Don't Toss the Cream Cheese
Except for canned foods and whole eggs, most foods, including cream cheese, are safe to freeze. However, the quality of your future cream cheese recipes may suffer. In any case, freezing cream cheese makes more sense than simply throwing leftover cream cheese away if you want to keep your eye on the family budget.
Loss of Quality
Like milk and other dairy products, cream cheese contains lots of water, about half its contents. During freezing, the water turns into ice crystals. When you thaw the cream cheese, those ice crystals turn back into water but never bond again with the cheese curds. Your cream cheese becomes crumbly, grainy and gritty rather than smooth and creamy, and it losses some of its distinctive tanginess.
Using Thawed Cream Cheese
Recipes that don't rely on the smooth texture of cream cheese don't suffer from using the thawed product. Go ahead and use it for baked goods, like cookies or cakes. But when you want a smooth texture, such as for spreading on bagels, making cream cheese frosting, baking a cheesecake or forming holiday cheese balls, use cream cheese that hasn't been frozen.
Add moisture and a subtle tang to your baked goods with thawed cream cheese. Your family will love cream cheese in muffins, scones and biscuits.
There's no way to prevent the water in cream cheese from freezing. But according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the faster the cream cheese freezes, the smaller the ice crystals that form will be and the less curdled the thawed cream cheese will be. It makes sense to use the "quick-freeze" feature on your freezer if you have one. Cream cheese will stay safe indefinitely in the freezer even as its condition deteriorates.
If your cream cheese has been sitting out for more than two hours on a party buffet table, or one hour if the weather is very warm, you should toss it because after that time, harmful bacteria multiply rapidly.
Susan Lundman began writing about her love of cooking, ingredient choices, menu planning and healthy eating after working for 20 years on children's issues at a nonprofit organization. She has written about food online professionally for ten years on numerous websites, and has provided family and friends with homemade recipes and stories about culinary adventures. Lundman received her M.A. from Stanford University.