How to Soften Cream Cheese
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Many recipes called for softened cream cheese but don’t explain how to soften cream cheese when you forget to remove it from the fridge ahead of time. Learn different ways of softening cream cheese quickly and easily for the best results with your recipes!
Video: Watch how to soften cream cheese
Many recipes such as cheesecake, cheese dips and frostings call for softened cream cheese to be combined with other ingredients. Softening cream cheese is important for achieving a smooth and creamy texture with no lumps.
However, it can take hours to soften at room temperature if you just leave a brick of cream cheese on the counter. It also won’t taste as fresh after sitting out for so long. Here we show you tips for softening cream cheese fast when you forget to take your cream cheese out of fridge ahead of the time!
How to soften cream cheese quickly
There are 3 ways to rapidly soften cream cheese:
- Microwave (Fastest): This quick method produces softened cream cheese in less than a minute. Just microwave the cream cheese for 15 seconds and repeat in 5 second increments until soft.
- Hot Water Bath: This is the next fastest method, taking about 10 minutes. Ensure the cream cheese is sealed and then submerge in a hot water until soft.
- Countertop: To speed up softening cream cheese at room temperature, cut it into long, thin strips. Then place on a plate with space in between and it’ll be soft in 15-20 minutes.
Most people prefer the microwave method for its speed. In case you don’t have a microwave available, then try one of the other methods.
Note that if you see liquid seeping out of the cream cheese during softening, it’s totally normal and should be added to the recipe along with the softened cream cheese.
How to tell whether cream cheese is softened?
To check whether the cream cheese is soft enough, simply press into it with the back of a spoon. If it gives slightly, the cream cheese is soft and ready for use.
Can I leave cream cheese out overnight to soften?
No, you should not leave cream cheese out overnight to soften. The USDA states it should not sit more than two hours at room temperature to avoid bacterial growth.
How long does it take to soften cream cheese at room temperature?
This depends on the amount of cream cheese and your fridge temperature. An 8-oz brick of cream cheese will take 1-2 hours at room temperature to reach a spreadable consistency.
Recipes using softened cream cheese:
View all recipes with cream cheese
How to Soften Cream Cheese
- 8 oz cream cheese, regular or light*
- Unwrap the cream cheese and put it on a microwave-safe plate.
- Place in the microwave. Then microwave on full power for 15 seconds.
- Check the cream cheese. If it’s not soft enough, microwave for 5 seconds more. Repeat until fully softened.**
Hot Water Bath Method
- If the cream cheese is sealed in foil, use it as is. Otherwise, wrap the cream cheese tightly in plastic wrap to seal.
- Fill a medium bowl with hot tap water.
- Submerge the cream cheese in the water, using a paper weight or mallet to hold it down.
- Let it sit submerged for 5-10 minutes until soft.
- Unwrap the cream cheese and cut into long strips about ½-inch (12 mm) wide.
- Arrange the strips on a plate with space in between.
- Let rest for 15-20 minutes until soft.
- * Light or low-fat cream cheese may not soften as smoothly due to its reduced fat content. If needed, whip it with a whisk to make it completely smooth after softening.
- ** It may take longer depending on the strength of your microwave oven.
- It’s normal to have some liquid to seep out of the cream cheese during softening. Add the liquid to the recipe along with the softened cream cheese.
- Softened cream cheese should give in to light pressure from the back of a spoon and have a spreadable consistency. Otherwise it’s still too firm.
- How to defrost cream cheese? If your cream cheese is frozen, let it sit in the refrigerator to thaw overnight or longer before softening.
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Editor note: Originally published Dec 5, 2017 and updated Nov 5, 2019