You might come across a recipe that calls for melted cream cheese – either savory or sweet – and be completely clueless about how to incorporate it.
Don’t worry, you aren’t alone, most of us would not know where to start when it comes to melting cream cheese. Luckily, there are easy ways to melt cream cheese in your kitchen to prepare it for your recipe without ruining its texture.
You could leave the cream cheese out to soften over time, but usually, we don’t have hours to wait, and the cheese might not become soft enough to use.
So, how do you melt cream cheese? The best way to melt cream cheese is in the microwave or on the stovetop. Both of these methods need to be done carefully. If done right and carefully monitored, cream cheese will melt down enough to be ideal for cooking and baking.
Below is all you need to know on how to melt cream cheese on the stovetop or in the microwave and how to do it properly.
Melting Cream Cheese in the Microwave
Melting cream cheese in the microwave is the quickest way to soften it up for recipes like our delicious white chicken enchiladas, but you need to be careful.
If you leave the cream cheese in the microwave for too long, even just a few seconds, you could end up with a bubbling mess and not be able to use the cream cheese.
There is also a risk that the cream cheese could bubble and splatter all over the inside of your microwave. If you have melted butter in the microwave, you know how messy it can get.
For this reason, this isn’t the favorite method of many, but it is effective.
Here’s how to melt a cream cheese block in the microwave:
- Unwrap the block of cream cheese completely and place it in a microwave-safe bowl. Make sure all of the wrapping is removed. If your cream cheese is in a tub, transfer it to a microwave-safe bowl as well.
- Place the bowl with the cream cheese into the microwave and switch it on to 75% power. Turn on the heat for 10 seconds.
- After 5 seconds, open the microwave and turn the block of cream cheese over to the other side. If your cream cheese is not in a block, stir it instead. Place it back into the microwave for another 10 seconds.
- Continue to turn the block of cream cheese onto another side, until all four sides have been microwaved side-down for 10 seconds. If it is not a block, stir it every ten seconds for four rounds instead.
- Check the consistency of the cream cheese. It should’ve softened, but if it has not softened or melted enough, you should continue this routine until it reaches the right consistency.
- The cream cheese will eventually get to a point where you can’t flip it over, as it will be too soft. When this happens, just move it around with a spoon like you would with the tubed cream cheese before putting it back into the microwave.
Flipping the cream cheese over (until it is too soft to do so) helps it melt and soften evenly and quickly, so one part does not become hotter than others.
If you have a particularly powerful microwave, you might want to switch the microwave down to 50% power, so the cream cheese does not become too hot too fast.
How far you want your cream cheese to be melted, or how soft you want it to be, will depend on the recipe you are using. Make sure to check if it needs to be softened or melted to be right to use for the recipe.
For a creamier, smoother result, you could place some milk into the bowl with the cream cheese and heat these together. You would need to stir the milk and the cream cheese together during the heating intervals to incorporate them together.
The milk helps to give a thinner, easy-to-use consistency once the cream cheese has melted.
How to Melt Cream Cheese on the Stovetop
Melting cream cheese on the stovetop takes a little bit longer than melting it in the microwave, but you do have more control over the temperature.
As you will be checking the cream cheese constantly through the melting process, there is less chance that the cream cheese will burn.
When melting cream cheese on the stove, it is best to use a double boiler. However, if you do not have a double boiler, you can use the basic double boiler method using some milk, a pot, bowls, and an instant-read thermometer.
Here is how to melt cream cheese on the stovetop:
- Remove the cream cheese from its wrapping, ensuring there is no wrapping left on the cream cheese. Place the block of cream cheese into a heat-proof bowl.
- If you have the time, allow the cream cheese to sit in the bowl for 30 minutes, and then cut it up into small pieces. This helps it melt quicker and prevents you from having to turn the block when it is on the double boiler. You can skip this step if your cream cheese comes in a tub.
- Fill a pot with water and place it on high heat on the stovetop. Allow the water to come to a boil.
- Place the bowl with some milk (about ¼ cup is fine – but the recipe you are using might call for a certain amount) onto the pot of boiling water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not come into direct contact with the boiling water.
- Turn the heat down to medium to prevent the water from boiling over.
- Use an instant-read thermometer to take the temperature of the milk. Once the milk reaches 110°F, place the cream cheese into the bowl.
- Stir the milk and the cream cheese together until the two have fully incorporated. Remove the melted cream cheese from the heat and use it immediately.
Using the double boiler method, heating the cream cheese in a bowl over boiling water prevents the cream cheese from burning and sticking to the pan, curdling, or scorching.
It gently melts the cream cheese, with the milk further softening it and creating a smoother texture once it has melted.
You should not place the cream cheese in a pot which will be placed directly onto the heat. This runs a high risk of burning the cream cheese, having it stick to the side, and completely ruining it altogether.
It is much better to have the cream cheese sit in a bowl above the boiling water, using a double boiler, or the double-boiler method with equipment that you have, to gently heat, soften, and melt the cream cheese.
Too much heat will ruin the cream cheese, with a more gentle process being much more effective.
The double boiler method will allow the cream cheese to melt quicker than just leaving it out on the countertop but still gives it enough protection from direct heat.
You can stop the double-boiling of the cream cheese early if you just want softened cream cheese – it all depends on what the recipe calls for. However, this method is usually used with the addition of milk to make sauces for pasta.
Softening Cream Cheese
You may not want to completely melt your cream cheese, and instead are looking to just soften it slightly to use it to make cheesecake (which you can actually make without cream cheese), frosting, or something similar.
If this is the case, you can soften the cream cheese without using heat, such as a microwave or stovetop.
To do this, you would leave the cream cheese out on the countertop to soften over time. There are ways to quicken this process, so you don’t have to wait all day.
Here is how to do this:
- Remove the wrapping from the cream cheese.
- Cut the cream cheese up into cubes – this helps to soften the block quicker. If left whole, the cream cheese block will take longer to soften.
- Transfer the blocks of cream cheese to a plate, and cover it with plastic wrap.
- Leave the cream cheese to sit on the counter for 30 minutes, or leave it to sit for up to 1 hour if it is still a large block.
- Gently touch down on the plastic wrap to see if the cream cheese has softened. If not, leave it to sit for another 15 minutes.
Liquifying Cream Cheese
You can liquify cream cheese, or at least melt it down and thin it down to make it as close to a liquid as possible, more like sour cream.
To do this, you could heat and melt the cream cheese in the microwave or on the stove, and add some milk to the mixture as it heats up. The milk makes the cream cheese more of a liquid and helps smooth the mixture out more.
If you are using the cream cheese for a sauce, or pasta, it is best to try and add some milk to it, as it stretches the melted cream cheese out further and makes it easier to work with when making a dish.
How much milk you use will depend on the amount of cream cheese you are softening, but sometimes recipes will tell you how much milk to use to soften cream cheese.
It is better to start out with less milk, and then go on to add more as needed as the cream cheese melts, instead of having too much milk to start.
Thinning Cream Cheese
There are a few ways to thin out cream cheese, with different ingredients that you can add to the cream cheese to make it softer and easier to work within a sweet or savory dish.
These are some ingredients you can add to cream cheese to soften and thin it out.
1. Melted Butter
Melted butter is a good choice to thin out cream cheese, as the two mix easily if done properly.
Use around 1 tablespoon of butter for an 8 oz pack of cream cheese.
- Melt the butter in the microwave, and then add the melted butter to the cream cheese in a bowl, stirring well to combine the two ingredients.
- Add more butter to the cream cheese if it does not soften enough with the first tablespoon of melted butter. Add in about 1 teaspoon at a time until the cream cheese is thinned out enough.
- Avoid heating the cream cheese with the butter in the microwave unless you want to melt the cream cheese.
- Unsalted butter is best to use, as it will not alter the taste of the cream cheese too much. Salted butter is fine to use if you are adding cream cheese to a savory dish, but you will have to keep tasting to ensure the mix isn’t too salty.
2. Lemon Juice
Lemon juice also works well to thin out the cream cheese and gives it an extra hint of tartness as well.
What’s great about using lemon juice to thin cream cheese is that it can then be used for either sweet or savory dishes, so you aren’t too limited.
- Stir in 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to an 8 oz block of cream cheese. Stir the two together well to ensure they are combined. Check the consistency of the cream cheese, and have a taste, to determine if more lemon juice is needed.
- If you need to add in more lemon juice, you should only add ½ teaspoon at a time, stir well, and taste until you get to the right consistency. Adding too much lemon juice might make the cream cheese too tart.
3. Whipped Cream
Whipped cream is ideal to add to cream cheese if you are going to be using it for a sweet dish. You could use this to top a cake or cupcakes, or even make a no-bake cheesecake.
- Add 1 tablespoon of whipped cream to an 8 oz block of cream cheese, stirring together well.
- Add more whipped cream to reach your desired consistency and taste. You could also add a small amount of powdered sugar to create the most delicious frosting for cupcakes!
Mascarpone is another option to consider to soften and thin cream cheese. It tastes quite similar to cream cheese but is thinner, so you can use it to thin out cream cheese without changing the taste too much.
You can just add in 1 tablespoon of mascarpone at a time, stirring well, until your desired consistency and taste are reached.
How Do You Get Lumps Out of Softened Cream Cheese?
Sometimes your softened cream cheese may look lumpy, almost like cottage cheese.
If you don’t want to keep the heat on a little longer to dissolve them, the best way to get lumps out of cream cheese is to beat the cream cheese on low. Increase the speed as you go to mix all the cream cheese together and get rid of lumps.
You can whisk melted cream cheese together to remove lumps or leave it to heat up a little more to remove any leftover lumps.
Is Cream Cheese Easier to Spread When Whipped?
Yes, cream cheese will be easier to spread if it is whipped. Whipping the cream cheese aerates it, which then makes it lighter and easier to spread.
Will Cream Cheese Thicken After Melting?
No, cream cheese will never thicken back to its original state after it has been melted.
Make sure you will use all of the cream cheese you are melting. It is better to melt less, and then have to melt more than to melt too much cream cheese and have a whole lot go to waste!