Cream cheese is a soft, mild-tasting cheese made from pasteurized cow's milk and cream. Soft cheeses like this can be used as a topping for your bagel or as an ingredient in the best cheesecake. If you use cream cheese, you might wonder - how long can cream cheese sit out? Should it go in the fridge right after use, or can you leave it out for a long time?
The standard time for cream cheese outside the fridge is two hours at room temperature. Some say that four hours is okay for the product. If it sits out for too long, it can spoil or attract germs that can cause harm to the body.
If you’re interested in learning more about the shelf life of cream cheese, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to learn more about how long cream cheese lasts, if you can leave it out overnight, and how to soften cream cheese. Let’s get started!
How long does cream cheese last?
Cream cheese lasts longer than many other dairy products—like cottage cheese. If you leave unopened cream cheese in the refrigerator at a temperature of about forty degrees, it should last one month past the expiration date in its foil wrapper.
Once you open the product, it should be used within ten days for the best results. Any longer than that, you may get mold growth on the top. It's always critical to check your food to ensure it's fresh before using it in a recipe or as a spread.
Does cream cheese go bad?
Cream cheese can definitely go bad both in the refrigerator and at room temperature. When buying cream cheese, it's a good idea to purchase a package with an expiry date far in the future. I like to reach farther back in the stack at the store, as they typically keep the freshest packages in the back!
What if your cream cheese goes bad? How can you tell if it’s gone too far? Let’s talk about a few common indications of bad cream cheese.
How can you tell if it's gone bad?
If you’re nervous about bad cream cheese, it can help to know indications of spoilage. In cream cheese, these are typically obvious. Here are a few signs that will let you know that you're in the danger zone.
- Color Changes: The cream cheese may take on a yellowish tint if it’s gone bad.
- Mold Growth: You may note flecks of mold accompanied by a sour smell.
- Slime: There might be a layer of slime on top of the cream cheese.
- Dryness: There may be strange patches of dryness on the cream cheese.
Toss the cream cheese if you see any of these to avoid food poisoning. You cannot save cream cheese that's been out too long. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so throw it away as soon as possible.
Can you leave cream cheese out overnight?
If your home sits at the same temperature as a fridge, you can leave the cream cheese out forever. However, most homes are closer to sixty-five to seventy-five degrees. Cream cheese should only sit out for two hours in this environment.
You should not leave your cream cheese out overnight. If you do, you raise the risk of bacterial growth and food poisoning.
If your home leans to the cooler side, your cream cheese may be okay overnight. However, I still don't recommend this practice.
How to soften cream cheese
Don't soften cold cream cheese by letting it sit out for a long time. If you do, it could spoil quickly. So, how do you practically soften cream cheese?
Here are three easy ways to soften cream cheese without leaving it out for hours:
- Place it in the microwave for a few seconds at a time.
- Soften it in warm water, still wrapped in foil.
- Slice and dice before letting it sit out on the kitchen counter for thirty minutes.
You can then use the product in your recipe. I'm a fan of my pecan carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Remember that cream cheese frosting can sit out for up to two hours and then needs to be refrigerated. Frosting can last two weeks (tightly covered) in the refrigerator.
Softened cream cheese comes in handy for many recipes. What about the storage process afterward? How do you store cream cheese?
How to store cream cheese
The best way to store fresh cream cheese is to keep it in its original packaging. Once you open the cream cheese, you need to use it within ten days for the best results. This is in accordance with guidance from food safety experts at the Food and Drug Administration.
If you open cream cheese and want to store it again, I recommend storing it in aluminum foil or plastic wrap. You can also store it in an airtight container. Keeping the cream cheese free from air exposure will prolong the lifespan of your package.
You can also freeze cream cheese using the proper storage conditions. This is the easiest way to store it for an extended period of time. It's best used for baking after freezing as the texture changes.
Check out these delicious recipes
Cream cheese really takes baked goods up a notch! It adds richness without being too heavy. Plus, it's soft and creamy, adding just the right amount of texture and flavor!
I think that's what makes it so great - it's perfect for baking, whether you're making cookies, cakes, muffins, scones, etc. It adds delicious flavor, moisture, and texture to all kinds of baked goods. Be sure to try out some of my favorite recipes featuring cream cheese!
Cream cheese is a perishable food, which means it can’t sit outside the refrigerator for more than a couple of hours. I call this the two-hour rule! While most experts recommend that cream cheese rests in room temperature areas for no more than two hours, some extend it to four hours. If you notice any strange growths or textures, throw the cream cheese away as soon as possible.