It seems like a good idea. You see cream cheese on sale at the supermarket, you buy a bunch to stock up, and then realize you can't eat it fast enough. So can you freeze it? Freezing dairy products is tricky, so the answer is not so straightforward. While there are steps you can follow to keep the spread fresh, the United States Department of Agriculture doesn't recommend freezing cream cheese for a few reasons.
Is It OK to Freeze Cream Cheese?
According to the USDA, an open container of cream cheese stays fresh for two weeks in the refrigerator and "doesn't freeze well." Purdue University agrees in its Food Storage Guide indicating that cream cheese is not recommended to be frozen. Now, that doesn't mean you technically can't do it. Cream cheese can be frozen in its unopened package, which keeps air from getting to the cheese and contaminating it, but there are a few caveats.
Are There Any Consequences to Freezing Cream Cheese?
When Cooks Illustrated froze cream cheese, it found that frozen cream cheese turns grainy and crumbly once it's thawed, which is the same finding Purdue University shares in its Food Storage Guide. The publication explains that this is due to the high volume of water in cream cheese, which makes it "sensitive to the formation and melting of ice crystals that happens during freezing and thawing." So while it might be OK to freeze an unopened container of the spread, you might not want to.
What Can You Use Thawed Cream Cheese For?
Cook's Illustrated's says it's better to skip using thawed cream cheese as a spread, because you will surely notice the difference in its consistency. Rather, cream cheese that has been frozen is best used in foods that hide its texture, like baked goods and dips (like this slow-cooker bean version).