Does Butter Go Bad? How Long Does Butter Last?

It is easy to take butter for granted. You may often go through several sticks of butter without worrying about its quality. But if butter goes unused for a long time, will it expire?

Quick Answer

Butter does go bad. It will eventually go through a process called oxidation and no longer be safe to consume. Butter comes with an approximate expiration or ‘sell by’ date, but it can be used well past that date depending on where and how it is kept. The type of butter will also affect how long it will last. If stored properly, butter can be preserved for as long as 12 months past the expiration date.

The approximate shelf life of butter will vary based on the type of butter and the temperature it is stored in.

Does Butter Go Bad? How Long Does Butter Last?

If left at room temperature, butter will only last a few days past the expiration date: When butter is exposed to air for an extended period, this will speed up the oxidation process. The longer you keep butter in room temperature, the sooner it will begin to rot.

If kept in the refrigerator, butter can last about 4 months past the expiration date: Storing butter in the refrigerator is the best way to guarantee a longer shelf life. Colder temperatures (40 degrees F and below) slow down oxidation. This makes the fridge an ideal place to keep the butter fresh and ready to consume.

When stored in the freezer, butter can last about 9 months past the expiration date: Freezing your butter is not ideal for immediate consumption, but it will keep it safe to use for at least 9 months. Once butter is frozen, however, it must be thawed and used right away after it is taken out of the freezer.

Salted butter will last longer than unsalted butter: Salt is a common preservative. This means that salted butter will stay safe to eat longer than unsalted butter.

Salted butter will approximately last….

  • 1 week at room temperature
  • 9 months in the refrigerator
  • 12 months in the freezer

How butter is stored will affect its shelf life: When determining how long butter may last, it is important to factor in how it is being stored. Oxidation happens quicker when butter reacts with air, heat, and light. The less the butter is exposed to these elements, the longer it will stay safe for consumption.

There are several ways you can store butter so that it stays safe and ready to use for a long time. Proper butter storage may differ depending on a person’s preferences.

How To Store Butter So it Lasts Longer?

Here are some great tips for preserving butter for as long as possible. The best way to store your butter will depend on when you need it and how you want to use it.

  • Keep Butter Tightly Wrapped: It is important to keep butter wrapped when it is not being used. By keeping it concealed in foil or an airtight container, the butter can stay fresher longer.
  • Store Butter in the Fridge: Storing butter in the fridge is the best way to maintain its freshness. The colder the butter is kept, the longer it will be preserved.
  • Store Butter in the Back of the Refrigerator: The back of the fridge is the coldest area. Most refrigerators have a built-in shelf for butter on the inside of the door. But when that door is opened, those products are exposed to warm air. Ignore the build-in shelf, and keep butter as far back in the fridge as possible.

Storing butter in the refrigerator will make the butter hard. Some people prefer their butter to be kept at room temperature so it stays soft and spreadable.

If this is how you prefer your butter, here are some tips for keeping the butter fresh at room temperature.

  • Use a Butter Dish: There are butter dishes designed to keep butter safe at room temperature. These dishes all come with a fitted lid that protects the butter from contact with heat, air, and light. The more airtight the container/dish is, the longer the butter will last.
  • Keep the Butter Away from Windows & Hot Surfaces: Heat will make butter rot faster. Keep it away from any surface that may be affected by the sun or hot kitchen appliances.
  • Only Leave Out Small Portions at a Time. Put the Rest in the Fridge: This will help keep most of your butter fresh when it is not being used.

Butter can be kept in the freezer for as long as 9-12 months past the expiration date. Here are some suggestions on how to store your butter if you need to preserve it for this long.

  • Keep the Butter Tightly Sealed in Foil or a Freezer Bag: This protects the butter from freezer burns.
  • Separate the Butter from Other Frozen Food: Store frozen butter away from onions, meat, and other frozen items with a strong odor. This will help maintain the butter’s taste.

By following these guidelines, your butter can last well past its packaged expiration date. These tips will delay the inevitable but like all good things, even your butter will eventually reach its end.

How to Tell When Butter Has Gone Bad?

It is easy to tell when butter is rotten and no longer fit for consumption. By using your senses and basic intuition, there are several highly noticeable signs that indicate the butter has spoiled.

Mold: Rotten butter will start to grow mold. Mold will appear as dark spots around the butter. The second mold appears, its best to throw out the stick all together.

Discoloration: If the butter begins to turn bright yellow, this means that oxidation has already begun. In some cases, one half of the stick will turn bright yellow while the other half remains the safe, paler color it should be. If that is the case, the pale-yellow part of the butter is still safe to eat.

Sour/Rancid Smell: All dairy products will eventually have a gross, sour smell when it expires for good. A quick sniff should be all it takes to determine if your butter has reached that point.

Sour Taste: Similar to the rotten smell, rancid butter will taste sour and rotten.

Weird Texture: If the butter seems too soft or squishy in a way that does not feel natural, it is likely that the butter has gone bad.

Butter is cheap and easy to replace if it does expire, but it is still a pain throwing out rotten food. This is a common stress that comes with most store-bought food. To avoid this issue, there is an alternative way to enjoy butter on your own schedule.

Can you Make Butter at Home? This is My Favorite Butter Recipe.

Long before grocery stores were available, butter was churned and produced from home. If you are a fan of making homemade food, butter is very easy to make! (And you do not have to milk a cow to do it!)

Step 1: Collect the ingredients. All you need is 1 cup of heavy whipping cream and a container to mix the cream in. Salt is an optional, but highly recommended, additive. ½ a teaspoon of salt is all it takes to add an extra zest to your butter!

Step 2: Whisk Away! Whisk the cream as fast as possible until it turns into whipped cream. If you have a kitchen aid or a food processor, those machines will help make this process go faster. If you want to try it the old-fashioned way, you can mix by hand using a whisk or a mixing spoon.

Step 3: Pour Out the Buttermilk. The butter will clump together separating butter from buttermilk. Pour the buttermilk out of the container using a strainer. The buttermilk can be refrigerated and repurposed. All that should remain in the container are chunks of butter.

Step 4: Optional Seasoning/Other Additives. Add the salt and/or any other ingredients you would like to include. Mix those into the butter.

Step 5: Enjoy! Tah-Dah! You made butter. Store it in the refrigerator and use when ready. Easy, right?

Wrap Up

Butter is an everyday product with many uses. Like most food products, it is extremely important to try and finish it before it expires. Storing butter properly is the best way to keep it safe to consume for a long time so you get the most use out of it. These guidelines are an easy way to keep your kitchen stocked with fresh butter the way you like it.

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