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There are many types of cheese with different textures and flavors but in this case, it’s just all about the cream cheese. This is a type of fresh cheese that is made of mixing milk and cream. Due to its soft texture and refrigeration dependency, it raises the question of how long can cream cheese sit out of the fridge.
So, how long CAN cream cheese sit out of the fridge? Why does this even matter?
Between simply forgetting to put it away after a morning bagel and cream cheese breakfast, or to soften cream cheese to make a variety of sweet treats or even healthy keto bombs, knowing about food safety for dairy products especially is extremely important.
The answer depends on the temperature of the room temperature as the Foodsafety.Gov states at temperatures above 40 °F, it can stay out for about 2 hours. After this time, they recommend getting rid of the cream cheese.
If the temperatures are above 90 °F, then the cream cheese can sit out of the fridge for 1 hour before starting to spoil.
Cream cheese is used for different cooking purposes and baking. If you are new to using cream cheese, now you know it has a short life span out of the fridge and spoils quickly.
There are some occasions you need to serve food in potlucks or other gatherings with cream cheese. The cheese has to be stored in a cold container with ice.
The ingredients of cream cheese are the major factor for its short life span at room temperature. Since its made from milk butter/fat which spoils easily.
What About Unopened Cream Cheese?
Most of the unopened cream cheese could on average last 3 to 4 weeks past the expiry date while stored in the refrigerator.
If you decide to store the cream cheese in the freezer while wrapped with a foil wrapper, it can last for up to 2 months past its expiration date
These unopened cream cheese include;
- Reduced-fat cream cheese
- Flavored cream cheese
- In a plastic container (with a foil seal across the top)
- Neufchatel cheese
How To Know if Cream Cheese Has Gone Bad
There are several ways to know if the cream cheese has gone bad to discard it.
The first thing you will notice is the look of the cream cheese. The presence of yellow or greenish color and signs of rottenness or molds are a big indicator of a cream cheese gone bad.
If the cream cheese has a strong sour smell, then it’s time to get rid of it. Sometimes the cheese may not show the first signs of changing color and molds but smelling it can determine the freshness of the cream cheese.
When stored in the fridge, the cream cheese may not produce pungent smell but tasting it can help know if the cream cheese is bad. When the taste is sourer and off than the normal taste, it may have gone bad. Taste it carefully if you find your cream cheese is past the date or if you’re not sure how long it’s been opened and in the fridge.
If the top of the cream cheese (either the brick or in the tub) seems to be slimy or very soft instead of firm and smooth, its a sign of spoiling cream cheese.
It’s always better to follow the recommended storage and time to use the cream cheese. Purchasing just enough cream cheese to use in a short period without long storage periods in the fridge is a good way to avoid spoilage.
If accidentally left open at room temperature, follow the 1 and 2-hour rules for safety.
Tips To Extend The Lifespan of Cream Cheese
People have devised some methods to extend the shelf life of the cream cheese even past the expiration date given. Fortunately, you can use the following methods if you would like to extend the lifespan of your cream cheese.
- Always ensure the temperature is right for the cream cheese. Once you open the cheese, you should put it back in the refrigerator and store it at 40 °F or below. Only let it sit at room temperature for a short time if it’s in use, and store per the guidelines as soon as possible after purchasing!
- For a longer lifespan, store the cream cheese in the freezer while wrapped with foil.
- Use airtight containers for storage in the fridge. This prevents bacteria from entering the container and spoil the cream cheese.
- Ensure the utensils you use to cut and spread the cream cheese are clean free from bacteria that can come into contact with the cheese. For instance, if the utensil cut meat or other food items, it transfers the microbes to the cheese.
How To Soften Cream Cheese Safely
So if you can’t leave it out for very long, and definitely not overnight, how can you safely soften cream cheese at room temperature?
The best way to do this is to chop up a cream cheese brick into smaller cubes, to allow the warmer room temp air to reach more of the volume of the cream cheese, faster.
The more surface area there is and the less volume per chunk, the faster it will soften. Stir with a spatula and gently press/mix the cubes periodically to encourage a faster softening.
Considering it only takes about 20 minutes at room temperature for the entire big brick of cream cheese to soften sufficiently for most recipes, you could simply make it an exercise in patience. Just let it do it’s thing, unless you didn’t plan ahead and you truly need the cheese softened sooner!
Frequently Asked Questions
Since cream cheese spoils easily and quite fast, some questions arise from people wondering if…what happens. Here are some of the most asked questions.
Does the safe window change if the cream cheese is sealed or unsealed?
Nope. Regardless of air directly touching the cheese or not, you should still follow the 2-hour max rules as explained above.
Can I leave the cream cheese out overnight to soften?
No, it’s not recommended to let the cream cheese sit out overnight because bacteria start to grow hence spoiling the cheese. There is no need to do this since cream cheese softens well enough for most all recipes within just 20 minutes or so at room temperature.
As answered above, cream cheese can be left to sit out without refrigeration for up to 2 hours only as stated by the USDA.
Why so much concern if the cheese IS left out too long?
The problem is that despite all the high food safety rules and precautions that manufacturers follow, contamination with bacteria CAN happen and is not always visible.
One of the big bacterial concerns with cream cheese is E. coli contamination. It can start to grow in a very short time on accidentally contaminated cream cheese given ideal temperatures (ie. room temp), and can cause food poisoning in high enough amounts.
You wouldn’t necessarily know for sure by any of your senses that your cream cheese “went bad” with this contamination if it was out overnight, but you’d definitely know for sure if you experienced symptoms of food poisoning a day or so after eating it!
Can you cut the mold off the cream cheese?
Not a good idea, these soft cheeses like cream cheese or cottage cheese mold can grow and penetrate deeper than you think, even if you can’t see it. This is possible for hardy or semisoft types of cheese as well, like Cheddar, Swiss and Colby.
What happens if you eat spoiled cream cheese?
Eating a spoiled cream cheese wont kill you but there are health issues that can develop since people’s immune systems can differ. It’s also hard to eat spoiled cream cheese because it tastes very sourer than normal and the pungent smell is horrible. You’re VERY unlikely to eat bad cream cheese and not realize it!
If it tastes okay, then it means the cream cheese is still fresher and fit for consumption.
Can expired cream cheese make you sick
Expired cream cheese sometimes develops molds that spoil the cheese and once visible, you should definitely throw away the cheese. These molds and other bacteria can produce toxins that can cause some harm.
The extent to get deeply sick means the cream cheese is extremely rotten, again which is pretty much impossible to eat.
So does cake with cream cheese need to be refrigerated?
Yes, yes, yes, and yes. There are very few recipes that allow for room temperature storage when refrigerator-stored ingredients are involved, and those have high cooking temperatures.
Cheesecakes, cream cheese frostings, and similar are not often cooked at the same sorts of temperatures or times that would truly make the cream cheese component room temperature stable.
Store these items in good air tight containers the fridge for about 5-6 days (may be longer or shorter depending on what the recipe is) or the freezer for up to 6+ months.
How long can my cream cheese bagel sit out?
Follow the same rules as above. If you already put the cream cheese on the bagel, and it’s past the two hour mark, toss the entire thing.
Spoiled cream cheese can cause food poisoning to human beings and this why is important to use only fresh cream cheese. Cream cheese gets spoiled easily and faster than many other cheeses, so you should not allow it to sit out the fridge for more than 2 hours.
Consider the storage methods and tips above to extend the lifespan of cream cheese for safe cooking and baking practices and make the most of your recipes.
I hope this post answers the question, how long can cream cheese sit out the fridge? Happy cooking and healthy living!