Freezing & Thawing Cream Cheese (Here’s What to Expect)
If you love dairy products, cream cheese is a pantry must-have. It’s a tangier processed cheese product and goes well with pastries like bagels and bread. If you have cream cheese leftovers, you may wonder if it’s okay to freeze them so that you can use them again next time.
You can freeze cream cheese without making it inedible. However, its texture will change considerably even if it only spends a couple of days in the freezer. You can thaw and use frozen cream cheese in your favorite food if it doesn’t show signs it’s spoiled.
Below, I’ll cover what you need to know about frozen cream cheese, such as:
- How long it lasts
- Whether it’s as good as the unfrozen version
- How to tell if it’s gone bad
- How to thaw frozen cream cheese
- How to preserve cream cheese in the best way possible
How To Freeze Cream Cheese
Freezing cream cheese is the best method to preserve it. That said, you don’t want to plop it into your freezer willy-nilly. You should take other steps to maximize the shelf life of your cream cheese and maintain the best quality possible.
You can freeze cream cheese by sealing it in the original container or storing the cream cheese in a freezer bag if you’ve thrown away the foil packaging that it came in. Either way, ensure the container is airtight to prevent freezer burn and stunt the growth of harmful microorganisms.
If putting the cream cheese in a freezer bag to preserve it, make sure to expel as much air as possible from the bag before you seal it and place it in the freezer.
Of course, if you freeze the cream cheese after opening it, you’ll need to freeze it as soon as possible to make sure that it hasn’t already begun to spoil. Once this happens, freezing your cream cheese won’t help.
How Long Can You Freeze Cream Cheese?
Cream cheese is a soft cheese, meaning it’s an unripened cheese product and has a shorter shelf life than hard cheeses like Parmesan. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), you can refrigerate cream cheese for up to two weeks. But what’s the ideal length of time you keep it in the freezer?
You can freeze cream cheese indefinitely, says Julie Garden-Robinson, a Nutrition and Food Safety professor at North Dakota State University, in an Insider article. For the best quality, though, you should use it no longer than two months after freezing.
Of course, frozen cream cheese will have a different consistency and quality compared to cream cheese that’s fresh off the grocery shelf. Although the freezer’s low temperatures can extend your cream cheese’s shelf life, it can also affect the product’s consistency and how you can use it.
Is Cream Cheese Still Good After Being Frozen?
When you store cream cheese in the freezer, its shelf life jumps from a couple of weeks to a couple of months or more. That’s because freezing temperatures kill most microorganisms that cause spoilage. Doing so can cost your cream cheese its quality, though.
Cream cheese is still good after being frozen; if by ‘good,’ you mean “safe for human consumption.” However, since cream cheese can have a maximum moisture content of 55%, low temperatures cause ice crystals to form in the product, separating the water from the cheese curds and crumbling the cream.
The good news is that crumbly cream cheese isn’t necessarily spoiled. You can still use it in foods that don’t require the cheese to be creamy. The bad news is, once you take your cream cheese out of the freezer, its shelf life gets cut drastically.
Related: Freezing Whipped Cream Cheese (Freeze, Thaw & Enjoy!)
Does Frozen Cream Cheese Go Bad?
Earlier, I cited an expert who said that frozen cream cheese could last indefinitely. But that assumes you’re keeping it in the freezer forever. The moment you take the cream cheese out of the freezer, that’s a different story.
Frozen cream cheese doesn’t go bad if it stays frozen. But when you subsequently leave out any food at room temperature, you should throw away any leftovers after two hours, according to FoodSafety.org. If the room temperature is at least 90℉ (32℃), discard the cream cheese after one hour.
The fact that cream cheese spoils quickly at room temperature shouldn’t surprise you, given it has at least 33 percent milkfat per the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) guidelines. So what are the signs your cream cheese has spoiled?
How Can You Tell if Cream Cheese Has Gone Bad?
If you put cream cheese in the fridge, it’ll last longer than if you leave it at room temperature. But if you freeze it, it’ll last even longer. No matter how you store your cream cheese, it would help if you still watched out for signs it’s no longer fit for human consumption.
Here’s how you can tell if cream cheese has gone bad:
- The cream cheese looks moldy or slimy.
- The cream cheese smells “off.”
- The cream cheese tastes sour.
- The (unfrozen) cream cheese is past its “best by” date.
Because cream cheese is a dairy product, its signs of spoilage are similar to those of other milk-based foods. However, I want to clarify some signs that cream cheese has spoiled, particularly the bit about the “best by” date.
The Cream Cheese Looks Moldy or Slimy
By itself, mold isn’t a sign of spoiled cheese. Some cheeses incorporate mold into their recipe, like Roquefort and Brie. But since cream cheese doesn’t have mold as a primary ingredient, any greenish or slimy tinge should cause concern.
The Cream Cheese Smells “Off”
Whenever you use freshly opened cream cheese, it helps to smell it for a few seconds first. That way, if any rot sets in, you’ll know something is wrong just by sniffing it. If the cream cheese smells funny or sour, that’s probably your cue to toss it into the trash bin.
The Cream Cheese Tastes Sour
Ideally, it would help if you didn’t get to the point where you have to taste the cream cheese to know whether it’s spoiled or not. But if you don’t trust the sniff test, you can also dip a clean finger into your cream cheese and lick it with the tip of your tongue. If doing so makes you want to spit out the cheese, throw out the rest.
The (Unfrozen) Cream Cheese Is Past Its “Best By” Date
If you’re using Philadelphia Cream Cheese, the product can last in the fridge for up to a month after its “best by” date, assuming you don’t open it. Otherwise, you should consume your cream cheese within ten days after opening unless you freeze it first.
How Do You Make Frozen Cream Cheese Creamy Again?
Suppose you decide to use the cream cheese that you froze for a month or so. If you don’t want to use thawed cream cheese as is, there are ways to restore some of its original creamy texture. I say “some” because defrosted cream cheese won’t exactly be the same as its freshly opened counterpart.
Here’s how to thaw your cream cheese so it’s creamy again:
- Thaw the cream cheese in the fridge for 24 hours.
- Heat the cream cheese via the microwave or stove.
- Stir the cheese until it reaches your desired consistency.
Alternatively, you can use the frozen cream cheese as is. You can mix it into other food products like yogurt, where a crumbly consistency will be advantageous. But if you want to return cream cheese to its original state, I suggest you read the following tips carefully.
Thaw the Cream Cheese in the Fridge for 24 Hours
Before heating your frozen cream cheese, you should pop it into the fridge and let it sit for at least a day first. If you heat frozen cream cheese off the bat, it may result in something that looks more like soup than cream cheese—not ideal for your morning toast!
Heat the Cream Cheese via the Microwave or Stove
Once your cream cheese thaws, put it in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave it for 10 seconds. If you don’t own a microwave, you can also put water into a saucepan, heat it until it’s boiling, put another saucepan on top and thaw the cream cheese there.
Stir the Cheese Until It Reaches Your Desired Consistency
Even after heating, your cream cheese may still have an uneven texture. If the cream cheese is lumpy in some places and watery in others, gently stir until it’s similar to its state before freezing. Make sure to give it a quick taste test for good measure.
Freezing & Thawing Cream Cheese – Conclusion
Cream cheese is one of the most versatile ingredients dairy lovers have at their disposal. You can use it as a frosting, filling, or dipping, among other things. If you know how to extend its shelf life for as long as possible, you can continue adding it to your favorite dishes.