Cream cheese is a delicious type of spreadable cheese that can be used in many ways, but due to its low shelf life, it can be hard to store unless you freeze it!
Freezing cream cheese is the best way to lock in its original flavor and texture for up to several months. But when it’s time to reuse it, how does one defrost it?
How to thaw frozen cream cheese? Frozen cream cheese is best thawed in the fridge. Just keep the storage container at the back of the fridge at 40F and leave it overnight. We don’t recommend thawing cream cheese in the microwave or at room temperature as it might ruin its texture and quality.
There are other quick methods that you can use besides the refrigeration method to thaw cream cheese. Read below to learn more!
What is Cream Cheese?
Cream cheese is a soft and spreadable cheese that was invented in the USA – that’s right, contrary to popular belief, cream cheese, despite its popularity in Europe was an American invention.
In 1872, a New York farmer wanted to push the boundaries of what was possible with soft cheese which led to the creation of cream cheese!
Instead of allowing it time to mature, cream cheese is processed to the point that it remains a combination of milk and cheese – it is enjoyed fresh and is popularly known for its fluffy and light texture.
But how is it made? Well, the journey of cream cheese begins in the same way as any other cheese!
First, the milk for the cheese is treated in large boilers using heat to kill off any bacteria.
The milk is then transferred to another vat where it is mixed with lactic acid.
The lactic acid causes the milk to curdle but this process is highly controlled where the milk isn’t allowed to fully curdle, instead, it maintains a creamy consistency. As the proteins in the milk clump up, they separate from the whey.
The whey is then separated and the milk solids are further processed by mixing in flavors and seasonings. In the final stage, nitrogen is added to the mixture to aerate it. This gives cream cheese its distinct fluffiness and spreadability.
Once the cream cheese is ready, it’s transferred into special packaging that preserves its quality, flavor, and texture.
Storing Cream Cheese
Freezing cream cheese is pretty straightforward, but there are a few things that you need to keep in mind before freezing and thawing it.
Since cream cheese is susceptible to heat and can spoil quickly, it needs to be stored properly. Here is how you should store it:
Cream cheese is best stored in the refrigerator. Please make sure that you buy cream cheese at the end of your grocery run. Cream cheese is highly susceptible to room temperature and can spoil or even separate if it’s left out in the heat.
Once you buy a tub of cream cheese place it in a cool place in your car, away from sunlight. Store the package in the fridge at 40F. We recommend storing the package at the back so that it isn’t subjected to temperature discrepancies.
Check the back of the packaging for the expiration date and also look for special instructions on when to consume the cheese after opening it. Since the cheese is protected from the outside environment in the packaging, opening it will expose it to moisture which will accelerate bacterial growth.
We also highly recommend that you store the cheese immediately back in the fridge after using it. Do not let the cream cheese sit out at room temperature for more than an hour!
For the best results, we recommend storing an unopened container of cream cheese in the freezer.
This will ensure that the cheese maintains its freshness and quality.
Keep in mind that once you open it, the cheese will be exposed to air which will oxidize it.
Oxidization is different from spoilage as it doesn’t immediately ruin the cheese or compromise it. Instead, oxidized cheese will likely only lose its texture, freshness, and flavor.
This is why if you want to store cream cheese for the longest, then we recommend that you store it unopened.
Unopened cream cheese will easily last up to the expiration date, and maybe even a few weeks beyond if it’s never opened and never thawed before.
To store an unopened container, simply store it at the back of the freezer at 0F. Just like in the refrigeration method, make sure that you store the cheese away from the freezer door for maximum quality!
Storing an opened jar/container of cream cheese is also possible, however, it will likely be a bit challenging since you will have to reseal it properly.
Since cream cheese contains a lot of moisture, it is susceptible to freezer burn.
Freezer burn happens in the presence of air, moisture, and freezing temperatures.
If the packaging is left open then it will likely accumulate frost which will slowly ruin the texture and flavor of the product.
We recommend that you follow these steps to retain the quality of the cream cheese:
Step 1) Either move the leftover cream cheese to a separate freezer-safe airtight container or use cling wrap to tightly seal the opening while in its original container. The cling wrap will create a barrier and keep moisture out and will also prevent freezer burn from occurring.
Step 2) Put the sealed container at the back of the freezer and store it at 0F for up to 2-3 months. We recommend that you consume it within a month to get the most out of its flavor and freshness.
How to Thaw Frozen Cheese
Thawing frozen cheese can be challenging because it can be very easy to mess up its texture and consistency!
Here are the top three methods for thawing frozen cream cheese:
- Refrigeration Defrosting
- Water Bath Defrosting
- Microwave Defrosting
This is probably the best and safest way to thaw frozen cream cheese without affecting its texture. As mentioned above, avoid thawing cream cheese at room temperature as it will likely ruin its freshness and may even compromise its quality.
Thawing food in the refrigerator ensures that it remains cool while it slowly defrosts evenly.
The only downside of using this method is that it takes time.
On average, you should leave the frozen cream cheese container for at least 6-8 hours in the fridge.
Please note that the larger the quantity, the more time it will take to defrost the cream cheese. But in most cases, you will only need to defrost it overnight for the best experience!
Step 1) Shift the frozen cream cheese packaging (without removing its cover or cling wrap) to the back of the fridge. Leave it there for 6-8 hours or overnight to get completely soft cream cheese!
Optional) If the cream cheese doesn’t have the right consistency, then you can just mix it with a spoon. Defrosted cream cheese may become “flat” as the whey separates from the mixture but you can quickly refreshen its texture by incorporating (mixing) the cream cheese!
Water Bathing Method
This method is the quickest way to defrost cream cheese without leaving it out at room temperature. For this method to work, you will need to carefully submerge the cream cheese in room temperature water for up to 30-45 minutes.
Step 1) Fill a bowl with water and then put the cream cheese inside the bowl. You don’t have to submerge it.
If you are working with an open container then we recommend that you place the container on the surface of the bowl or pot and simply fill it up from the sides until you almost reach the top. Do not submerge an open container of cream cheese
Step 2) After 15 minutes, replace the water and repeat the above step. You may have to repeat this step after each 15-minute interval until the cream cheese has thawed.
Step 3) Once thawed, simply mix the cream cheese to freshen its texture, and enjoy!
This method is not recommended as it can ruin the texture of cream cheese but you may be able to give the thawing process a boost if you are careful.
This method should only be reserved for emergencies!
Here’s how to thaw it in the microwave:
Step 1) Put the frozen cream cheese container in the microwave and set the appliance to its lowest setting.
Step 2) Thaw the cream cheese using 30-second intervals until it is melted. Please do not overdo this method as it can easily ruin the texture and quality of the cheese!
Thawing frozen cream cheese is easy as long as you are careful. Now that you know how to thaw it, here are some related questions:
What are the common signs of spoilage for frozen cream cheese?
A runny texture, a foul odor, or discoloration are all signs of spoilage when it comes to improperly stored cream cheese.
If it doesn’t show these signs then you can go ahead and taste it. If you taste any off-putting notes or an overly sour flavor then it’s likely gone bad!
Can I refreeze thawed cream cheese?
Once the frozen cream cheese is thawed, we do not recommend that you refreeze it, especially when it comes to a previously opened packaging of cream cheese.