Cream cheese is one of those dairy products that don’t have a long shelf life. But what if you want to buy more when your favorite one is on sale, or you want to have some at hand at all times?
Can you freeze cream cheese? You can freeze cream cheese. The texture will suffer, as frozen and defrosted cheese becomes slightly grainy or crumbly. It is also less creamy, which is why it is recommended to use frozen cream cheese in baked goods or dishes where the cheese will melt. The key parts of this process are wrapping the cheese well before you put it in the freezer and thaw it in the fridge before using it.
Read this article for the ultimate guide on freezing cream cheese as well as some tips on how to make the results better.
Freezing Cream Cheese – Does It Work?
Freezing is one of the most efficient techniques for extending the shelf life of almost any product you can think of. Luckily, cream cheese is not an exception.
If you have bought a few packs of cream cheese planning to make a cheesecake but then changed your mind, don’t throw them away. There is a high chance of saving cream cheese by putting it in the freezer.
Freezing cream cheese does work. If you do everything right, i.e. freeze and thaw the cheese correctly, the cheese will undergo very minor changes.
Even if you are not able to make a cheesecake with frozen cream cheese you will certainly save it for another dish and save your money.
What Happens When You Freeze Cream Cheese?
Freezing cream cheese does affect the texture of the product. It becomes more grain and somewhat crumbly. And this happens to almost any dairy product.
If you love spreading cream cheese on your bagels only for the creamy and smooth texture of this product, you may not be one that enjoys freezing cream cheese.
However, it should be mentioned that these changes are nothing a little effort cannot fix.
Why Does It Become Grainy?
Changes in the texture of cream cheese are a result of its high water content.
There is 33% or more fat in cream cheese and more than half of it (around 55%) is moisture. Thus, when we put cream cheese in the freezer, ice crystals are formed.
When we thaw the cheese, the water from defrosted crystals does not emulsify back with cheese curds. This is why thawed cheese is grainy and separated.
How to Freeze Cream Cheese
If your favorite cream cheese was on sale and you accidentally grabbed more than you would ever be able to eat before their expiration date, putting them right in the freezer is the best idea.
Depending on whether the cream cheese is opened or not, you may need to make some extra effort to properly freeze the cheese.
Unopened cream cheese in its original packaging will keep well in the freezer. Whether it is a foil or cardboard wrapping, cream cheese is well-protected against freezer burn.
In case you didn’t know, freezer burns may occur to any product in the freezer that is exposed to air. It happens whenever the food isn’t wrapped well with cling wrap or the container you are keeping your food in is not airtight.
If you are concerned that the unopened cream cheese packaging is not secure enough, we recommend wrapping it with a layer of plastic wrap.
Alternatively, you can remove the paper packaging and leave only the foil on. Put the cheese in a sealable vacuum bag. The foil effectively protects the product against freezer burn.
You should freeze cream cheese in its original packaging for the best results. However, if you have already used some of the cream cheese, here is how you should freeze it.
- Put cream cheese in a sealable plastic bag or container.
- If you are using a container, wrap it with cling wrap for an extra layer of protection.
- Don’t forget to label the cheese with the date.
- Keep it in a corner of the freezer where the cheese will be out of the way.
You can also freeze flavored cream cheese. Doing it will work the same way as freezing and defrosting regular cream cheese.
How Long Can You Keep Cream Cheese in The Freezer
Putting cream cheese in the cold storage will significantly extend its shelf life.
For example, opened cream cheese will last for around 10 days in the fridge. An unopened brick of cream cheese is said to be good to eat for 1 month past its expiration date. If you don’t trust this claim, don’t hesitate to put it in the freezer before it sits too long in the fridge.
The freezer will extend the shelf life of cream cheese to up to 6 months.
If you stock up on cream cheese intending to freeze it, don’t put it in the fridge. Put it in the cold storage right away.
How to Defrost Cream Cheese
To defrost cream cheese in a way that the texture and taste suffer as little as possible, you should follow a few simple rules.
First off, transfer the cheese from the freezer directly to room temperature. If you are planning to use it in a recipe, transfer it to let it thaw in the fridge for 24 hours and only then use it in cooking.
If you let the cheese thaw at room temperature it will end up with a grainier texture. The cheese may also be watery as a result of drastic changes in temperature.
If you thaw the cheese incorrectly, the flavor of this delicate dairy product will suffer.
How to Make Defrosted Cream Cheese Creamy Again
There are a few methods you can use to make defrosted cream cheese creamy again. You cannot expect it to become as smooth and creamy as it was initially. However, you can try to reintegrate the ingredients together to a certain extent.
If you have a whisk at hand, you can use it to mix the cheese and improve the crumbly consistency.
If you are willing to spend some extra time and effort to make the most out of your frozen cream cheese, there are to methods to go for.
Method 1: Use the Microwave
Microwaving defrosted cream cheese is an effective way of making it creamier and less grainy. Here is how you do it.
- Thaw frozen cream cheese in the fridge for 24 hours.
- Once the cheese has completely defrosted, transfer it into a microwave-safe bowl.
- Microwave the cheese for 10 seconds.
- Stir the cream cheese making sure to collect all of it from the sides of the bowl.
- Repeat until the cheese reaches a creamy consistency you are satisfied with.
Method 2: Use the Stove
If you are one of those people that doesn’t like microwaving things, using the stove is the method you should use.
Here is how to make defrosted cream cheese creamy again.
- Put a medium-sized saucepan on the stovetop and fill it with some water.
- Place a smaller glass bowl on top of the saucepan making sure it doesn’t touch the bottom of the pan or water. You can use a double boiler instead of the saucepan and bowl.
- Put thawed cream cheese in the bowl.
- Gently whisk or stir until the cream cheese is smooth.
The key step in using this method is making sure that the bowl with cheese doesn’t touch the bottom of the pan or water. If so, you will apply direct heat to cream cheese. The latter is something to avoid.
It should be noted that using the stovetop instead of the microwave has some benefits. You don’t get dried cheese on the edges which then crumbles into the improved cheese.
Additionally, you watch the process and control the heat. Thus, there are lower risks of messing up.
How to Use Defrosted Cream Cheese
Defrosted cream cheese is not the best to spread on bagels or eat with crackers. If you want to eat it, there are no health issues involved. The problem is the change in consistency.
As frozen and thawed cream cheese is not as creamy anymore, it will not spread well. Thus, you may not enjoy the experience as much.
So, you have prolonged the life of a few packs of cream cheese. What’s next? What can you do with it?
Defrosted cream cheese will work well in baked dishes. You can use it recipes where the alterations in texture will not be as noticeable and will not affect the dish.
So long as you use defrosted cream cheese in a dish where it melts, there is no noticeable difference between using frozen or refrigerated cream cheese.
Here’s what you can make with defrosted cream cheese:
- Cream cheese cookies
- Cream cheese pound cake
- Chicken casserole with cream cheese
- Baked spaghetti pie casserole with cheese sauce
- Baked cream cheese dip
How to Detect Spoiled Cream Cheese
Even if you have frozen the cheese following the rules and keeping the right conditions, it is always good to know when the product has gone bad.
If you notice that the cream cheese is unusually slimy, smells off-putting, or has discoloration, do not freeze or use it.
7 Tips for Freezing and Defrosting Cream Cheese
Freezing and defrosting cream cheese may be tricky. However, it does work if you know how to do it right.
Here are some tips to help you freeze and thaw cream cheese without letting your product go to waste.
If you don’t have a whisk or any special kitchen equipment at hand and are not in the mood to spend time at the stovetop, there is a quick way of improving the texture of defrosted cream cheese.
Take a spoon and work the cheese against the sides of the plate. Give it a few mixes and the cheese will be creamier than it was after thawing.
Do you need to use the blocks of frozen cream cheese but it has slipped your mind to transfer them to the refrigerator? Here’s how to save the situation:
- Transfer the cheese into a plastic bag if it has not been frozen in one.
- Put it in a bowl of warm water.
- Swirl the cheese around to thaw it until the water cools down.
- Repeat if needed.
- Don’t leave the cheese to sit in water as it may not defrost evenly.
If you don’t mind eating defrosted cream cheese with crackers, there is a way of making them special and more exciting.
Once you put the cheese in the food processor to make it smoother, add some extra flavors to it. You can add fresh or dried herbs, such as basil or dill, garlic powder, roasted bell pepper, etc.
If you are planning on buying cream cheese and freezing it for further use, opt for cream cheese bricks.
Cream cheese bricks in foil and paper packaging freeze better than cream cheese in plastic cans does.
Another thing you should keep in mind while stocking up for cream cheese is that low-fat varieties are not your best bet if you are going to freeze them.
For those who bake often, having cream cheese at hand at all times is very useful and delicious.
You can add cream cheese to muffins or scones to make them exceptionally soft.
If you are using the microwave or the stovetop technique to make the cheese creamy again, there is a way to make the result even better.
Add a small amount of milk, sour cream, or heavy cream while mixing. Doing this will contribute to restoring the initial smooth texture of the cheese.
You may be wondering if there is a way you can minimize the amount of water that forms in cream cheese when you freeze it. The answer is yes. It is the ‘quick freeze’ facility of your fridge.
Once you put the cream cheese in the cold storage, the sooner it freezes the fewer ice crystals form. This means that there are high chances that the cheese will be less grainy and separated once it is defrosted.
Can You Freeze Cream Cheese Dip?
If you have leftover cream cheese dips and don’t want to let them go to waste, freezing them will work just fine. However, don’t expect it to be as smooth as when it was freshly made.
You can try to bring back the initial texture back as much as possible using a double boiler.
Can You Use Defrosted Cream Cheese to Make Cheesecake?
Making cheesecake with defrosted cream cheese is debatable. Some people prefer using cream cheese that has not been previously frozen, while others claim that defrosted cream cheese works fine for cheesecake.
To be on the safe side, take your time to restore the initial texture of the cheese using the microwave or stovetop methods. Creamy and smooth cheese is always the best for cheesecake.