Cream cheese is a delicious cheese that can be used as a topping for a snack, as well as a key ingredient in a variety of different sweet and savory dishes.
There is only one downside to cream cheese, and that is its short shelf life.
In the fridge, cream cheese has a shelf life of one week which is nowhere near enough time to enjoy this delicious treat.
But is it possible to prolong the shelf life of cream cheese?
We’ve answered this question and so much more in this ultimate guide to freezing cream cheese.
It is packed full of all the information you will ever need to know about cream cheese and whether or not you can freeze it.
What is cream cheese?
Before we discuss whether or not you can freeze cream cheese, we must establish exactly what cream cheese is.
Cream cheese is a soft form of the classic food we love. Just like other types of cheese, cream cheese consists of dairy products, however, unlike other types of cheese, cream cheese is constructed of both milk and cream.
It is the inclusion of cream in its recipe that gives this ingredient its name, ‘cream cheese’. While the majority of cheeses come in a solid, hard structure, cream cheese differs massively.
The inclusion of the cream completely alters the texture of the cheese, making it softer, and also making the taste a lot milder than some hard cheeses.
It is common for cream cheese to be confused with soft cheese. The terms are often used interchangeably, however, cream cheese is very different from soft cheese. As we’ve already mentioned, cream cheese is made with milk and cream.
Whereas soft cheese is constructed with raw milk, and no cream, to give it its soft texture. Even though you might have heard of cream cheese referred to as soft cheese, it is not the same thing.
Instead, soft cheeses tend to include feta, and blue cheese, not cream cheese.
While soft cheeses are commonly associated with savory dishes, you are much more likely to hear cream cheese discussed in a sweet context.
Although cheese is a savory food, cream cheese works against this rule, and it is included in a lot of different desserts and sweet dishes.
Due to its inclusion in so many different meals, we will also look at whether or not you can freeze cream cheese in its other forms rather than just its basic ‘cream cheese’ form.
So with no further ado, let’s take a look at whether or not cream cheese can be frozen.
Can you freeze cream cheese?
Before we get onto anything else, we must answer the all-important question, ‘Can you freeze cream cheese?’. In short, the answer is yes. Cream cheese can be frozen and it requires minimal effort to freeze it.
With a lot of foods that you may want to freeze, you will have to transfer the contents from its original container into a freezer bag, or an airtight box. However, you do not need to do this with cream cheese.
While transferring before freezing is always an option. The packaging that cream cheese comes in, which is usually a cardboard box with a foil wrap and a plastic lid, is more than resilient enough to survive the time in the freezer.
But it is worth noting that this may not be the best option if the cream cheese that you want to freeze has already been opened. Should you want to freeze cream cheese which has already been opened, we would recommend transferring it into another container before placing it in the freezer.
We mainly recommend this because the container that the cream cheese is in might have sustained damage during the process in which you opened it.
It is also possible that the container will not be as airtight as it was before opening, which could expose the cream cheese inside to moisture and bacteria during the freezing process.
So now that we’ve established that cream cheese can be frozen, let’s take a quick look at the different options available for freezing it.
How do you Freeze Cream Cheese?
The first option, as we’ve already mentioned, is to freeze the cream cheese in its original packaging.
This is only an option if the cream cheese that you are looking to freeze has not been opened yet, making this a great freezing method if you have bought cream cheese in bulk.
All you need to do is stack the blocks, or containers of cream cheese flat in your freezer and let the machine do its job.
We recommend this method more if your cream cheese comes in cardboard packaging with a foil wrap as these materials are very resilient to freezing.
Whereas if your cream cheese has come in plastic packaging you might choose to transfer it into a different container.
This is because companies often use low-grade plastic as packaging for their products, putting the plastic at risk of splitting or bursting as the cheese freezes.
Alternatively, if you are looking to freeze cream cheese that has already been opened you will have to transfer it into a different container. This is because the packaging has already been opened so it is unable to fully protect the opened cream cheese from freezer burn and moisture.
To do this, all you need to do is spoon the cream cheese from its original container into a new one.
You can either use a freezer bag or an airtight container as the new packaging, and one or the other will be more appropriate depending on the room that you have in your freezer.
Another thing that we recommend, is that instead of freezing cream cheese that has been opened in bulk, you could freeze it in portions instead. To do this, simply divide the cream cheese between a set amount of airtight bags.
You will know how much cream cheese you use at any one time, so divide it into portions of this amount to avoid wastage in the freezer.
Whatever method you use to freeze your cream cheese, you must label the bag/container with the date that you have frozen it so that you know exactly when the cheese has to be eaten before it will become dangerous.
However, while cream cheese can be frozen, there are some things that you should consider before you do this, let’s take a look at what they are.
Things you Must Consider
Although you can freeze cream cheese, there are some things that you must consider before seeing this as a valid option. To understand these considerations, we need to look at what happens to cream cheese in the freezing process.
Cream cheese is a dairy product, and dairy products are notoriously difficult to freeze. While the majority of foods that include dairy can be frozen, it is not always the best choice because of the alterations that the process makes to the food.
Cream cheese is no exception to this rule, however, it can withstand freezing better than some other dairy products, especially other cheeses.
The main thing that causes alteration to the cheese when freezing is the high water content that can be found in any dairy product.
When placed in the freezer, this dairy content will harden and expand, altering the structure of the cheese due to the extremely low temperatures within your freezer.
This affects hard cheese the most as it causes the water molecules inside the cheese to freeze, only to defrost and melt away once the cheese has been removed from the freezer. This alters the structural integrity of the cheese and can often cause it to become a lot more crumbly than it was before freezing.
Freezing has a similar effect on cream cheese, however, its soft consistency means that the structural changes may not seem as obvious because the cheese is not solid, to begin with.
That being said, it is common for the consistency of cream cheese to alter significantly once it has been frozen.
You will probably notice that the cheese might be slightly more crumbly or grainy after freezing and it might not seem as creamy as it was before you placed it in the freezer.
However, the most obvious thing that you will notice after freezing and defrosting your cream cheese is that it will have separated. It is incredibly common for the liquid and solid ingredients of cream cheese to separate during the freezing process, which can look incredibly unappealing.
While it might seem like the end of the world, and your cream cheese might appear inedible, it is still perfectly safe to eat.
To return the ingredients to their original state, all you need to do is mix the contents of the container thoroughly until it has returned to something similar to the consistency before freezing.
But, please note that the consistency will never be 100% the same as it was before freezing again.
Cream cheese usually has a shelf life of up to 1 week in the fridge, and freezing it extends this indefinitely.
That being said, we do recommend using the cream cheese within 2 months of freezing it as the cold temperatures of the freezer will continue to alter the consistency of the cheese the longer that it is in there.
So cream cheese by itself is safe to freeze, but what about cream cheese as an ingredient in something else? Let’s take a look.
Can you freeze meals that contain cream cheese?
We have established that cream cheese can be frozen in its natural state, now it’s time for us to look at whether or not it is safe to freeze cream cheese when it is an ingredient in another dish.
As we’ve already mentioned, cream cheese is mainly used as an ingredient in sweet dishes, such as cheesecakes, and cream cheese frosting for carrot cakes and red velvet cupcakes.
The thought of cheese in a sweet dish might seem strange, but cream cheese has an extremely mild flavor that makes it the perfect ingredient if you want a creamy topping for your cakes. But is it safe to freeze either of these popular dishes?
First, let’s look at whether or not you can freeze homemade cheesecake. The answer is yes, homemade cheesecake can be frozen for future use. Similar to freezing cream cheese in its normal form, freezing it within a cheesecake is also simple.
So if you want to prepare a cheesecake to freeze for future use, you can rest assured that this is easy to do. All you need to do is prepare your cheesecake as you usually would and leave it to cool before placing it in the refrigerator to chill.
When the cheesecake would usually be ready to eat, it is then time to prepare it for freezing. Depending on your preference, you can either slice the cheesecake up or freeze it whole. You should place your cheesecake onto a cardboard round to provide it with support from below during the freezing process.
Next, you should wrap it thoroughly in saran wrap, before wrapping it in aluminum foil also. You should label the packaging with the date of freezing, and then your homemade cheesecake will be ready to freeze.
For optimal flavor, we recommend eating within 1 month of freezing, however, the cheesecake will be safe to consume for up to 2 months after it has been frozen.
So cheesecake is safe to freeze, but what about cream cheese frosting? The answer is yes, cream cheese frosting is safe to freeze, and it freezes incredibly well. Anybody who has made frosting for a cake before will know that more times than not, you will prepare too much topping for your cake.
In a country where waste is constantly trying to be reduced, the last thing you want to do is throw away your leftover topping (especially when it is so yummy). So when it comes to cream cheese frosting, freezing is a lifesaver.
Due to its high-fat content, cream cheese freezes well and can be kept edible for up to 3 months after it is placed in the freezer. It is a simple process, which begins with you preparing your cream cheese frosting as normal.
Once it is all mixed, and would usually be ready to pipe, you should instead transfer the frosting into an airtight container or freezer bag. Should you use a freezer bag, you must try and remove as much air as possible from the bag before sealing it.
Once the bag has been sealed, you should label it with the date of freezing before placing it in the freezer. If you have chosen to use an airtight container, you should wrap the container in a layer of saran wrap before labeling that also, then placing it in the freezer.
For the best results, we recommend laying the bag or container flat in the freezer to avoid any unwanted spillages.
However, we recommend freezing the cream cheese in freezer bags as these are easier to store, and can also be converted into a piping bag once the cream cheese frosting has been defrosted.
So now that we have covered freezing cream cheese in its natural form, as well as in some of its most popular dishes, let’s take a look at how you defrost this cheese.
Defrosting Cream Cheese
We have established that freezing cream cheese is a simple process, but what about defrosting it?
You will be happy to hear that defrosting cream cheese is just as easy as freezing it is. There are a few different options that you have when defrosting cream cheese which will be better suited to you depending on your situation.
For the best results, we would recommend defrosting your cream cheese slowly. The best way to do this is by transferring the container, or bag, that contains the cream cheese from the freezer into the refrigerator.
It can take up to 24 hours for cream cheese to defrost using this method so we would recommend taking it out at least the night before you want to use it.
You will observe that the cream cheese has separated once it has defrosted, but all you have to do is stir it thoroughly and then it’s ready to use.
If you need the cream cheese to defrost quicker, you can defrost it at room temperature. To do this, we recommend wrapping the container of cream cheese in a clean towel and leaving it on the side of your worktop to defrost for a couple of hours.
If you use this method, you will also notice that the cream cheese has separated but all you need to stir it, and then it is ready to be used.
The methods for defrosting cream cheese frosting and cheesecake are both very similar. All you need to do is transfer the container holding either the cheesecake or cream cheese frosting from the freezer into the fridge.
This is the only suitable way to defrost cream cheese frosting, however, you have a few other options with cheesecake.
If you would prefer, you can unwrap the cheesecake from its foil wrapper and leave it to defrost on the countertop for a few hours.
Alternatively, you can microwave individual frozen slices of cheesecake for 30 seconds and they should be ready to eat.
In short, cream cheese is suitable for freezing and it is a great way to prolong the life of your cream cheese.
As well as in its natural form, cream cheese can also be frozen when it is used as an ingredient in cheesecakes and cream cheese frosting.