How Long Can Cream Cheese Sit Out?

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How long can cream cheese sit out? Good question, the quick answer: No more than 2 hours of room temperature exposure.


According to food safety experts, more than a couple of hours sitting at room temperature can start to creep into the danger zone of bacteria growth. Bacteria starts to grow when temperatures reach between 40 – 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This two-hour rule even applies to new, unopened packages of cream cheese.

If you leave cream cheese to sit out for under two hours on the counter, or you have leftover cream cheese you can wrap it in aluminum foil and put it in an airtight container, and place it back into the refrigerator.

Check below for more FAQs

toast with cream cheese spread, bite taken out

Is my cream cheese spoiled?

There are a lot of signs your cream cheese will give you, letting you know that it’s time to let it go! Only takes a couple of bucks to replace bad cheese so don’t tempt fate with yucky cheese.

Visual cues are a good way to show you signs of spoilage:

-Cracked and dry

-Slimy texture

-Patches of discoloration – yellowish, blue, or green mold formation. Many hard kinds of cheese with mold can be easily cut away, whereas soft cheeses should be thrown out at the first sign of mold.

-A sour smell is the best way to determine if dairy products have any bacterial growth.

-Sour taste. Now hopefully before you get to taste a bad cream cheese, those other cues will have let you know first before potentially getting stomach cramps from harmful bacteria. IF you did eat spoiled cream cheese unknowingly, you could develop symptoms of food poisoning.

smear of cream cheese

How long can you keep cream cheese after its expiration date?

The time differs between whether you have an open or unopened package of cream cheese.

For opened packages of all varieties of cream cheese:

You can keep them refrigerated for 1-2 weeks after the printed sell-by date.

For unopened cream cheese in foil wrapping, in a plastic tub, and the flavored variety:

These options will keep refrigerated for 3-4 weeks after the printed sell-by date.

For unopened reduced-fat varieties:

This option will keep refrigerated for 2-3 weeks after the printed sell-by date.

how long can cream cheese sit out, block of cream cheese with butter knife

How do I soften cream cheese quickly?

If you’re worried about softening cream cheese at room temperature using the countertop method, there are a few ways to soften cream cheese quickly so you can use it in your recipe.

Don’t be in a position where you’re needing softened cream cheese and you notice the blocks still in the fridge. No worries! Use one of these methods to get perfectly soft cream cheese in no time.

To prevent lumps in your desserts these are the best tips to follow. No lumps! These methods are also useful when trying to soften butter as well.

The fastest method is; Microwave method:

Quickly soften cream cheese in no time using this microwave method! Unwrap the cream cheese and place it on a microwave-safe plate or bowl. Your microwave may default to high power, if possible microwave on 50% power at 10-second intervals. Flipping the block in between and rotating the microwave-safe plate. Hot spots on the plate are not fun when trying to remove it.

You’ll end up with room temp cream cheese very quickly. Be careful not to microwave it too long, it should be just soft, not hot or melted. Just note: Be sure to keep a close eye on it as microwaves can vary depending on age.

Hot water bath:

Fill a medium bowl with very warm water and place the cream cheese in its foil wrapper in the water for approximately 10 minutes until soft. For extra protection to the cream cheese, place the foil package into a small Ziploc bag before placing it into the hot water bath.

More surface area or Cube method:

On a plate, slice the block of cold cream cheese into thin strips, cubes, or small pieces to increase the surface area and allow it to come to room temp in the open air on the counter.

This could take about 20-30 minutes depending on how hot or cool the room temperature is. Other methods may be faster, just make sure to plan for this method.

small cup of whipped cream cheese

How should I store cream cheese?

Unsure how to store fresh cream cheese? Given there are many kinds and package options I’ll make a list.. again. I like lists.

Foil-wrapped varieties:

Store in a refrigerator that has a temperature setting of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or less. If unopened, keep it in the original packaging. If opened, keep foil wrapping on and either wrap in plastic wrap or place in an airtight container. Use within 10 days. To freeze and extend the shelf life of cream cheese, place a new foil-wrapped block of cream cheese still in its cardboard packaging in the freezer as is. Frozen cream cheese should be used within 2 months of freezing.

Whipped or tubs of cream cheese:

Freezing cream cheese that comes in tubs is not a great idea because of its creamy texture, it is not as sturdy as the foil blocks. Make sure the lid is properly sealed and keep stored in a refrigerator that has a temperature setting of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or less.

cream cheese with toast

Check out my many recipes that use cream cheese

Fun Facts about Cream Cheese… Since you’re here.

Cream cheese was a happy accident! In 1872 an American dairyman, William Lawrence, tried making the French cheese Neufchâtel and instead created cream cheese.

Philadelphia cream cheese isn’t made in Pennsylvania, it’s made in New York.

Other Cream Cheese Recipes:

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By on April 16th, 2022

About April Brown

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5 thoughts on “How Long Can Cream Cheese Sit Out?”

  1. Super useful! I hate to waste food so this is a great reference to see if the cream cheese is still safe to eat. Thanks so much.

  2. I learned alot! I can never tell how long my cream cheese is good for. I usually throw them away after a week if not consumed after opening.

  3. Great tips, I always wondered how long you could keep things after the “sell by” date. My husband thinks that is the expiration date!! LOL!


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