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Can Cream Cheese Be Left Out?

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So many people love cream cheese! Even though cream cheese adds flavor to every food we eat it with, it has a particular challenge. It spoils quickly.

So, we need to be extra careful about the way we store or preserve our cream cheese. What happens if we do not store it properly?

For how long can cream cheese be left out?

It is unsafe to leave your cream cheese out for more than two hours. Due to its semi-liquid form and nutritious properties, cream cheese is very easily attacked by bacteria and other harmful microbes. So, we must store our cream cheese properly.

How can you tell that your cream cheese is bad? What are the best ways to store cream cheese? Continue reading!

Homemade Low Fat Cream Cheese Spread in a Bowl

Can Cream Cheese Be Left Out?

It is unsafe to leave your cream cheese out. If you expose your cream cheese to room temperature for too long, it will go bad quickly because of various microbial activities.

This means that you need to consume your cream cheese quickly after removing it from the fridge or wherever you were storing it.

Why Does Cream Cheese Go Bad Quickly?

Cream cheese quickly goes bad because of its nutrient-rich properties and semi-liquid state. Decomposing microbes such as fungi and bacteria quickly act on food items that are very nutritious. Cream cheese is rich in proteins and other nutrients, so it is a preferred target of microbes.

Another reason why cream cheese quickly goes bad is that it is soft and moist. Microbes act quicker on liquid foods than on solid foods. Also, the higher the moisture level in a food, the greater the risk of it spoiling quickly.

So, you need to be extra careful when handling or consuming cream cheese, as it is not your regular cheese.

bowl of cream cheese on white background

For How Long Can You Leave Cream Cheese at Room Temperature?

According to, you shouldn’t leave food such as cream cheese exposed to room temperature for more than two hours. After two hours, you should dispose of the cream cheese so that you do not harm yourself by eating bad food.

Some people only expose their cream cheese long enough to soften it, as it can harden in the fridge. If you just want to soften your cream cheese, you do not need to wait several hours because cream cheese can soften within 20 minutes of sitting outside the fridge.

Note that if you have not opened your cream cheese container, and it is still properly sealed just the way it came from the store, it can last longer.

Unopened cream cheese can last a week or two past the expiration date in the fridge and also a few hours outside the fridge. Just make sure that you do not forget to store it properly.

Can You Eat Bad Cream Cheese?

No, you should not eat bad cream cheese. Fungi and other decomposing microbes change the composition of food they are decomposing, and they make the food go bad. Eating bad cream cheese can lead to food poisoning, so you should dispose of it and not eat it.

Now you know why cream cheese goes bad and how long you can keep it outside. But how can you tell that your cream cheese is bad for consumption? Continue reading.

How to Tell That Cream Cheese Is Bad

Note that cream cheese can go bad in many ways. So even if you see only one sign or just a few signs, you should dispose of it. Here are some ways to tell that your cream cheese has gone bad:

1. Presence of Mold

The image of black mold on the wall or on the ceiling

The presence of mold on the surface of your cream cheese is all you need to know that the cheese is simply inedible. Note that mold can start appearing after five to seven hours of exposure to room temperature.

This is because the fungi responsible for producing the mold have may already be inside the cheese but will only produce mold as a form of reproduction (i.e., when it is mature enough).

Do not try to scoop off the part of the cream cheese with mold and eat the remaining parts. Please dispose of the entire block of cream cheese because it is simply inedible with mold on its surface.

2. Check the Cheese Consistency

Another way to tell that your cream cheese is bad is by examining its consistency. The cream cheese should be soft, and there should not be any irregular bumps or textures in the cheese. Finding any unknown texture in your cream cheese is an indication that it is bad.

You should also check the cheese for bubbles and trapped air pockets. Anaerobic bacteria usually produce harmful gasses as they break down the cream cheese, so another indication that your cream cheese is bad is the presence of bubbles in the cheese.

3. Bad or Foul Smell

The harmful gasses that anaerobic bacteria produce can be methane, carbon monoxide, and others. Decomposing fungi also produce carbon dioxide. While some of the gasses that microbes produce are odorless, others have a bad smell and indicate that the cream cheese has gone off.

As long as your cream cheese is not smelling like it should and it smells bad, you should not eat it. Dispose of your foul-smelling cream cheese immediately. 

4. Bad Taste

unhappy young woman is disgusted by the taste of her food

Well, you should not even try to taste your cream cheese when it has gone bad in the first place. If you eat bad cream cheese by mistake, you will surely know that it is bad through its unpleasant taste. The bad taste of spoilt cream cheese is due to its change of properties.

Even if it does not taste so bad, you should not eat any spoiled cream cheese. Please dispose of it and do not try to taste it again.

5. Presence of Insects Around the Cream Cheese

The presence of mold, foul smell, and bad taste in your cream cheese may be disgusting to you, but it is pleasant to insects and other little creatures. When you see a lot of flies and other insects around your cream cheese, it is time to dispose of it.

The insects indicate that the cream cheese is bad. Even if it has not gone fully bad, the insects can also introduce harmful microbes into your cream cheese, so you should not try to eat it.

6. Change of Color

Another property of spoiled cream cheese is a color change. Cream cheese that was white or cream will start looking yellow, green, or brown according to the type of mold present in it. If you notice a color change in your cream cheese, dispose of it immediately.

7. Check the Expiry Date

best before date on canned food

If your cream cheese has passed its expiry date, you do not need to consume it anymore. Cream cheese can stay a few days or weeks after its expiry day so long as you store it properly, but if you see just a single sign that it has gone bad, just dispose of it.

Make sure that you check that your cream cheese is safe and healthy to eat before you eat it.

How to Properly Prolong the Life of Cream Cheese

So how do you preserve cream cheese so that it does not go bad quickly? Here are some ideas:

1. Refrigerate the Cheese

Now, this is the most common way to store your cream cheese. Simply seal it in its container and then keep it in the fridge.

If you want to eat some cream cheese, but you cannot consume everything in the container, take what you need and then put the rest back in the fridge.

What if you forget? Can you put your cream cheese in the fridge after leaving it out for long? You can only put your cream cheese back in the fridge if was out for less than two hours.

2. Keep Cream Cheese in an Air-Tight Container

Microbes cannot access cream cheese if you store it in an air-tight container. These containers have proper seals that can help extend the shelf life of your cream cheese. However, you still need to store it in the fridge.

3. Always Use Clean Utensils

Set cutlery of fork ,knife and spoon

Using dirty utensils to remove a portion of cream cheese can expose the remaining part of the cheese to harmful microbes. You should wash your utensils thoroughly before you use them on your cream cheese.

4. Do Not Keep Your Cheese Close to a Window or Source of Wind

Microbes and mold spores rely on the wind and other elements to transport them to new locations. If you leave your cream cheese near a window, it can quickly go bad. Try to keep it away from any source of wind also.

5. Always Check the Expiration Date

You should always check the expiration date of the cream cheese so that you can tell when to dispose of it. Try not to eat any cream cheese when it has passed its expiration date.

Now you know various ways to properly store cream cheese. Make sure that you store it properly.

Final Thoughts

You should not leave cream cheese out for more than two hours because it can go bad after that. Make sure that you properly store the cheese and only eat cheese that is safe to eat. Do not eat cream cheese that has gone bad.