How long can cream cheese sit out?

Do you wonder how long can cream cheese sit out to soften for baking and cooking? Here's a guide!

Block of opened cream cheese.

Why you need this guide

When making recipes like Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip, you soften cream cheese to easily mix it with the other ingredients.

But what if you forget and leave the cream cheese out too long? How long is too long?

Here are some tips on how to soften cream cheese. And how to know how long cream cheese can be out of the fridge.

What's the best way to soften cream cheese

The easiest way to soften cream cheese is to leave it out on the countertop for a couple of hours. Recipes call for it to be nice and soft to use in baked goods and recipes like The Best No Bake Oreo Cheesecake.

But if you're like most cooks, you forget to do this in advance! Unless you time to leave the kitchen and do something else for a couple of hours, here are a few tips on how to soften cream cheese quickly.

I've also included some info on what happens if you forget and leave a block of your favorite Philadelphia Cream Cheese out all day – or overnight!

How to soften cream cheese in the microwave

The quickest method is to soften fresh cream cheese in the microwave.

Microwave the cream cheese for 15 seconds. Then repeat in 5-second increments until soft and ready to use in cream cheese frosting or other recipes.

Whisk mixing softened cream cheese in a bowl.

How to quickly soften cream cheese

The fastest way to soften cream cheese is in the microwave.

The second fastest way to soften cream cheese is using a hot water bath.

Submerge the sealed, unopened package of cream cheese in the hot water until soft. This should take about 10 minutes.

Finally, you can speed up softening cream cheese at room temperature by cutting it into long strips. Then cut it into smaller blocks. Place the blocks on a plate or baking sheet with space in between the pieces.

The cream cheese should be soft in about 20-30 minutes, depending on how warm it is in your kitchen.

Note: if you see liquid seeping out of the cream cheese during softening, don't worry. Just add it to your recipe along with the softened cream cheese.

How to tell whether cream cheese is soft enough?

How can you tell if the cream cheese is ready?

Simply press into it with the back of a spoon or your fingers. If it gives slightly, it's good to use.

Use it in this Mardi Gras King Cake with Cream Cheese Filling or The Best Oreo Balls Recipe. Delicious!

Small white bowl of softened cream cheese.

How long can cream cheese sit out at room temperature?

Dairy products like cream cheese are made out of pasteurized fresh milk fat. Soft cheeses like cream cheese and cottage cheese have short lifespans. Hard cheeses last longer.

Cream cheese can easily get spoiled if left out of the fridge for longer than two hours.

If you're worried about forgetting about perishable foods being left out, set a timer.

If you change your mind about cooking with room temp cream cheese, pop it back in the refrigerator. Store cream cheese in an airtight container.

Can you put room temp cream cheese back in the fridge?

Have a small amount of cream cheese leftover after cooking?

If it hasn't been left out too long (under 2 hours) it can be refrigerated.

Wrap it in aluminum foil and place it in an airtight container. Then place the cream cheese in the fridge ASAP!

Closeup of a cream cheese covered bagel and a knife.

Can I leave cream cheese out overnight to soften?

It's not safe to cook with or eat cream cheese that was left out overnight on the kitchen counter. Hours of room temperature exposure is a good way to be exposed to harmful bacteria. No one wants that!

Foodsafety.gov advises you to throw out any food that is unrefrigerated for more than two hours.

Bacterial growth starts after two hours of being at room temperature.

Did you spoil the cream cheese? Then check out this list of The 14 Best Substitutes for Cream Cheese for some alternatives.

What are the signs of spoilage?

Spoiled cheese may develop pink, green, or black mold.

Unlike hard cheeses, the bad news is that you cannot cut off the mold and still eat the rest of the block. There are tendrils of mold (and unseen harmful bacteria) throughout the cheese. So, toss the entire block if there is any mold.

You may also see a cracked, lumpy texture under a watery surface. The cream cheese will have a sour taste and a sour smell.

While eating some spoiled cream cheese is usually harmless, you don't want to get food poisoning. If it tastes funny, spit it out and toss the cream cheese.

Small white bowl of cream cheese with a cream cheese covered bagel and knife on a wooden cutting board.

Is cream cheese good after the expiration date?

Unopened cream cheese lasts for 2-3 weeks past the expiry date.

Once you open the package, the shelf life of cream cheese is limited. It's best to use it up right away! Keep it in an air tight container to keep it as fresh as possible.

It's a good idea to wrap the cream cheese in aluminum foil to keep the moisture content in.

Can you freeze cream cheese?

If you have a large amount of fresh regular cream cheese, freeze it. Just make sure it’s unopened cream cheese in its original packaging. The foil wrapping and cardboard box provide good protection against freezer burn and funky freezer aromas.

You can keep frozen cream cheese in the freezer for up to two months. Make sure to date the packages so you know when you placed them in your freezer!

Thaw cream cheese in the refrigerator. Use thawed cream cheese as you would fresh cream cheese.

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