How to Soften Cream Cheese 3 Ways

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Forgot to take your cream cheese out of the fridge? No problem! Here's how to soften cream cheese fast.

Whether you’re making a homemade cheesecake or a bowl of tangy cream cheese frosting, it’s important that the cream cheese is soft before starting to get a perfectly smooth texture. If cream cheese is blended while it’s cold, the finished dish will have a lumpy, curdled look. No one wants that!

USDA guidelines recommend that refrigerated foods shouldn’t be left out at room temperature for more than two hours, so here’s how to to soften cream cheese quickly and safely.

How to Soften Cream Cheese at Room Temperature

Unwrap the cream cheese and slice it into several small cubes. Lightly cover cubes of cream cheese and leave out at room temperature until soft, about 35-45 minutes depending on how warm your kitchen is.

You can use this method to soften butter, too.

How to Soften Cream Cheese in the Microwave

Remove the cream cheese from the wrapper and place it on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave the brick of cheese in 5-second intervals, turning the cheese over on the plate each time. It should be completely softened in about 20 seconds total.

How to Soften Cream Cheese in an Air Fryer

Unwrap the cream cheese and cut it into two halves. Place them on a piece of foil inside the basket and program the air fryer to the lowest temperature (on my air fryer it was 270°F on the Reheat setting). Heat the cream cheese for about 1-1/2 minutes, checking every 30 seconds until it’s softened. Mash the cream cheese up in a bowl and then use in our best-loved cream cheese recipes.

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Nancy Mock
Discovering restaurants, tasting bakery treats, finding inspiration in new flavors and regional specialties—no wonder Nancy loves being a food and travel writer. She and her family live in Vermont and enjoy all things food, as well as the beautiful outdoors, game nights, Avengers movies and plenty of maple syrup. Find Nancy’s writing and recipes at her website: Hungry Enough To Eat Six.