Last Updated on July 7, 2022 by Zara R.
Cream cheese is an incredibly versatile and handy ingredient to have in the kitchen. But, how long can cream cheese stay out safely?
In today’s educational article, we take an in-depth look at cream cheese. More specifically, we explore the best storage methods, shelf life estimates, and potential spoilage signs. This article will help you avoid having bad cheese and ultimately, disastrous food poisoning!
What Is Cream Cheese?
Before we dive deep into this article on how long can cream cheese stay out, we thought that it would be a great idea to first explore exactly what cream cheese is.
We all know it is some sort of soft cheese often used in baking, but by understanding its qualities and composition, you may also be able to better understand its shelf life.
So, what exactly is cream cheese? This dairy product is classified as a type of soft and fresh cheese. What this means is that the cheese is never aged, contains a lot of moisture, and has a very soft and pliable consistency.
The main ingredients used to make cream cheese include milk and dairy. However, very often other stabilizers are added, such as carrageenan and carob bean gum. Now, to legally be marketed as cream cheese, the product has to have at least a 33% milk fat content with a maximum moisture percentage of 55%. The pH also needs to be between 4.4 and 4.9.
Cream cheese is a product that is more acidic than sweet, as you can see from its pH level. So, it is arguably the perfect creamy addition to overly sweet baked goods. It helps to break down the sugars, tenderize the product, and act as a leavening agent in some instances.
Overall, while it may seem a bit bland, cream cheese is an amazing product to have and use in the kitchen! So, let’s move on to how long can cream cheese stay out and what will affect the shelf life.
How Long Can Cream Cheese Stay Out?
There are a couple of factors that will affect the answer to ‘how long can cream cheese stay out?” In general though, if you keep cream cheese in an airtight container at room temperature, it will still be good to use for up to 2 hours. So, if you are putting some out for a dip or making a runny dressing using mainly cream cheese, don’t worry too much about the timing. It will likely be finished before your clock has run out.
However, if you are simply wanting to leave the cream cheese out instead of storing it inside of the fridge, then storing it at room temperature is a definite no-go!
There are loads of elements that will not only shorten the shelf life but also introduce harmful bacteria that could cause serious food poisoning.
How To Properly Store Cream Cheese
The best way to store cream cheese at room temperature would have to be in a completely clean and stain-free airtight container. However, if you are serving it as a dip, don’t worry about the storage method.
But, if we are talking long-term storage, always store cream cheese inside of the fridge. Cream cheese, like most fresh dairy products, is not safe if kept out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
It doesn’t even matter if it is during the colder winter months! Your house is likely still not colder than room temperature.
So, follow our steps below to properly and safely store cream cheese inside the fridge.
Step 1: Place the cream cheese inside a container
If you still have the original packaging with a lid, then we would recommend keeping the opened cream cheese inside of it. But, if you don’t, then place the cream cheese inside a new clean airtight container.
Make sure the container is free of any stains or odors. Cream cheese is very porous and will absorb those lingering flavors.
Step 2: Add plastic wrap
Place a sheet of plastic or saran wrap directly onto the surface of the cream cheese. This will help prevent the cream cheese from drying out by keeping the moisture locked in.
Step 3: Seal and store
Add the airtight lid onto your container (over the plastic wrap) and keep the cream cheese inside the fridge.
Do not store the dairy close to aromatic ingredients or cooked food. And never store it close to any type of meat. It is also not recommended to store dairy products in the fridge door because of fluctuating temperatures.
How To Tell If Cream Cheese Has Gone Bad
There are many signs to tell whether or not cream cheese has gone bad. If the general time frame for how long can cream cheese stay out isn’t indication enough, here are some other signs!
First, the cream cheese will discolor. The older it gets, or the more it was introduced to oxygen, the more yellow and pale color it will get. You could also only notice patches of yellow color.
And naturally, extremely old cream cheese will start growing mold. The mold could be green, blue, white, or black in color.
The cream cheese will also change consistency. It can become more watery once the fat separates from the liquid whey. And, your cream cheese could even get a grainy texture from becoming curdled.
And finally, the cheese will start becoming sour in both smell and flavor. We don’t recommend ever tasting cream cheese that you suspect has gone off, so rather look out for the other signs.
In Conclusion – How Long Can Cream Cheese Stay Out?
So, if you are still not sure about how long can cream cheese stay out, the answer is 2 hours at the most. Otherwise, you should rather keep cream cheese inside the fridge for a couple of days.
If you enjoyed this article, let us know in the comments below. And, if you have any other interesting topics you would like for us to cover, feel free to leave some suggestions too!
Is cream cheese still good if left out overnight?
Unfortunately, you shouldn't risk eating cream cheese that has been left out overnight. All dairy products should be stored in the fridge. If you do end up leaving them at room temperature, you should only do so for a maximum of 2 hours.
Can cream cheese be left out for 8 hours?
Cream cheese can only be left at room temperature for 2 hours. It also doesn't matter how cold the day is. Your home will still not be cold enough to safely preserve the quality of the cream cheese.
How long can you eat cream cheese that’s been left out?
If cream cheese has been left out for less than 2 hours, you can still store it in the fridge to help extend its shelf life. However, you should then eat it within a day. The bacteria that were introduced to the cream cheese will rapidly multiply and spoil it more quickly.
Can you get food poisoning from cream cheese?
You can get food poisoning from spoilt cream cheese. After all, it is a dairy product. This is why proper storage methods are crucial! This is even worsened if the cream cheese is made from unpasteurized milk or cream.