How to Quickly Soften Cream Cheese for Cheesecake

Ready to make cheesecake, but stuck with cold cream cheese? Try this method!

Photography Credit: Emma Christensen

No matter how many times I make cheesecake, I always forget about setting out the cream cheese to soften before hand — an important detail if you like smooth, lump-free cheesecake. Which I think we can all agree, we very much do.

I’ve tried microwaving on half-power to warm it up and also tried dunking the sealed package in a bowl of warm water. But I often end up with a melted cheese puddle with the former method and worry about package leaks with the latter.

Here’s what I do instead.

Cheesecake in the Pressure Cooker Cheesecake in the Pressure CookerUsing a stiff spatula, I spread the cream cheese into a thin layer on a plate or other flat surface. Cover it loosely with plastic wrap and set it somewhere warm, like next to a warm oven or radiator.

After a few minutes, I scrape up all the cream cheese and spread it flat again. Repeat this a few times until the cream cheese feels soft and pliable, and you’re good to go!

It’s ok if the cream cheese still feels a little cool to the touch. As long as it is no longer stiff from the fridge, you should be fine.

Granted, this method still takes around 15 minutes or so before you can use the cream cheese, but it’s faster than waiting for the cream cheese to soften on the counter and there’s no risk of over-softening or melting. I use the time to gather my ingredients, make the graham cracker crust, and get myself organized.

Do you have a favorite shortcut for softening cream cheese?

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Emma Christensen

Emma Christensen is the managing editor for Simply Recipes, as well as a food writer and homebrewing expert. She was formerly the recipe editor for The Kitchn and is the author of three books on home-brewing, True Brews, Brew Better Beer, and Modern Cider. Emma is a graduate of The Cambridge School for Culinary Arts and Bryn Mawr College. She lives in San Jose, California.

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Showing 4 of 9 Comments

  • violet

    i unwrap my cream cheese and place it in a bowl and place a place on top to seal the bowl, it usually softens quick but i also now use the aldi brand cream cheese which is a lot nicer to eat as well as easier to cook with than phily

  • Norman

    I’ve always microwaved. I’ve done so at least 20 times and never melted anything. It works great and is super easy and fast.

  • Kay

    I place my cream cheese, still unwrapped, in another clear plastic storage bag, usually one that has a zip lock, in a bowl of very warm water. No leaks and warms up quickly. Butter softens quickly at about 10 to 15 sec. in the microwave full power.

  • ghostguy1

    I put the still wrapped in the foil packages of cream cheese in zip lock bags and
    fill the sink with warm ( not hot) water, put them in for 10 minutes or so and they are ready to go

  • Ash

    The same method as quickly softening butter. Unwrap the cream cheese and put it on a plate. Warm a bowl that, when flipped ove, will completely cover the cream cheese without touching it – I fill it with water and heat it in the microwave then dump the water and quickly dry it. Place the warm bowl over the cream cheese for a few minutes.

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