How to Quickly Soften Cream Cheese for Cheesecake

TipsCream Cheese

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 Editor-in-Chief of Simply Recipes, and has over 10 years of experience creating food and content for web and print. 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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No ImageHow to Quickly Soften Cream Cheese for Cheesecake

  1. Lynda M Anderson

    Since I plan in advance, (check cabinets and refrigerator for necessary ingredients, (& I never seem to have unsalted butter on hand…) I take all of my cold ingredients, i.e. … butter, eggs, sour cream and such, out of the fridge and place them on the counter in the baking dish, the night before. They are always ready and at room temperature!


  2. Tam

    Take the cream cheese slice in 1/2 lengthwise. Arrange on a plate in a circle, microwave for 1/2 minute and check every 1/2 minute.

  3. 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

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  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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cream cheeseHow to Quickly Soften Cream Cheese for Cheesecake