Having been in the baking scene for years, I must say cream cheese is the dream! That tangy, sweet flavor feels like heaven on my tongue, especially when spreading over cakes and cookies. My customers always want a dollop of it for their frosting and decorations!
But you know the deal with most ingredients. Nothing lasts forever, especially once you pop that cream cheese package open. Let’s see how long you can leave it out!
In This Article
How Long Can Cream Cheese Last?
Unopened cream cheese is supposed to last around 2 to 3 weeks in the fridge and up to 2 months in the freezer. Once you pop it open, though, it’s best to use the cheese within 2 weeks. And for that ultimate creamy delight, you should finish the cream cheese block within 10 days!
1. In An Unopened Package
Cream cheese usually comes stamped with a use-by or best-by date, which gives it a shelf life of about 2-3 weeks in the fridge and 2 months in the freezer after that date.
But to my pleasant surprise, it often stays good for even longer. So, if you spot your cream cheese in the fridge a week past the label’s date, it’s worth taking a quick peek. Most of the time, your cheese will still be fine!
Still, here’s the scoop: dairy products like cream cheese aren’t exactly known for their everlasting longevity. Worse, if it wasn’t handled properly before hitting the store’s refrigerated section, the cheese might spoil even before the expiry date.
Long story short, you must watch out for any signals that it has gone wonky early – an issue I will gladly return to later!
2. After Opened
Their lifespans usually vary in this case. Some brands play it safe and suggest a 7-day window, while others give you the green light to use it for about 2 weeks (a bit longer than ricotta or open cottage cheese).
And as always, the sooner you dive into your cream cheese, the better the taste. I usually finish my cheese within 10 days once it’s cracked open! And longer than that, and the cream cheese block becomes a breeding ground for bacteria.
3. A Brief Comparison
Remember, cream cheese doesn’t stick around as long as those sturdy, hard cheeses. Let’s say you’ve got all these types of regular cream cheese stored properly at or under 40°F; here’s a quick overview of their shelf life.
|Fridge (Past Printed Date)
|Freezer (Past Printed Date)
|Foil-wrapped cream cheese
|3 to 4 weeks
|Cream cheese in a plastic container
|3 to 4 weeks
|Flavored cream cheese
|3 to 4 weeks
|Cream cheese with reduced fat
|2 to 3 weeks
|Neufchatel cream cheese
|2 to 3 weeks
|All cream cheese
|1 to 2 Weeks (best within 10 days)
What Would Happen If You Leave It Out Overnight?
Leaving cream cheese out for over 2 hours can be dicey and lead to burning headaches; you have my warning!
One of the biggest worries is the bacteria making a home in your cream cheese. In fact, leaving the cheese at room temperature (above 40°F) for just 1.5 hours is enough to invite unfriendly aureus and monocytes to the party.
2. Changes in Texture and Flavor
That creamy, smooth texture we all love now turns crumbly and grainy. Worse, the taste might get funky and extremely sour due to a serious breakdown of fats and proteins by those nasty bacteria!
3. Foodborne Illness
Eating spoiled cream cheese will land you in serious tummy trouble: vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, and more! Listeria monocytogenes in bad cheese also pose some serious threats, especially for pregnant women, little kids, or those with weak immune systems.
How To Tell If Cream Cheese Is Bad
Who doesn’t want their cream cheese to be that classic creamy white with a fresh smell and tangy taste?
It might be time to say goodbye if your cheese misses the marks on all those criteria. To be specific, signs of bad cream cheese include obvious changes in its color and appearance, such as black mold, yellowing, sliminess, or dryness.
And what if it still looks and smells alright? Then, I suggest a little taste test. Sampling a small cheese amount is unlikely to cause any harm even when it’s beginning to go off, so there’s no need to panic!
Note: Oh, and if you spot some liquid atop the cream cheese, that’s just the natural separation effect. I totally freaked out the first time I saw those liquids, but the process turned out harmless; it never meant my cream cheese was heading south!
How to Store Your Cream Cheese
At this point, we all know a well-wrapped cream cheese block is a happy camper. Let’s keep your cream cheese fresh and away from those funky fridge smells!
First, ditch the original package to put your cream cheese on a dry, clean surface. Then, wrap it tightly with plastic to ensure no sneaky air bubbles; this trick helps avoid moisture loss or getting all dried up.
Want an extra protective layer? Sometimes, I decide to take things further and cover my cheese in a tight-sealing corner or resealable bag.
How to Soften Your Cream Cheese
You know, waiting for a block of cream cheese to soften by itself at room temperature can take quite long – about 1 to 1.5 hours! Who’s got that kind of patience when you’re craving a quick meal, right? So, when in a rush, I’ve got a couple of tricks up my sleeve:
1. Using Microwave
Take your cream cheese slices or blocks out of their wrapper and pop them onto a microwave-friendly plate. Next, let it whirl in the microwave for about 1 to 2 minutes.
Remember to check how soft it’s getting after each 10-second burst. Given how fast microwaves heat things up, you will not want your cheese to turn itself into a gooey mess!
2. Using Warm Water
Slide your cream cheese into a bag with a ziplock, squeeze out all its air, and then zip the bag tight. Now, here comes the fun part!
- Fill warm water into your sink or large bowl, then pop the cheese bag into the bath.
- Let it soak for about ten minutes or till it’s all nice and soft.
The best part? You can multitask! I usually prep other simple ingredients while my cream cheese gets softer in warm water.
1. Can I Use 2-Year-Old Cream Cheese?
Definitely not. I mean, if some soft cheeses struggle to last just one week, how can you expect them to survive for two whole years?
2. Is It OK To Freeze Cream Cheese?
Sure thing! You can totally freeze your cream cheese for about 2 months. When ready to use it, just pop the frozen cream cheese in the refrigerator overnight to thaw or let it defrost in your microwave.
Cream cheese is best enjoyed within 10 days once cracked open. If you want to stretch that tangy, rich flavor for up to 2 months, just toss the whole thing into a freezer! Feel free to contact me if you have any more questions.
See more: Does Buttercream Need To Be Refrigerated? How Long It Sits Out?