This post may contain affiliate links. Please read the disclosure policy.

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!

Using the back of a spoon to check whether the cream cheese is softened

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.

An 8 ounce brick of cream cheese that requires softening before use in recipes such as cheesecake or cheese dips

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.

Spreading softened cream cheese on a plate

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

Closeup of softened cream cheese showing a spreadable consistency

Checking whether cream cheese is softened using the back of a spoon
5 from 4 votes

How to Soften Cream Cheese

Three different ways to soften cream cheese quickly and easily.
Prep Time: 5 mins
Total Time: 5 mins
Servings: 6 servings


  • 8 oz cream cheese, regular or light*


Microwave Method

  • 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.

Countertop Method

  • 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.
Nutrition Facts
How to Soften Cream Cheese
Amount Per Serving (1.5 oz)
Calories 129.27 Calories from Fat 116
% Daily Value*
Fat 12.94g20%
Saturated Fat 7.29g36%
Cholesterol 41.58mg14%
Sodium 121.34mg5%
Potassium 52.16mg1%
Carbohydrates 1.54g1%
Sugar 1.21g1%
Protein 2.24g4%
Vitamin A 507.64IU10%
Calcium 37.04mg4%
Iron 0.14mg1%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Please read our nutrition disclaimer.

Author: TipBuzz
Course: Condiments
Cuisine: American
Keyword: how to soften cream cheese, soften cream cheese
Did you make this recipe? Leave a comment below!

View more cooking basics

Editor note: Originally published Dec 5, 2017 and updated Nov 5, 2019