Block of cream cheese next to bagel spread with cream cheese.
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How to Soften Cream Cheese: Foolproof Tips and Tricks

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Cream cheese is a versatile ingredient used in many different recipes, from savory dips to sweet desserts. However, it can be frustrating when you need to use cream cheese but it’s too hard to spread or mix. Softening cream cheese is a simple task that can save you time and hassle in the kitchen.

You know what it’s like, you’re just about to make your favorite recipe and notice that it calls for softened cream cheese, and yours is still in the fridge and solid. You need an effective quick way of softening it without ruining the consistency, a bit like when you need to soften hard brown sugar for a recipe.

Methods to soften cream cheese

Room temperature method

One of the easiest ways to soften cream cheese is to let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. This method works best when the cream cheese is already in a soft package rather than a block. Simply take the cream cheese out of the refrigerator and let it sit on the counter until it reaches room temperature. It’s important not to leave it out too long, as cream cheese can spoil if not refrigerated.

This is a great method to use if you’re making cheesecakes; you can leave the cream cheese out when preparing the Graham cracker crust, and then it will be softened when you make your pecan pie cheesecake.

Microwave method

Woman using microwave.

Another quick way to soften cream cheese is to use a microwave. First, remove the cream cheese from its packaging and place it in a microwave-safe bowl. Then microwave on high for 15 seconds. Check and stir it to ensure that it is evenly softened. Repeat the process in 10-second intervals until it’s soft enough to use. Be careful not to overheat, as it can become too runny and difficult to use.

“My favorite way to soften cream cheese is to add hot water to a glass that I know covers an entire block of cheese. The water heats the glass in a minute or two, then I dump the glass and dry it thoroughly. I put unwrapped cream cheese on a small plate standing upright so the glass fits over it, then put the glass over it upside down. In five to ten minutes, the cream cheese softens perfectly without melting as it tends to if you try to do it in the microwave.’’
— Michelle Price, Honest and Truly

Double boiler method

The double boiler method is a gentler way to soften cream cheese, as it doesn’t use direct heat. First, bring a pan of water to a simmer. Then, place the cream cheese in a heatproof bowl and set it on top of the pot. The steam from the simmering water will gently warm it, making the cheese soft and easy to use. Stir occasionally until it reaches the desired consistency; this is a great method for making a Reese’s peanut butter pie.

Overall, there are a few different methods to soften cream cheese, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. The room temperature method is the easiest and most hands-off, but it takes longer. The microwave method is quick but requires careful attention to avoid overheating. The double boiler method is gentle but requires more time and equipment. Choose the method that works best for your needs and preferences.

“If you are using a sealed block of cream cheese, like one in foil, I like to place the whole wrapped block in a bowl of warm water and allow it to sit for about 15 minutes. You can flip the block in the water every few minutes to ensure it softens evenly.”
— Gen La Rocca, Two Cloves Kitchen

Factors affecting softness

Type of cream cheese

Different types of cream cheese have different consistencies. For example, whipped cream cheese is softer than regular cream cheese. This is because whipped cream cheese has air whipped into it, which makes it lighter and fluffier. On the other hand, regular cream cheese is denser and firmer, which can make it more difficult to soften.

Initial temperature

The initial temperature of the cream cheese can also affect how soft it is. If it’s too cold, it will be harder to soften. On the other hand, if it’s too warm, it can become too soft and lose shape. It is best to start with cream cheese that is at room temperature, which is around 70°F.

Humidity level

The humidity level in the environment can also affect how soft cream cheese is. In a dry environment, it can become dry and crumbly, while in a humid environment, it can become too soft and lose its shape. It is best to store cream cheese in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight and heat sources.

Common mistakes and how to avoid them

When it comes to softening cream cheese, there are a few common mistakes that people tend to make. Here are some tips on how to avoid them and achieve the perfect consistency every time.

Leaving the cream cheese out too long

One of the most common mistakes people make when trying to soften cream cheese is leaving it out at room temperature for too long. While this may seem like an easy solution, it can actually cause the cream cheese to become too soft, making it difficult to work with and resulting in a less-than-desirable texture.

Using the wrong tools

Another mistake people often make when softening cream cheese is using the wrong tools. While it may be tempting to use a hand mixer or food processor to speed up the process, these tools can actually overwork the cream cheese, resulting in a grainy texture.

Blue rubber spatula on wooden background.
Rubber spatula. Photo credit: Yayimages.

Instead, it’s best to use a fork or a rubber spatula to gently mash and mix it until it reaches the desired consistency. This will help to avoid overworking the cream cheese and ensure a smooth and creamy texture.

Adding liquid too soon

Finally, another common mistake people make when softening cream cheese is adding liquid too soon. If you add liquid too soon, you may end up with a runny and thin consistency that is difficult to work with, and you wouldn’t want this if you are using the cheese for dishes like a grape salad. Instead, wait until the cream cheese is soft and creamy before adding any liquid, and then add it slowly, mixing it in a little at a time until you reach the desired consistency.


In conclusion, softening cream cheese is a simple process that can be done in various ways. Whether you choose to use a microwave, the double boiler method or simply let it sit at room temperature, the end result will be the same a smooth and creamy texture that is perfect for spreading on bagels, crackers, or using in recipes.

Overall, softening cream cheese is a simple and necessary step in many recipes. With the proper methods and techniques, anyone can achieve perfectly softened cream cheese every time. 

This article originally appeared on Food Drink Life.

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