Butter 101: Does Butter Expire or Go Bad?

Butter has had a bad rap for a long time but is there another side to the story? As science moves forward, there is evidence that butter is better for you than you would have guessed; 1 teaspoonful of butter contains 11% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A, which protects your skin and eyes. There is more to the buttery goodness than you thought.

Science has proven that butter can assist in weight loss! Did you know that 2.07 million pounds of butter were manufactured in the US in 2021? It is a staggering amount of butter.

This article will explore butter and the facts behind its longevity as a kitchen product. We will answer many frequently asked questions so you can enjoy the butter confidently.

Let’s get into it.

Does butter expire?

Yes, but not as fast as you think. It seems evident that butter should be refrigerated to maximize its shelf life, but even out of the fridge, butter has a remarkable shelf life. If you store your opened butter in an airtight container in the pantry, it will last for two weeks.

Unopened butter, on the other hand, will easily last one month past the expiry date, and in some cases, if stored in the coldest part of the fridge, unopened butter could last up to three months.

Of course, there are advantages to storing your open butter pack in the pantry. It’s spreadable and convenient rather than letting refrigerated butter come to room temperature before using it.

Does butter need to be refrigerated?

Not necessarily, but it will extend the shelf life of the butter. Storing an open butter pack in the refrigerator in an airtight container will extend the shelf life by at least two weeks. If stored properly, butter in the fridge can have a shelf life of up to three months.

Refrigerated butter may need to come to room temperature to be spreadable. Still, the payoff of refrigerating butter is enormous unless you get through a pack of butter every week.

How long can butter sit out before going bad?

According to the USDA, butter is safe for up to two weeks if it is left out on the side. The butter should be in an airtight container to prevent exposure to bacteria and the odd cat lick, but it is perfect at room temperature.

Butter exposed to the atmosphere for more than two hours would be considered to be garbage due to the proliferation of bacteria, so it’s essential to have your butter in a suitable container.

Should butter be covered?

Yes. According to the USDA, any perishable food item sitting out for two hours or more should be deemed as being exposed to a lot of bacteria rendering the item garbage.

Using a proper butter dish with a lid or an airtight container will prevent bacteria from contaminating the butter.

Covering butter in the fridge is essential; the fridge door is constantly opening, causing temperature changes inside the fridge, which is a potential for bacteria growth. Keeping your butter covered should help extend the life of the butter in the fridge.

Does covering butter make a difference?

Whatever type of butter you have covered adequately is going to maintain its freshness. If you don’t have a butter dish or a butter dish is not appropriate, then placing your butter in an airtight container will make a difference to the quality of the butter and its shelf life.

If you like your butter to be spreadable, leaving it out of the fridge for a couple of hours while covered is going to give you super spreadable butter and not hard lumps of butter on your toast.

How long does butter last in the fridge?

In some ways, it depends on the butter’s freshness when you purchase it. It is reasonable to expect an unopened pack of butter to last for three months in the fridge ( don’t store butter in the fridge door; the temperature fluctuations will affect the life of the butter).

Once opened, butter has a shelf life in the fridge of approximately one month. However, salted butter lasts slightly longer than unsalted butter and should last an extra month due to the salt preservative.

Does frozen butter go bad?

In theory, frozen products have an indefinite life if frozen at or below 0℉. However, butter is a delicate product and can take on odors from other foods in the freezer. The life of butter in the freezer will largely depend on the temperature being maintained at 0℉ or below.

Like most frozen products, they eventually lose quality. The buttery taste will diminish, and maybe the texture and color.

Eating butter from the freezer within four months of freezing is recommended to keep a quality product.

Can you butter warm butter in the fridge?

If the butter is warm, there are two reasons, it has been sitting out at room temperature and is almost at melting point. Placing the butter in the fridge at this stage is perfectly fine.

If you have been cooking with butter and want to save it to use again, place the butter in an airtight container and let it sit until it is cooled to room temperature. The fats and solids have melted and will never go back together again, but the butter is OK to eat.

What does expired butter taste like?

Expired butter has a unique flavor that’s not pleasant and can be described as rancid. When butter is rancid, it has a brier sour taste, which you will not want to keep in your mouth too long.

The butter may have started to change color, but not in all cases, and sometimes there is not even a smell to the butter, but when it hits the taste buds, it is an undeniable flavor that will not be forgotten for a long time.

Different types of butter

Does stick butter go bad?

Stick butter is regular butter in the shape of a stick, so it will respond to temperature changes the same as butter. 

Butter should last a month past its expiry date when kept refrigerated and two weeks past the expiry date once opened. If the butter is left out and is melting and then back in the fridge, it will affect the flavor of the butter as the solids will start to separate at some point.

Does I can’t believe it’s not butter go bad

Yes. You must refrigerate. I can’t believe it’s not butter, according to the manufacturers. Refrigerated, it has a similar shelf life to butter, but past the expiry date, it’s not recommended to be eaten and should be discarded.

The freezer life is nine months, but again after nine months, the product is considered garbage and should be thrown away.

Does unsalted butter go bad?

Yes. An opened pack of unsalted butter will last for a month beyond its expiry date in the fridge outside of the fridge sitting on the side; the unsalted butter will only last for a few days, a week maximum before the butter starts to turn rancid.

Although salt is added to butter for flavor, it is also a preservative extending the life of the butter.

Does spray butter go bad?

Eventually, spray butter does not contain any butter from milk or any other semblance of milk, so the shelf stability of the product is greater than natural butter. Unopened, you can expect spray butter to last two years when refrigerated.

When opened, spray butter in the fridge lasts for 12 months, but because it’s a chemical product, it’s best to stick to the expiry dates of the product once opened.

Does unopened peanut butter go bad?

Yes. But not for a long time. Peanut butter is made from crushed peanuts, oils, salt, sugar, and maybe preservatives from commercially branded products. While peanut butter has butter in the name, there are no dairy butter products in the mixture.

The typically unopened peanut butter will last for two years in the fridge, and opened peanut butter will last for a couple of months past the expiry date.

Does powdered peanut butter go bad?

If stored in the powdered form, the peanut butter should have a long shelf life past the 12 months on the printed date. Refrigerating powdered peanut butter may extend its life further. 

Storing out of the sunlight will also extend the peanut butter’s life, but at some point, it will turn rancid or lose its prominent flavor and texture profile due to age.

Does vegan butter go bad?

Yes. Vegan butter has a short shelf life. As you may have guessed, vegan butter has no dairy products. Instead, it’s made from plant-based butter, also referred to as vegan butter, a non-dairy butter substitute typically made by combining water with plant-derived oil, such as olive, avocado, coconut, palm kernel oil, or a combination of oils.

Vegan butter should be refrigerated to maximize its shelf life, and even then, it’s usually turning bad after two weeks.

Does buttermilk go bad?

Yes, Buttermilk has a short shelf life even when refrigerated, but the good news is buttermilk will freeze perfectly well and have a shelf life of 3 months before going bad.

Unopened in the fridge, the buttermilk will last 14 days and a little longer than the expiration date.

Once opened, buttermilk has a shelf-life of 5 to 7 days.

Does shea butter go bad?

Yes. But it takes a long time and depends on how it is stored. Although Shea can be used for cooking, it will most likely be in your cosmetics collection for healing skin anomalies like eczema and dandruff. But it takes a long time and depends on how it is stored.

Pure shea butter will last for two years after it has been refined but stored incorrectly, and the life of the butter from the shea nut will turn rancid.

Does coconut butter go bad?

Coconut butter is shelf stable and will last for up to 15 months in the fridge if unopened. Like all of these butter products, coconut butter will go bad if not stored correctly. Keep coconut butter refrigerated even if it’s not being used for cooking.

Open coconut butter also lasts a long time, but if it’s refrigerated, it should last for 6 to 9 months without signs of spoiling.

Does apple butter go bad?

If stored correctly, apple butter has a long shelf life, but its life before turning bad will be extended by how it is stored. Unopened apple butter lasts for around 18 months, maybe longer, depending on the manufacturer’s preservatives.

If you keep apple butter refrigerated, it will last for two years and, in the freezer, has an indefinite life.

Once opened, it’s recommended to use the apple butter within the expiration guidelines.

Does almond butter go bad?

The shelf life of almond butter after the printed expiry date is at least a few months. Almond butter keeps for between 6 and 9 months in the refrigerator and between 3 to 5 months at room temperature after being opened. 

In the refrigerator, homemade almond butter lasts for two weeks.

Does cashew butter go bad?

Cashew butter lasts between 3 and 6 months in the fridge. It does come with an expiration date which is more an indicator of the peak quality of the product rather than the product being bad after the date.

If the jar of cashew butter looks and smells ok, it is ordinarily fine to eat.

Final thoughts

Butter has a longer shelf life than other dairy products and can last long if refrigerated and stored correctly.

If you want to get the most out of dairy butter, then choose salted butter. You could add an additional month to the life of the butter if stored in the fridge.

Butter is versatile and can be frozen for months without degradation to the butter. However, the butter will, at some point, lose its properties and become inedible.

Not all butter is the same; some don’t contain butter but take the name due to their spreadable qualities that resemble spreadable butter.

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