How Long Can Macaroni And Cheese Sit Out? Read Before You Eat!

Published Categorized as Journal Tagged ,

A question on many people’s mind, is how long can macaroni and cheese sit out before it begins to spoil? The answer depends on when you make it, when you plan to eat it, and how long you wish to continue to enjoy this creamy, cheesy treat. Read before you eat!

How Long Can Macaroni And Cheese Sit Out? Read Before You Eat!

Table of Contents

Does Mac And Cheese Need to Be Refrigerated?

Yes, mac and cheese must be refrigerated especially if you’re planning to store it for longer. Once stored in the refrigerator, mac and cheese will remain good to eat for up to three days.

Hey there! This site is reader-supported and I earn commissions if you purchase products from retailers after clicking on a link from this site.

A fresh pot of macaroni and cheese can remain unrefrigerated for no longer than 2 hours before it begins to spoil. So always aim to refrigerate your mac and cheese within this time frame.

How Long Can Mac And Cheese Sit Out?

Mac and cheese cannot sit out on the kitchen counter for more than 2 hours, similar to every other perishable food. This is because bacteria like to grow at room temperature, making your freshly cooked food an easier target, thus entering the danger zone!

While no one likes to waste food as soon as they’ve cooked it, it’s always better to refrigerate your mac and cheese within 2 hours. This ensures that it is stored properly so that it can be enjoyed over the next few days.

How Long Can Kraft Mac And Cheese Sit Out?

While Kraft mac and cheese can be different from ordinary mac and cheese, the storage instructions are exactly the same. Kraft mac and cheese must not sit out for longer than 2 hours, primarily if you’re planning to eat it over the next couple of days!

Mac And Cheese Left Out For 3 Hours

If you’ve forgotten about your mac and cheese, and have had it sit out for 3 hours, then it isn’t completely safe to eat. This is because perishable food like mac and cheese must not sit out for more than two hours!

Regardless, three hours is not an extreme amount of time for your mac and cheese to have been left out. So in some cases, it can be safe to consume. To prevent food poisoning, always make sure your mac and cheese do not emit a weird smell before taking a bite!

Mac And Cheese Left Out For 5 hours

While it might’ve been risky to eat cooked macaroni that has been left out for 3 hours, 5 hours might’ve encouraged the harmful bacteria to target your mac and cheese, therefore deeming it unsafe to eat. Even though there may be a very slim chance that your mac and cheese will be good to eat, you must remember that it mustn’t be left out for more than 2 hours!

Consequently, any type of perishable food that remains unrefrigerated for 5 hours is unsafe to eat and must be discarded.

Mac And Cheese Left Out For 6 Hours

If 5 hours is destructive, then 6 hours is more harmful. Undoubtedly, mac and cheese that hasn’t been refrigerated for 5 hours must not be consumed under any circumstances, which means that its fate remains the same as the hour increases.

If you’ve had the unfortunate mishap of forgetting about your perfectly cooked mac and cheese for more than 2 hours, then alas it’s time to bid adios to the creamy, cheesy dish.

How Long Can Macaroni And Cheese Sit Out? Read Before You Eat!

What Happens If Mac And Cheese Sit Out Too Long?

If your mac and cheese have sat at room temperature for too long or overnight, then you must dispose of it. Mac and cheese is the kind of dish that must be eaten immediately or refrigerated within 2 hours. Anything beyond that is too risky to eat!

Since macaroni contains dairy such as milk and fresh cheese, it can go bad very quickly. You might even notice some bluish-black hues on your mac and cheese which is a sign of mold, as well as an off-putting smell.

How to Tell If Mac And Cheese Has Gone Bad?

When cooked macaroni and cheese has gone bad you will notice some of the following:

Unpleasant Smell

Spoiled mac and cheese will emanate a strong and off-putting smell, unlike its pleasant creamy and cheesy smell. Once your mac and cheese begins to smell sour, rancid, or rotten, get rid of it immediately.


One of the most unmistakable signs that mac and cheese have gone bad is the growth of mold. If you discover any kind of fuzzy white or green spots in your cheesy dish, dispose of it instantly.


Fresh mac and cheese should have a nice bright yellow color. If the mac and cheese has transformed to an ashy gray or green color, then it has spoiled.


Mac and cheese should taste creamy, cheesy, and wonderful, while spoiled mac and cheese will taste sour, with distasteful lumps in the sauce.

Still unsure if your mac and cheese is good enough to eat? Check out does mac and cheese expire for more insight.

How Long Can Macaroni And Cheese Sit Out? Read Before You Eat!

The Best Way to Store Mac And Cheese

You must aim to consume your mac and cheese within a couple of days after making it, otherwise, it will lose its freshness and aroma. Some of the ways to store mac and cheese are as follows:

Keep it at Room Temperature

Your creamy pot of mac and cheese must not be refrigerated immediately after cooking. Instead, allow the creamy, cheesy dish to cool at room temperature for 1-2 hours. If you’re planning to freeze it, then you should use plastic bags or airtight containers for freezing.

Keep it Airtight

Seal your mac and cheese in an airtight container before placing it in a plastic bag. This is to prevent any moisture from escaping the container, allowing the freshness and aroma to remain locked within the container, effectively preserving its taste.

Keep it Refrigerated

Since mac and cheese is made with processed products, it doesn’t remain fresh when refrigerated for more than a few days. If you plan to eat your mac and cheese within the next couple of days then refrigerate it, or freeze it accordingly.

Avoid Using Processed Cheese

If you wish to have your mac and cheese remaining fresh ad aromatic for longer, then avoid using processed cheese as this plays a major part in the destruction of mac and cheese, especially when it’s kept unrefrigerated.

How Long Can Macaroni And Cheese Sit Out? Read Before You Eat!

Can You Freeze Mac And Cheese?

Yes you can certainly freeze mac and cheese if you don’t plan on eating it all in a single sitting.

It’s best to eat mac and cheese within 2-3 days of cooking it. But if you plan to keep it for longer, then place it in an airtight container, then wrap it in a plastic bag. Frozen mac and cheese can be thawed in the microwave.

Is Homemade Mac And Cheese Better Than Instant Macaroni?

This will depend on your personal taste.

While some may love the taste of instant Kraft macaroni, others may prefer to cook their own homemade version, with unique twists to make it even more delightful.

Here are just some of the things you can do to your homemade mac and cheese to make it taste incredible!

Use Different Cheeses

Boxed mac and cheese is often yellow in color, or a type of powder that becomes nice and creamy once you add some milk. While that is incredible in itself, homemade mac and cheese offers so much more. You can choose from a variety of cheeses to suit your taste buds:

Add Some Veggies

Adding veggies to your mac and cheese can be a fun way to get your kids into the habit of liking their greens. And what’s not to like, when they’re smothered in veggies? Here are some delicious vegetables you can add to your mac and cheese:

  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Zucchini
  • Squash
  • Carrots

Use Meat

If you love meat, then why not include it in this super creamy mac and cheese? Here are some tasty meats that you can include for additional flavor:

  • Seasoned ground beef
  • Shredded chicken
  • Pepperoni
  • Salami
  • Sausage

Add Breadcrumbs

Mac and cheese is divine when served on its own, but when topped with additional ingredients it only tastes better!

If you haven’t tried mac and cheese topped with crisp bread crumbs, then you’re missing out. These delicious tiny additions contribute to flavor, texture, and make an overall satiating treat.

So How Long Can Mac And Cheese Sit Out?

Mac and cheese must not remain unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours. Anything beyond that must be thrown away. Moreover, if you’re planning to save some mac and cheese for later then you can easily store your mac and cheese in the freezer or refrigerator depending on how soon you wish to devour it.

How Long Can Macaroni And Cheese Sit Out – FAQs

Can You Leave Macaroni Out Overnight?

No. Macaroni cannot be left out for more than 2 hours.

How Long Can Mac And Cheese Be Stored In The Fridge?

Refrigerated mac and cheese should last about 3-4 days if kept refrigerated.

Can I Freeze Leftover Mac And Cheese?

Yes, you can freeze leftover mac and cheese. Freezing mac and cheese is a great way to preserve any leftovers especially for a busy night when there’s no time to cook!

How Long Does Macaroni And Cheese Last Unrefrigerated?

Macaroni and cheese must not be left unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours, and should be discarded if left out any longer.

How Do You Know When Mac And Cheese Goes Bad?

Spoiled mac and cheese will emit an unpleasant smell unlike its flavorful creamy, cheesy smell. It will have a moldy appearance, and should be thrown out immediately.

Does Mac And Cheese Need to be Refrigerated?

Yes. Cooked mac and cheese must be placed in the fridge within two hours of cooking.

How Long Can Mac And Cheese Sit Out The Fridge?

Mac and cheese can only sit out at room temperature for 2 hours, before it begins to deteriorate.

How long Can You Leave Frozen Mac And Cheese Out?

Similarly, frozen mac and cheese should only be left out to thaw for less than 2 hours, anything after that must be discarded immediately.

By Anna

Anna Brooks, the voice behind, is a seasoned writer and editor with an insatiable love for food. While not a professional chef, her culinary adventures and unique insights have captivated readers for years. Anna believes in the transformative power of food, stating it "feeds the soul." Dive into her writings for a mix of inspiration, entertainment, and culinary wisdom. Author Pinterest Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Tumblr Reddit Quora

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *