peanut butter

Peanut Butter Shelf Life: Can It Go Bad?

Creamy and delicious, who doesn’t love peanut butter? It is literally perfect for everything, even on its own!

For many people⁠, both kids and adults, peanut butter is a must for breakfast. Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, anyone?

But, if peanut butter is your occasional treat, it takes time to finish a jar. As usual, it’s stashed somewhere in the cupboard. It’s too bad that when your craving strikes one morning, it’s passed the date on the package.

As much as you are tempted to spread it onto your bread, you’re afraid of getting food poisoning. Does peanut butter go bad? How do I know that peanut butter goes bad? Is it time to open a new jar?

If that’s how you landed on this page, we got you covered! In this article, we share some useful knowledge on peanut butter’s shelf life, its storage conditions, and common signs of peanut butter going bad. If that’s what you’re looking for, read on!

How To Store Peanut Butter

Storing peanut butter is easy and straightforward, pretty much the same as Nutella or almond butter.

Unopened jars of peanut butter keep well in a cool, dry area, away from heat and light. As usual, your pantry is the perfect place for shelf-stable products. But, a kitchen cupboard or cabinet is excellent as well.

If you prefer to make homemade and natural peanut butter, it should be kept refrigerated in a sealed container for extended shelf life.

Does Peanut Butter Have To Be Refrigerated After Opening?

For some people, it is unclear whether peanut butter has to be refrigerated after opening.

Peanut butter is very low in water content and high in oil. Hence, refrigeration is likely unnecessary. It is also very common to see oil separation in natural peanut butter.

Most producers, like Skippy, Smucker’s, and Jif, agree with this. It doesn’t really matter whether it is natural, organic, or crunchy, or creamy peanut butter.

If you use peanut butter regularly, keeping it at room temperature is perfectly fine. That doesn’t mean, though, that you can just stash it everywhere. At least make sure that the spot is not too warm and safe from sunlight.

But, if you only use it occasionally, keeping it in the refrigerator helps to preserve its flavor and taste a little longer.

The downside of refrigerating peanut butter is that the texture will harden and become less spreadable. To fix this, simply put it at room temperature for a few minutes or in a microwave. Don’t overheat it unless you want to melt it on purpose.

Practicing hygiene is vital when it comes to storing food. I know it sounds cliché, but double-dipping your spoon (or fingers) isn’t a good idea. Your hands and mouth are a generous source of bacteria. Hence, always use a clean spoon if you want your peanut butter to last fresh longer.

One last thing. Always keep the jar closed when not in use. Exposure to air is the ticket for your peanut butter to go rancid faster.

How To Tell If Peanut Butter Has Gone Bad

Peanut butter is a non-perishable food item. It rarely spoils unless you let it do. But, the quality surely degrades as time goes by.

The main issue with peanut butter, as with other oily foods, is going rancid.  If the peanut butter smells or tastes rancid, you may still want to toss it out. It won’t ruin your sandwich anyway.

Although spoilage is a rare occurrence, knowing the common signs of spoiled food is always useful. Hence, if you notice unpleasant changes with the smell, taste, and color, it’s better to stay on the safe side.

How Long Does Peanut Butter Last?

As much as you wish this favorite spread to last eternally, it doesn’t. Homemade peanut butter usually stays fresh for 2 to 4 weeks, or probably longer in the refrigerator. This estimate slightly varies on different recipes.

With store-bought peanut butter, there is no straightforward answer to how long peanut butter lasts. Its shelf life greatly depends on the ingredients and preparation methods (in other words, the producer) and storage conditions.

Smucker’s peanut butter has a 9 months shelf life, while Jif products last for 2 years from the production date.

Store-bought peanut butter comes with a “best by” date printed on the back or side of the jar. Be sure to check this date to estimate a period when peanut butter should retain in its peak quality, with proper storage. 

The good news is, peanut butter may stay tasty and edible beyond its recommended date. But, you may expect a minor change in flavor or taste.

After opening, it is generally best to use for the next 3 to 4 months when stored at room temperature and a few more months in the fridge.

Peanut butter typesPantryRefrigerator
Store-bought  (unopened)Best by date + 6 to 12 months
Store-bought (opened)3 to 4 months6 to 8 months
Homemade–    2 to 4 weeks

This table is a general estimate. The actual shelf life largely depends on the preparation methods, brands, and storage conditions.


FAQs

Is it okay to eat peanut butter after the expiration date?

Peanut butter is rarely spoiled, as long as it is not in contact with water or other contaminants. It is generally safe to consume for a few months after its expiry date. But, the quality might not be the best anymore. Last but not least, it’s always worth spending extra minutes to check if it’s rancid or spoiled!

Why is oil spotted in my peanut butter jar?

This is a natural occurrence with foods that are high in oil or fat content, such as Nutella or peanut butter. Separation tends to happen, especially when peanut butter is exposed to warm temperatures. It’s easy to resolve, really. Give it a good stir, and you’re good to go!

Is peanut butter gluten-free?

Peanut butter is generally prepared from peanuts, salts, and some additives such as stabilizer, coloring agent, etc. Naturally, these ingredients do not contain gluten. But, to be on the safe side, always check allergen information on the label or consult the manufacturer.

Conclusion

Peanut butter is a shelf-stable product that doesn’t really need refrigeration. It rarely spoils, but the quality degrades over time. The usual sign of deteriorating quality is rancidity, as peanut butter is rich in oil.

With proper storage, peanut butter can last for several months to a year beyond the printed date on the package. In general, after opening, peanut butter keeps well for 3 to 4 months at room temperature and a few more months when refrigerated. If you notice other unpleasant changes in smell, texture, or color, discard any leftover.

Related: Can Peanuts Go Bad?

peanut butter shelf life

*Photo by lohvynenko/depositphotos

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