How Long Can Cream Cheese Sit Out? 

I have often wondered how certain foods can last longer than others, and how some just don’t seem to last at all!

Cream cheese is a special type of cheese that has only matured for a very short time and is therefore still relatively soft and spreadable. Depending on taste and preference, there is cream cheese in different fat content levels and cream cheese with herbs or even fruit or cinnamon flavor. 

Cream cheese is a very stable cheese, able to stay when refrigerated for quite a while. But how long can it sit out for before its ‘gone bad’?

The US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends keeping refrigerated foods like cream cheese out of the so-called “danger zone,” for extended periods of time. This is because bacteria such as E.coli grow when between 40°F and 140°F. The food safety experts at the US government err on the extreme side-of-caution and state that cream cheese should not be un-refrigerated for longer than two hours, although it is quite unlikely that there would be much risk of illness even after a few hours.

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Have you ever taken a roll, bagel or a sandwich with cream cheese with you to work, university or school where it has sat in your bag for hours before being eaten? You were likely just fine, as cream cheese keeps quite well so long as it was of good quality and fresh to begin with. The later is key, knowing that it is well-stored and stable. You can get the most out of your cream cheese shelf-life with good handling and storage.

Okay, so then what about handling and storage, and when refrigerated, how long can cream cheese ultimately stay good in your fridge? Lets look below.

How long does cream cheese last in the fridge?

Cream cheese fresh from the supermarket usually has roughly 3 weeks until the best-before date expires. Once it is opened, it can be expected to last about 10 days while refrigerated. If you have unopened cream cheese in your fridge, it can safely last up to 4 weeks past the best before date!

How do you store cream cheese correctly?

Cream cheese is already stored chilled in the supermarket and of course should be refrigerated as soon as you’re home.

As an interesting note, there are different temperature zones in your fridge, many people are not aware of this. The lowest open compartment, i.e. the compartment above the vegetable compartment, contains food that must be stored very cool. This mainly includes fish and meats. Your cream cheese should be placed one compartment higher. Milk and milk products such as yogurts and cream cheese belong in this second open compartment . Further up at the top there is space for ready-made meals and left-overs, which are only kept for a short time.

As soon as the package of cream cheese has been opened, you should make sure that the cream cheese is closed again airtight. Often, but not always, this is possible with the original packaging. If the packaging of the cream cheese does not have a solid and resealable lid, then its best to use an airtight plastic container to store your cream cheese in the fridge.

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Can you still eat cream cheese after the best-before date?

Dairy products such as yogurt and cream cheese are usually still edible some time after the best-before date. This is especially true for yogurt, but you don’t have to dispose of cream cheese immediately if the best-before date has just passed. Just check for yourself whether the cream cheese is still good, knowing that if you stored it correctly, the best before date is not set in stone.

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How do you know when cream cheese has gone bad?

The most obvious way to tell if cream cheese is bad is if mold has formed. You should look carefully if in doubt, because the mold can have different colors. The color of the mold can be white, that is, about the same color as the cream cheese itself. Another sign that cream cheese is no longer good is a sour taste. If the cream cheese does not taste as expected and the best before date has expired, then you should dispose of the cream cheese. 

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