How to Soften Cream Cheese

Cream cheese in open package


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Some recipes call for softened cream cheese as a baking ingredient. Need soft cream cheese in a pinch? Find out the correct and safe way to soften cream cheese.

Here's why you may need to do this: If you let the cream cheese sit on the counter, you cannot bake right away—you have to wait. This also risks that it won't be as fresh or could be subjected to germs. Semi-softened cream cheese means you might get chunks of cheese in your recipe. Knowing how to soften cream cheese can help you attain perfectly soft cream cheese for a recipe with the perfect texture. Whether it's cheesecake or a cream cheese dip, this is how to get softened cream cheese that's not over-baked and still creamy in texture.

How to Soften Cream Cheese for Cooking and Baking

Softening cream cheese is easy and takes just 15 seconds. Simply put an unwrapped slab of cream cheese into a microwavable bowl or plate. Then microwave it on high for 15 seconds. If it is not soft, you can microwave it in 15-second increments until it gets to the right texture. Mix it through; it may be a little cooler in the middle but the warmer sides may help it soften evenly and completely in just a few minutes.

Another idea is to chop the cold cream cheese slab into a few chunks and then microwave it. This ensures that microwave can more quickly heat the individual chunks instead of the whole slab at once.

Some cooks prefer to soften their cream cheese by wrapping the slab in plastic wrap and then submerging it in a bowl of hot tap water. You can then tell when it's the texture or warmth you desire. This can typically take anywhere from five to 10 minutes. If you try this method, just make sure the wrap is completely sealed! (You could use a plastic bag and then leave the sealed edge above the waterline just to make sure water does not get in and mix with the cheese.) 

Recipes that Use Softened Cream Cheese