Does Peanut Butter Go Bad?

Peanut butter is a great high-protein ingredient to add to many sweet and savory recipes, but given that it’s something you use infrequently you’re probably wondering if peanut butter goes bad.  Let’s unpack that and find out.

Quick Answer

According to the National Peanut Board, commercial peanut butter should be stored in the pantry or cupboard and should last 6-24 months if unopened or 2-3 months once opened.  After storing in the pantry, you can shift your peanut butter to the refrigerator, extending its life by an additional 3-4 months. Peanut butter is primarily made of peanuts and doesn’t like fluctuating temperatures, so the more stable the environment the longer your peanut butter will last.

Peanut butter can last a long time, depending on how you store it and you can increase its life span by moving it to the refrigerator or freezer.

Does Peanut Butter Go Bad? How Long Does Peanut Butter Last?

Peanut butter is primarily made of nuts, which have oils and can go bad.  How you decide to store your peanut butter determines how long your peanut butter will last.

How Long Does Peanut Butter Last Outside?

Peanut butter is best stored unopened on your pantry or cupboard shelf, where it can last up to two years.

Unopened peanut butter:  Unopened commercial peanut butter can last 6-24 months on your pantry or cupboard shelf.  Natural peanut butter, which doesn’t have preservatives, will last unopened for several months on your pantry shelf.

Opened peanut butter:  Opened peanut butter will last for a much shorter amount of time than unopened peanut butter.  Opened commercial peanut butter should last 2-3 months on your pantry shelf.  Natural peanut butter will last about a month once opened.

Peanut butter can last for several months on your pantry shelf, but once you open the container the amount of time reduces dramatically.

How Long Does Peanut Butter Last in the Fridge?

Commercial peanut butter doesn’t have to be refrigerated, but it can be.  Natural peanut butter, however, benefits from refrigerating.

Commercial peanut butter:  Commercial peanut butter can be refrigerated after it has been on the pantry shelf, extending its life by as much as 3-4 months.  Cold peanut butter can be tough to work with so put it on the counter for 30-60 minutes before you intend to use it.

Natural peanut butter:  Natural peanut butter is made from ground nuts and is free of preservatives which increase the shelf life of your peanut butter.  To keep your natural peanut butter as fresh as possible it is best to refrigerate it.  Refrigerated peanut butter can be tough to spread so putting it on the counter as much as an hour before you intend to use it will help it soften.

Refrigerating commercial peanut butter isn’t necessary, but it could help your peanut butter last longer.  Natural peanut butter is best stored in the refrigerator.

How Long Does Peanut Butter Last in the Freezer?

Peanut butter can be frozen, extending it by as much as a few months.  Keeping peanut butter in the freezer longer may diminish its flavor.

Commercial peanut butter:  Commercial peanut butter can last for a few months in your freezer, but it may not be worth it for such a short amount of time.  The longer your peanut butter stays in the freezer the more likely it is that the flavor will be lost.

Natural peanut butter:  Natural peanut butter lasts longer in the freezer than commercial peanut butter and should be fine for up to six months.

Peanut butter can be refrigerated and frozen, but natural peanut butter lasts much longer in the refrigerator and the freezer than does commercial peanut butter.

How To Tell If Peanut Butter Is Bad? How To Know If Peanut Butter Is Fresh?

It’s important to be able to tell if your peanut butter is fresh or if it has gone bad.  Eating bad nuts or bad peanut butter can make you sick.

Peanut butter can separate:  When peanut butter is starting to go bad it can separate and you will notice a layer of oil on top of the remaining peanut butter.  If the peanut butter still smells fresh and tastes fresh it is safe to eat.  You should drain off the excess oil before eating your peanut butter. You should also take this as a sign that your peanut butter won’t be fresh for much longer and either throw it away or transfer it to your refrigerator.

Bad peanut butter can be rancid:  When nuts go bad they eventually turn rancid.  Rancid nuts have an odor to them, sometimes like paint or even grass, and they taste bad.  Rancid peanut butter should never be eaten as it can make you sick.  Rancid peanut butter should just be thrown away.

Fresh peanut butter smells like peanuts:  Fresh peanut butter has the unmistakable smell of fresh peanuts.  Fresh peanut butter is all the same consistency and looks and smells fresh.

Now that you know what to look for you’ll be sure to only eat fresh peanut butter.

How To Store Peanut Butter?

Deciding on the best way to store your peanut butter depends on whether it is commercial or natural peanut butter.

Commercial peanut butter:  Commercial peanut butter is best stored on a pantry or cupboard shelf. The more consistent the temperature is in your pantry, the longer your peanut butter will last.  If your pantry is near your oven, for example, you may want to think about finding another place to store your peanut butter as the heat could cause your peanut butter to spoil quicker.

Natural peanut butter:  Natural peanut butter lasts the longest stored in the refrigerator.  Natural peanut butter is free of the preservatives found in commercial peanut butter and it doesn’t last as long on the pantry shelf as regular peanut butter.

Commercial peanut butter is best stored on the pantry shelf, but natural peanut butter lasts longer if stored in the refrigerator.  When in doubt, however, check the label on the jar of your peanut butter for the best advice for your specific peanut butter.

Can You Freeze Peanut Butter? How? Why?

Peanut butter can be frozen, but how long your peanut butter should stay in the refrigerator will depend on whether it’s commercial or natural peanut butter.

Commercial peanut butter:  Commercial peanut butter can be frozen, but for only a few months.  Freezing commercial peanut butter any longer may cause the taste of your peanut butter to diminish.  The few additional months you gain by freezing your peanut butter may ultimately not be worth it if the flavor changes.

Natural peanut butter:  Natural peanut butter can be frozen for up to six months and freezing should not affect the taste of the peanut butter in any way.  Natural peanut butter is only made of ground nuts so freezing it will not impact the taste at all.

When you freeze peanut butter, it’s best to keep the peanut butter in its original container and tightly sealed to keep out as much moisture as possible.  Frozen peanut butter will freeze hard and not be easily scooped out of the container.

How to Thaw Peanut Butter?

Peanut butter that has been frozen is best and most easily thawed by leaving it out on the counter to thaw.  This will allow your peanut butter to slowly and consistently come up to room temperature, which is the best way.

You should avoid trying to thaw your peanut butter in the microwave as the differences in temperature are too great and your peanut butter may separate.

Wrap Up

Whether you enjoy commercial or natural peanut butter you now know how to store your peanut butter to ensure it lasts as long as it can.  Tell us your favorite place to store your peanut butter in the comments below.

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