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Can Cream Cheese Be Left Out? Understanding Safe Storage Practices

With Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching, you might plan on baking around your house and making delicious delicacies. Most of these dishes, like cheesecakes, cheese dips, and bagel toppings, use a crucial ingredient – cream cheese. Cream cheese combines cow’s milk with cheese and has a soft, mild, and sweet taste. It can be used in various dishes, with cream cheese and lox bagel being a favorite.

Most of the recipes for these dishes direct us to choose room-temperature cream cheese. To get the cheese to this temperature, we have to put it out on the counter for some time. But many people often wonder, “Can cream cheese be left out?” and if it can be, for how long? They also wonder if they should put the cheese back into the freezer immediately after use or if they can let it sit. Today, we will tackle these questions and see if cream cheese can be left out in the open and for how long a period.

Can Cream Cheese be left out?

The quick answer to this question is yes. You can leave the cheese out for a short time to get to room temperature. The maximum limit to leave the cream cheese out at room temperature is about 2 hours. Some argue that it can even be left out for 4 hours straight. But it would help if you did not let it sit out for more than this time.

Cheese put outside the freezer for an extended period can get bacteria and other germs. Such cheese is not fit for consumption and can lead to serious health problems if consumed.

How Long Does Cream Cheese Last?

Cream cheese can last surprisingly long, provided it an adequate temperature. Many other dairy products, like milk and cottage cheese, go bad quickly, even if put in the freezer. However, you can expect up to forty days of storage time in the freezer with cream cheese, especially if its package still needs to be opened.

Once opened, the cream cheese only lasts for a short time. Thus, once you have taken the cheese from its packaging, you should consume it within ten days. After ten days, the cheese attracts bacteria and fungi and can even get moldy. You should check the cheese for any such growth before using it.

Does Cream Cheese Go Bad?

Yes, definitely. Cream cheese can only go well if left out for a long time, like any other food item. Even in the freezer, the cheese will likely get mold and bacteria after a certain period. Thus, you should purchase cheese whose expiry date shown on the package is far away in the future. Such cheese is usually placed at the back of counters as packages with closer expiration dates are put at the front. Thus, return to the counter to get the freshest cream cheese possible to last long. Even if you order cream cheese online, check the expiry dates before ordering.

Signs of Bad Cheese


Signs of bad cheese
Source: kazecheese.com

Signs of spoilage are visible on the cheese and are very easy to identify. If you see any of these signs in your cheese, you should discard it and get a fresh package from the market instead.

Color change: Bad cheese may take a yellowish or greenish color if it has gone bad.

Mold flecks: Bad cheese has mold spots scattered around its surface and can smell rotten and moldy.

Slime layer: There’s usually a layer of slime on top of cheese that has gone bad.

Dryness: Bad cheese loses its moist and supple characteristics and becomes dry at several spots.

If you spot any of these signs on your cheese, chances are it has gone bad and is no longer safe for use. Using such cheese can lead to diarrhea and food poisoning. Thus, we strongly recommend you throw it away.

Can You Leave Cream Cheese Out Overnight?

You can only leave cream cheese out overnight if your house is always at the same temperature as your refrigerator. It is safe to assume that this is different from the majority of the houses. Most of the houses are at temperatures higher than sixty degrees most of the time. At this temperature, cream cheese can only last for about 2 hours. Thus, storing it overnight at such a temperature is out of the question.

If you live in the colder regions of the country where temperatures remain low most of the time, you can leave your cheese out for a long period. Even in such conditions, we don’t recommend leaving the cheese out overnight for fear of getting moldy and infected with bacteria.

How to Soften Cream Cheese?

Instead of letting the cream cheese sit outside for a long period for it to get soft, you can try the following measures to make it soft and usable quickly:

  1. Place the cheese in the microwave for a short period. 
  2. While still wrapped in its foil, please place it in warm water for a short period until you feel it is soft and usable.
  3. Slice it and divide it into small pieces. Put these pieces outside to cool and put the remaining cheese back into the fridge. This way, you can save the bigger piece from getting spoiled.


With this guide, we have hopefully answered your question,” Can Cream Cheese Be Left Out?” Cream cheese is a decayable food item, meaning you can only leave it at room temperature for a short time. The maximum time you can leave the cheese out is only a few hours. After these two hours, chances are high that any cheese left out will get spoiled and unusable. Store your cheese in the fridge at a low temperature. You can also put the cheese out if the outside temperature is equal to the temperature in the refrigerator, which is possible in only some specific areas. If you notice any growths or molds, discard the cheese.

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