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How to Soften Cream Cheese

Learn how to soften cream cheese quickly so you’re never too far away from homemade cheesecake.

Unwrapped blocks of cream cheese on their wrappers

The easiest and best way to soften cream cheese is to simply allow it to sit at – room temperature. That’s pretty much a no-brainer, right?

But this method usually means that you have a bit of a plan in place. If I know that I am going to baking any of my favorite cheesecake recipes early in the morning, I always take my cream cheese out of the fridge and allow it to sit on the counter for a couple of hours.

Freshly-baked cheesecake in a springform pan

However, if you’re at all like me, sometimes ya just get the urge to make classic vanilla cheesecake (or other baked goods) without a plan in place. I often find myself in this situation and it can be a real bummer if the recipe you’re using calls for softened cream cheese, or even room temperature eggs or softened butter.

But no worries, I’ve got ya covered – so the next time you find yourself staring at cold cream cheese, you’ll know exactly what to do to get it to room temp in no time!

Blocks of softened cream cheese in a glass bowl on a marble surface

HOW TO SOFTEN CREAM CHEESE USING THE CUBE METHOD

This is my all-time favorite method for softening cream cheese.

Simply cut the block(s) of cream cheese into fourths lengthwise and then cube into small pieces. The smaller the cubes, the quicker the cream cheese will soften.

Spread the cubes out onto a cutting board or plate, making sure they aren’t touching. Then just leave them at room temperature for about an hour or until soft to the touch.

Depending on how warm it is in my house, the cream cheese doesn’t always take a full hour to soften. Just check on it periodically!

Blocks of softened cream cheese on a white plate on a marble surface

HOW TO SOFTEN CREAM CHEESE IN THE MICROWAVE

If you bake a lot, I’m betting you’ve attempted to soften butter in the microwave, right? Did you know that you can do the same thing with cream cheese?

Softening cream cheese in the microwave is quick. But it can also be tricky because if you get distracted, you’ll end up with a pool of melted cream cheese instead of a beautifully softened block.

Ya know you’ve done it – and I’ll attest to the fact that cleaning up melted cream cheese from the inside of the microwave is a pain in the rear. Which is why I prefer the cubing method above for softening cream cheese.

Blocks of cream cheese on a white plate, surrounded by cheesecake ingredients

But if you are really, really short on time and want to give the microwave method a shot, here’s what I do:

Unwrap the block(s) of cream cheese and place on a microwave safe plate.

Place the plate into the microwave and heat on 50-75% power for 5 seconds. Open microwave, give the block 1/4 turn (meaning, pick it up and flip it over onto its side) and heat again for 5 seconds. Do this on all four long sides of the block(s) of cream cheese.

Typically after about 20-25 seconds my cream cheese is perfect. This time will vary depending on your microwave – simply watch it closely and keep flipping it. The flipping action will help the cream cheese to evenly soften.

Softened cream cheese whipped with a hand mixer in a glass bowl

HOW LONG CAN CREAM CHEESE SIT OUT?

Curious about how long cream cheese can safely sit out at room temperature?

Food safety experts with the U.S. government say that 2 hours is the max that cream cheese should sit at room temperature. Other experts recommend no more than 4 hours.

If you are pregnant, elderly or otherwise at a higher risk for food-borne illness, always be more careful about how long you leave foods like dairy at room temperature.

And there you have it, my not-so-technical methods of bringing cream cheese to room temperature on the fly. I hope it helps you out the next time you feel the urge to bake up a recipe in a hurry! (May I suggest trying Lemon Cheesecake, my Salted Caramel Cheesecake or my Gooey Butter Cookies?)

Looking for more cheesecake inspiration? Check out my tutorial on how to bake cheesecake in a water bath, as well as my graham cracker crust and homemade blueberry sauce topping recipes!

Slice of cheesecake topped with blueberry sauce with full cheesecake in the background

Glass of homemade strawberry lemonade garnished with a strawberry
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Anne Xavier

Monday 22nd of June 2020

The other day I tried making a cream cream frosting for my carrot cake and it was not creamy but it curded. What went wrong and did I beat too Long? Please explain why this is so. 

Jamie

Saturday 27th of June 2020

Hello! Sometimes this can happen if the butter is too soft, sometimes it can come from over-beating. Next time, make sure the butter is soft but not mushy, if that was the case this time. Hope you'll try it again! Jamie

Karen Cook

Thursday 25th of July 2019

Great recipes and tips...I am not a baker and do mostly savory things, but your cheesecake recipes sound so good I want to try them!!!

Jamie

Thursday 25th of July 2019

Thanks so much for stopping by, Karen! I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Happy Baking! -Jamie

Barbara Tighe

Thursday 11th of July 2019

Thank you for microwave suggestions. Sounds like it will work for me!

Jamie

Monday 15th of July 2019

Thanks so much for stopping by, Barbara! I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Happy Baking! -Jamie

Alicia

Wednesday 10th of July 2019

Great tip about cubing. Can’t believe I never thought of that. Usually I place the cream cheese on the heated oven while prepping everything and it’s softened when I need it. Also, on a plate sitting in some sun coming through the window helps, too. 

Jamie

Wednesday 10th of July 2019

Thanks so much for stopping by, Alicia! I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Happy Baking! -Jamie

Joan

Wednesday 10th of July 2019

Here's how I soften cream cheese. I take off the cardboard outer wrapper, but leave it in the foil wrapper. Then I put the foil-wrapped package into a bowl of warm water. Sometimes I put something on top of the cheese to hold it down. Works like a charm, and the foil never leaks. 

Jamie

Wednesday 10th of July 2019

Thanks so much for stopping by, Joan! That's a great trick as well! I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Happy Baking! -Jamie

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