpy or watery.

If you’re still in doubt, it’s best to remain on the safe side and just discard your pudding. It might sting a little, but it’s much safer to head to the store and buy a fresh pack of Jell-O! You don’t want to get seriously ill from eating out-of-date pudding, do you? Not worth it!

Can You Get Sick From Eating Expired Jell-O Pudding?

As is the case with all spoiled food, eating Jell-O pudding that has gone bad can lead to foodborne illnesses (such as food poisoning).

If you’re lucky, you’ll only experience “mild” symptoms like:

  • stomach pain
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea 

However, depending on the type of bacteria or pathogen that has grown on the pudding, you can also get seriously or, in the worst case, even life-threateningly ill from eating spoiled Jell-O!

I don’t want to scare you, but it’s super important to be aware of these things!

As I’ve mentioned earlier, Jell-O pudding contains dairy and can potentially harbor pathogens like Salmonella or Listeria, which can make you severely ill. 

That’s why it is so important to store your Jell-O pudding properly and consume it within the recommended time frames! 

So, again, when in doubt, toss that pudding, go to the store, and get yourself a new package! Your taste buds and health will forever thank you!

Bon appetite!

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