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Curious if there is a way to speed up softening cream cheese? Actually, there are a few ways! And they’re super simple. We've got all the info you need for how to soften cream cheese quickly.

By Karla Walsh
Updated August 26, 2020
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We get it: It seems fussy and like a tiny detail to worry about things like room temp eggs or softened cream cheese when they’re called for in a recipe. But trust our Test Kitchen pros; these small details make a big difference in the end result of your recipes. In the latter case, softened cream cheese means that it’s at about room temperature and, as a result, will blend in nicely with no lumps. When thinking about how to soften cream cheese, it’s important to master how to soften cream cheese quickly. That’s because cream cheese should never be left out of the refrigerator for more than two hours, as that pushes the dairy product into the “danger zone” making it more likely to spoil and/or foster bacterial growth.

With that in mind, here are three ways to soften cream cheese in a matter of minutes so you can follow food safety guidelines and put yourself in good shape for recipe success, whether you’re making a dip, frosting, cheesecake, or other culinary creation.

using spoon to soften cream cheese in glass bowl
Credit: Andy Lyons

How to Soften Cream Cheese Quickly

Try one of these three methods below to soften cream cheese in less than 30 minutes. That way, you can get to the rest of your recipe in next to no time.

How to Soften Cream Cheese in a Microwave

Time required to soften cream cheese: Less than 1 minute

  1. For an 8-ounce block of cream cheese, place the completely unwrapped cheese on a microwave-safe plate and microwave it on high for 15 seconds. 
  2. Add 10 seconds for each additional 8 ounces of cheese or as needed until you have softened the cream cheese.

Test Kitchen Tip: If a liquid, or whey, seeps out of the cheese while it softens, add the whey to your recipe along with the solids.

How to Soften Cream Cheese in Warm Water

Time required to soften cream cheese: About 15 minutes

If you don't want to risk uneven heating in the microwave, there are other ways to soften cream cheese. Doing so in a water bath makes it possible to soften cream cheese in just 15 minutes or so. This softening cream cheese strategy works best for recipes that call for one 8-ounce package of cream cheese (or if you do each package in separate bowls for the quickest results).

  1. Remove the cream cheese from the cardboard packaging but don’t open or puncture the foil wrapper.
  2. Place the cream cheese in a medium bowl of very warm water (hot water straight from the tap works great) and allow it to sit 15 minutes.
  3. Flip the cream cheese every 5 minutes to allow for even softening. As you do so, gently poke the wrapper to test the firmness.
  4. After 15 minutes, perhaps sooner, you should have softened cream cheese.
  5. Unwrap and proceed with your cream cheese recipe.

How to Soften Cream Cheese on the Countertop

Time required to soften cream cheese: About 30 minutes

You can soften cream cheese on the countertop with the cheese in the whole block, but to speed up countertop softening time, we suggest slicing and dicing. Otherwise, it will likely take closer to an hour.

  1. Remove the cream cheese from the cardboard packaging and the foil wrapper.
  2. Using a sharp knife ($40, Target), slice the cream cheese into 1-inch cubes.
  3. Transfer cream cheese to a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to sit on your kitchen counter.
  4. Allow to sit 30 minutes.
  5. Gently poke the plastic wrap to test the firmness, and once it’s softened, proceed with your cream cheese recipe.

Now that you’re wise to several ways to soften cream cheese, you’ll never be more than minutes away from mixing together a batch of cream cheese frosting for Carrot Cake, dunking fruit in Cream Cheese and Yogurt Fruit Dip, or getting the batter for your favorite cheesecake recipe oven-ready. 

Comments (1)

Anonymous
April 23, 2019
We suggest in the article to have the cream cheese completely unwrapped. BHG