If you’ve ever bought a gigantic tub of delicious cream cheese for a bargain price, you’ll have wondered… “can you freeze cream cheese?”
Let’s find out!
So… can you freeze cream cheese?
In a word… yes! You can freeze cream cheese. However, there are a few things you should know beforehand.
First of all, when freezing cream cheese, the texture will suffer, as frozen and defrosted cream cheese becomes slightly grainy or crumbly. It will also be less creamy.
The amount it suffers depends on a few factors, like how long you freeze it, how you freeze it in the first place and the method you use to defrost it.
Freezing cream cheese in the proper way means any effect to the texture and taste will be minor. That said, there are definitely ways to use your defrosted cream cheese that work better than others.
So, if you have bought a large amount of cream cheese for the bargain price of the century, fear not! You can extend its shelf life while getting great value for your money.
Products you need to freeze cream cheese
There are a few key items you’ll need to get hold of before you freeze your cream cheese:
- Airtight container or ziploc bags – you’ll need an airtight container or freezer bag to properly freeze your cream cheese
- Freezer labels and sharpie pen – label your cream cheese so you know when you froze it
- Whisk – a good old fashioned whisk is needed to restore your cream cheese to its former glory once thawed
- Mixing bowl – you’ll need a mixing bowl to whisk up your defrosted cream cheese
- Ice cube tray – a great way to freeze individual portions
What exactly is cream cheese?
Cream cheese is a soft, spreadable fresh cheese that is made from a combination of full fat cow’s milk and cream.
In the US, real cream cheese must have a minimum fat content of 33%, while in the UK it must be 44%.
Smooth in texture and mild in taste, cream cheese is great when spread on crackers or in a sandwich, or simply used as a dip. It’s also great in desserts, most notably cheesecakes.
In the US, cream cheese was first mass-produced in New York in the 1870s. By the 1880s, as part of a marketing campaign, one dairyman named his cream cheese ‘Philadelphia Cream Cheese,’ even though it wasn’t made in Philly.
This strategy was to associate the cream cheese with quality dairy and Philadelphia was the dairy capital of the US at the time.
What happens when you freeze cream cheese?
Well, it undergoes a few changes to the texture. First of all, standard cream cheese is about 33% fat and over half of this fat is moisture. So, it stands to reason that, when frozen, this moisture will be affected.
When cream cheese is stored in the freezer, ice crystals form. Then, when you thaw cream cheese, the defrosted liquid stays separated from the cheese curds that it used to be such firm friends with. Here lies our problem.
As the liquid fat and the cheese curds refuse to get back together, we end up with a grainy, separated cream cheese, far from the luscious creamy delight that we love to spread on everything.
Don’t worry though! There are a few things we can do to minimize the damage in the first place, as well as a method we can follow to fix grainy cream cheese…
How do you prevent cream cheese from losing its texture?
There are two main ways to preserve the quality of cream cheese when you freeze it:
Freezing it the proper way
One of the main reasons cream cheese loses its taste and texture is due to improper freezing. Plastic wrap on its own just won’t do. You need to properly seal the cream cheese when freezing.
See the instructions at the base of the page for a step-by-step guide on how to freeze cream cheese.
Defrosting it the proper way
Another key reason cream cheese becomes grainy and unappetizing is the way that it has been thawed. As with anything frozen, taking your time is the way to go. Defrost it in the refrigerator overnight and you’ll minimize the damage to taste and texture.
How do you make frozen cream cheese creamy again?
Just the thought of grainy cream cheese is enough to make a cream cheese-lover despair! Still, once you’ve minimized the damage through proper freezing and thawing, there are a few methods you can use to put the ‘cream’ back in cream cheese.
First of all, you can simply place the defrosted cream cheese in a mixing bowl and whisk it until it becomes smoother. This is the quick and easy way and you’ll get decent results.
If you want to put a bit more time into it, there is a more effective way to make cream cheese creamy again. Fill a medium-sized saucepan with water and bring it to a simmer on the stove. Then, place a glass bowl on top of the pan, making sure the bottom of the bowl isn’t touching the water.
Place the thawed cream cheese in the bowl. What you’re looking for here is indirect heating. As the cream cheese slowly heats, whisk it until it starts to become smoother.
How long can you freeze cream cheese?
While an opened packet of cream cheese will last just a few days in the refrigerator, once frozen it will keep for up to 6 months.
I recommend using it within 4 months, otherwise you’ll notice big changes to the taste and texture of the cream cheese.
How do you defrost frozen cream cheese?
Defrosting cream cheese the right way has a big impact on its taste and texture. Get it right and you’ll have a minimal change. Get it wrong and you’ll end up with a watery, grainy mess.
Don’t be tempted to defrost cream cheese in the microwave or by leaving it out on the kitchen side. The best way to thaw frozen cream cheese is to defrost it slowly in the refrigerator. Leaving it to defrost overnight should be enough.
How do you know when cream cheese has gone bad?
Use your senses!
First, smell. If it smells sour and off-putting, then it’s no good.
Then, sight. If it’s starting to lose its color and turn gray, it’s time to throw it away. Keep an eye out for slimy cream cheese. Yes, when there’s a hint of slime, you’ll know it’s gone bad.
Can you freeze cream cheese appetizers?
It’s always best to freeze ingredients separately. So, instead of making up your cream cheese appetizers then deciding to freeze them, it’s best to think ahead and plan how many you’ll need.
As cream cheese separates when frozen, your cream cheese appetizers will not be appetizing once thawed.
On the other hand, you can freeze cream cheese, thaw it, whisk it, then use it to make some delicious appetizers.
Does Philadelphia cream cheese freeze well?
Yes, Philadelphia cream cheese freezes the same as any other brand. It will separate once thawed, so you’ll need to carry out the steps above to get the best out of it.
Like any other cream cheese, it’s best when used in certain dishes once thawed, like sauces instead of cheesecakes, for example.
Can you freeze low fat cream cheese?
While you can freeze low fat cream cheese, it’s not the best type to freeze. Full fat cream cheese holds up much better than the low fat versions.
If you do want low fat cream cheese, once thawed, only use it in sauces and casseroles etc.
Tips for freezing cream cheese
Let’s go over some key points that will you get the best out of your frozen cream cheese:
- Freeze cream cheese as quickly as possible. The longer it sits around in your refrigerator before you freeze it, the worse the taste and texture will be affected.
- When freezing cream cheese, be sure to use an airtight container. You can wrap it in plastic wrap before sealing it in the container, which will protect it from freezer burn.
- Defrost frozen cream cheese overnight in the refrigerator for best results.
- Once thawed, place the cream cheese in a mixing bowl over simmering water and whisk. This is the best way to make frozen cream cheese creamy again.
- If you want to use frozen cream cheese in small portions, freeze it in an ice cube tray. This way, you can add it straight to casserole or sauce recipes
- Freezing cream cheese may affect its consistency, so it’s best to use frozen cream cheese in certain recipes rather than others…
How to use defrosted cream cheese
Once defrosted, cream cheese can be used as you would normally for a quick snack – spread on crackers, on bagels with smoked salmon or in a sandwich.
However, if you haven’t managed to get the right consistency, thawed cream cheese would work better when cooked into a sauce, casserole or a pasta bake.
Here are a few recipes that would be ideal when it comes to using frozen cream cheese:
- Cauliflower cheese pasta – an easy, extremely satisfying recipe
- Bacon wrapped with cream cheese – these little appetizers are spectacular
- Blue cheese dip – blend the blue cheese with your defrosted cream cheese
- Cream cheese frosting – you’ll have to make sure you get your frozen cream cheese creamy again, but if you do this recipe would be a great way to use frozen cream cheese
- Cauliflower cheese – pure comfort food, perfect as a side or a main, this recipe is an ideal way to use your frozen cream cheese
- Bolognese pasta bake – a one tray pasta bake is easy and delicious!
More freezing guides
Freezing is a great way to extend the shelf life of some of your favorite ingredients. While you can’t freeze everything, there are some ingredients that freeze really well. Here are some more Greedy Gourmet freezing guides:
- Can you freeze clotted cream?
- Can you freeze coconut milk?
- Can you freeze almond milk?
- Can you freeze cream cheese frosting?
- Airtight freezer-safe container
- Ziploc bag
- Freezer labels
- Plastic wrap
- Ice cube tray
- Sharpie pen
- Mixing bowl
How to freeze unopened cream cheese
- Keep the packet of unopened cream cheese in the refrigerator until you’re ready to freeze it.
- Place the packet in a ziploc freezer bag and label it with the date of freezing.
- Alternatively, place the packet of unopened cream cheese in the freezer directly.
- Label the packet with the date of freezing.
How to freeze opened cream cheese
- Wrap the opened cream cheese in a layer of plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn.
- Place it into an airtight, freezer-safe container or a ziploc bag.
- Remove as much air from the bag as possible, before sealing.
- Label with the date of freezing and place the cream cheese in the freezer.
How to freeze cream cheese in small portions
- Spoon portions of cream cheese into a large ice cube tray.
- Place the ice cube tray into the freezer to flash freeze for 2–3 hours.
- Once the cream cheese is properly frozen, place the ice cube tray into a large ziploc bag to prevent freezer burn. Remove as much air from the bag as possible, before sealing.
- Label with the date of freezing and return it to the freezer.
- Thaw frozen cream cheese in the refrigerator overnight. Once thawed, use a whisk to make the cream cheese creamy again.