How Long Does It Take to Soften Cream Cheese

Plenty of recipes call for cream cheese to be thawed – for example, that delicious cheesecake you’re planning to make for the upcoming family gathering. But how much time is required to soften cream cheese, and are there quicker options?

How long it takes cream cheese to soften depends on the method you’re using. At room temp on the countertop, it will take about an hour. If you use warm water, it will take about 15 minutes. The fastest method is the microwave method, which will soften cream cheese in one minute.

Hey, everyone! My name is Michelle, and I have spent the last ten years teaching myself how to bake. That said, I have used my fair share of recipes that require soft cream cheese (my most recent obsession is mini cheesecakes!). I’ve discovered how to soften cream cheese – and fast.

Grab your cream cheese, and let’s discuss how to soften it!

3 Ways to Soften Cream Cheese

Cream cheese can soften in as little as one minute or up to an hour. It all depends on the technique you use to soften cream cheese. Let’s take a closer look at your options for softening.

1. At Room Temp (1 Hour)

The easiest way to soften your cream cheese is to simply stick it on your countertop at room temp. You don’t need to do anything “special.” Just let it sit there in its packaging and wait patiently for it to thaw out.

As long as your kitchen isn’t too chilly, it will take about an hour for your cream cheese to soften successfully. If your kitchen is below room temperature, you might need to give it a little more time, say 20 to 30 minutes.

You can speed up the softening timeframe by doing two things:

  • Cut the block into smaller squares, or
  • Massage and rub the block with your hands. The warmth of your body will cause the product to soften faster.

Alternatively, you can turn your oven to the lowest setting and allow it to soften in there. I’m not sure exactly how long this will take, as I have not personally tried it. However, I would assume it wouldn’t take more than five or ten minutes. If you try it out, keep an eye on your cream cheese and let us know how quickly it thawed!

2. Warm Water (15 Minutes)

Don’t want to wait the whole hour? No problem. There’s another method that can soften your cream cheese faster. 

All you need to do is fill a bowl with warm water – not hot or boiling water.

Stick your sealed block of cream cheese into the warm water. Double-check to make sure that it is adequately sealed. The last thing you want to do is allow the water to make contact with your cream cheese. Yuck.

Allow it to sit in the warm water for about 15 minutes. Flip it every five minutes to ensure all areas are adequately softened for baking.

If the water gets too cold, you can refill it with warm water.

3. Microwave (1 Minute)

Do you need your cream cheese softened right this instant? Then look to your handy microwave!

Softening cream cheese in the microwave is undeniably the quickest method. However, it’s also the riskiest. You need to be extra careful not to overdo it. If you leave your cream cheese in the microwave too long, it will melt, which may ruin your recipe outright.

So how do you use the microwave safely and effectively? Here’s how:

Step 1: Remove the cream cheese from the packaging. Remember, foil and microwaves don’t mix. Remove all packaging unless you want the fire department at your door. 

Step 2: Place cream cheese on a microwave-safe bowl or plate. Please don’t plop your cream cheese directly into the microwave. While it might be clean, it’s still unsanitary – at least in my opinion.

Step 3: Microwave in 10-second intervals. Check after every ten seconds to check for the desired doneness.

Step 4: Continue until adequately softened. Continue doing 10-second microwave intervals until it is the correct texture.

Thank your microwave for being so convenient. OK, you don’t have to do this. But it would be a nice gesture, don’t you think?


Who knew there were so many great ways to soften cream cheese? While I’m sure you’re ready to run off and start making your cream cheese-filled recipes, I recommend checking out these frequently asked questions before you leave.

How can I soften cream cheese quickly?

If you need your cream cheese softened ASAP, your best option is the microwave. Remove the cream cheese from its packaging. Put it on a bowl or plate. Microwave in ten-second intervals until it reaches the desired consistency.

How do you soften cream cheese at room temperature?

Honesty, all you need to do is place the cream cheese on the countertop at room temp and let it sit there until it softens. You can speed up the process slightly by cutting the block into smaller squares, but I don’t typically do this as it doesn’t tremendously alter the softening time.

Can I leave the cream cheese out overnight to soften it?

Unfortunately, no, you cannot leave cream cheese sitting out overnight. According to the USDA, dairy products such as cream cheese should not sit out for longer than two hours. At this point, dangerous and harmful bacteria begin to grow rapidly. That said, don’t take it out until you’re ready to use it.

Softening Cream Cheese Doesn’t Take Long!

Cream cheese can easily be softened in under a minute if you use the microwave. If you’re trying to avoid the microwave, you can also opt to use a bowl of warm water or leave your cream cheese on the counter at room temp until it’s softened – just don’t leave it sitting out for longer than two hours!

How do you soften your cream cheese? Do you have another method you’d like to share with us? We love to learn and share, so please comment below!

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

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