Cream cheese is a soft and really mild-tasting uncured fresh cheese that is made from milk and, of course, cream. Unlike hard cheeses, cream cheese cannot stay out for a long time because its high moisture allows bacteria to grow faster.
According to the U.S. FDA, a soft cheese can be called cream cheese if it has a minimum milk fat content of 33 percent and a maximum moisture content of 55 percent by weight.
Cream cheese is amazing in many dishes like soups, pastries, sauces, baking, or just on its own as a spread on a bagel or a sandwich.
If you are new to using cream cheese or already experienced it is important to know how long can cream cheese stay out when you open it and how you should store it. Continue reading to get all the information on the cream cheese lifespan.
How long can cream cheese stay out of the fridge at room temperature?
Cream cheese should stay out of the fridge no longer than 2 hours. Cream cheese has a high moisture level so it will go bad much faster compared to aged cheeses.
As advised by foodsafety.gov you should follow the 2-hour rule for almost all perishable foods. The reason is that the warmer it gets after 40F (optimal chilling temperature for food) the faster bacteria start to grow and multiply.
If you are having cream cheese on your table for a prolonged period of time like 3,4,6 hours, especially in warm temperatures, we would advise disposing of the leftovers instead of refrigerating for later use.
Tip: If you are preparing to put fresh cream cheese on the table for people to use ( cheese platters or banquets) it’s better to use just a portion of your cream cheese and store the other in the fridge. This way if cream cheese on the table is not consumed you don’t need to dispose all of it.
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How long can opened cream cheese stay in the fridge?
Once the cream cheese is opened it can stay in the fridge for up to 10 days with normal refrigerator temperature being no higher than 40F. This of course not a strict rule and just a guideline. Make sure to always check for bad taste or smell before consuming after longer refrigeration periods.
How long can unopened cream cheese stay in the fridge?
The shelf life of unopened cream cheese in the fridge is 3-4 weeks past its “sell by” date under the normal refrigerator conditions being no higher than 40F.
How to know when cream cheese has gone bad?
There are a couple ways to know if cream cheese is bad and all of them require you to rely on your senses.
- Discoloration – If your cream cheese has any kind of discoloration that is similar to mold, like yellow, green, or blue patches then it has definitely gone bad.
- Slimy or dried out – Cream cheese should have a creamy texture. If it starts drying out, losing moisture, it has probably gone bad. Also, if cream cheese gets slimy on the top it’s a strong sign of going bad. (Tip: sometimes you can get liquid on top, if it’s not smelly or slimy it’s just an effect of separation.)
- Bad smell – If your cream cheese smells moldy, sour, very pungent, or moldy it most likely has gone bad. Cream cheese smell is very mild and soft.
- Sour taste – Usually when you taste cream cheese you can straight away sense that “it’s off”. Sour taste is a good indication that cream cheese is bad.
How to properly store cream cheese?
- Cream cheese should be refrigerated at no higher than 40F;
- Do not leave the cream cheese out of the fridge for more than 2 hours;
- If you have an open cream cheese container a good idea is to transfer it to air-tight containers or zip lock bags.
Can you freeze cream cheese?
You can freeze cream cheese, however, it usually loses some of its consistency. If you freeze cream cheese to use later for baking or pastries it shouldn’t be a problem. However, if you use it for spreads it won’t have the same consistency and quality.
All fresh cheeses, cream cheese included, separate. When frozen they will also lose structure and quality in general. If you use thawed cream cheese in pastries and bakes should be ok since it is mixed or worked into other ingredients.
We would not advise freezing cream cheese if you want to use it as a spread. The consistency, structure, and creaminess will be lost.