How Long Can Cream Cheese Sit Out?

by Charlie
Published: Last Updated on
How Long Can Cream Cheese Sit Out

We all know that cream cheese should generally be kept in the fridge, but have you ever left it on your counter by mistake, or because a recipe requested softened cream cheese? If so, you may be wondering how long it is safe to leave cream cheese at room temperature for.

How long can cream cheese sit out? Cream cheese should not stay at room temperature for more than two hours, or an hour if the room is above 90 degrees F. Bacteria will quickly start to grow when temperatures are above 40 degrees F (refrigerator temperature) and will rapidly make the cream cheese unsafe to eat.

How Long Can You Leave Cream Cheese Out For?

You can leave cream cheese out for a maximum of two hours before it needs to be refrigerated, and if it is left out for this long, you should be aware that it will not last as well once it is refrigerated again.

Bacteria start to spread quickly when cream cheese is kept above 40 degrees F, and you should therefore be aware that leaving your cream cheese at room temperature does decrease its lifespan. 

If you put cream cheese in the fridge after an hour and a half, it should still be okay to eat, but it may not last as long as properly refrigerated cream cheese.

Equally, if you leave fairly old cream cheese on the counter at room temperature, it may go off more quickly than fresh cream cheese left on the counter.

Ideally, cream cheese needs to be refrigerated at all times. If you have left cream cheese out for more than two hours, especially for a long period like overnight, you should be very cautious about eating it. The safest option is to throw it away, but if you are going to eat it, make sure you have checked it over thoroughly.

What If You Need Soft Cream Cheese For A Recipe?

Some recipes call for softened cream cheese, and if this is the case, you will need to leave the cream cheese at room temperature so that it can become soft. This is fine, but it should be done cautiously, and only to the cream cheese that you plan to use up in that recipe. Don’t leave the whole block out.

To soften cream cheese for a recipe, you can simply place it on the counter to warm up. However, it is a good idea to speed this process along as much as possible so that the cream cheese does not get left for longer than necessary.

To do this, you can cut your cream cheese into cubes before placing it on a plate. This increases the surface area and allows the warmth of the room to penetrate the cheese more quickly, reducing the amount of time that it needs to sit out for.

You can also soften cream cheese in the microwave provided you do so carefully. Like softening butter, this can be a bit of a tricky process. Lower the power of your microwave and only heat the cream cheese in five second increments, rolling the block over between each session.

This should help the cream cheese to soften nicely without you needing to leave it at room temperature for ages.

How Can You Tell When Cream Cheese Has Gone Bad?

If you aren’t sure whether cream cheese is safe to eat, inspect its surface closely. Moldy cream cheese will often have a pink liquid on the surface, or tiny flecks of blue or fluffy white mold. You might also see a green or orange tinge on the surface. The color will depend on what is growing in it.

You can also sometimes smell when cream cheese has gone bad; it may take on a sour, unpleasant scent that deters you from eating it. Alternatively, you can try tasting a small amount to see if it tastes bad; you will quickly know from the flavor.

Sometimes, bad cream cheese will have a thin liquid on it, and will turn more liquid overall.

Is it Safe to Eat Bad Cream Cheese?

No, it is not safe to eat cream cheese that has gone off. This may have both mold and bacteria in it, and it could make you very sick. It will also taste pretty unpleasant.

If you think that cream cheese has gone off, you should throw it away, rather than using it. Don’t risk your health by eating moldy cream cheese.

How Long Does Cream Cheese Last in the Fridge?

In general, cream cheese should be used within ten days of opening. This assumes good storage practices have been adhered to and the cream cheese has not been left out. Cream cheese that gets left on the counter may expire more quickly.

Unopened cream cheese can last for a long time in the fridge, and is often still fine a month after its “Best before” date. However, you should be cautious and check it for signs of mold if it has been in your fridge for a significant time period.

Can You Freeze Cream Cheese?

Yes, you can put cream cheese in the freezer if you are not going to use it up in time. However, you should be aware that freezing it can affect the texture, and it is best to freeze it when it’s still very fresh, rather than when it is already getting old.

To thaw frozen cream cheese, place it in the refrigerator, rather than at room temperature. If you thaw it at room temperature, you may find that bacteria has started to spread in the outer layers before the interior has defrosted.

Final Thoughts

Don’t eat cream cheese that has been left on the counter for longer than two hours, as bacteria is likely to have started spreading through the food at this point. If you are unsure about cream cheese, make sure you inspect it for color change and excess liquid, and taste a little to check if it has gone off. Don’t use cream cheese that is no longer fresh.

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