Does Butter Go Bad?

Does butter go bad or not? We all love some butter but can butter even go bad? Here's a super simple guide with the answers you need.

Maybe you’ve bought several tubs of butter on offer, or perhaps you’ve fished an old tub out of your refrigerator.

Either way, you’re probably here with some questions:

Does butter go bad? How do I tell if it has gone bad? How long does butter last?

We’ll answer all this, and then some, below.

For those who need fast answers, here’s the lowdown. Butter definitely does go bad, and you’re best off following the best-before date on the packaging.

If you’re unsure, look for changes in appearance, smell, and taste – in that order – to check if your butter has gone bad.

Related:Can You Freeze Butter?Does Almond Butter Go Bad?Does Peanut Butter Go Bad?

Oh No…Has My Butter Gone Bad?

sliced butter

First up, let’s check if your butter has gone bad. This is especially important if your butter is past the best-by date printed on the packaging. You should check for the following:

  • Mold. This is the most surefire sign that your butter has gone bad. However, butter is hard and contains little oxygen, so if there’s just a little mold, feel free to cut it off. Any more than a few specks of mold, and you’re much better off chucking your butter!
  • Bright yellow color. This is an indication that your butter has gone rancid.
  • Sour smell. Another sign of rancidification is a sour or bitter smell.
  • Taste. If you haven’t spotted anything else wrong with your butter, feel free to give it a little taste. Having a bit of bad butter won’t harm you, but don’t keep eating it if it doesn’t taste good!

You’ll notice that a lot of the signs you’re looking out for relate to rancidity. Foods go rancid when the oils in them react to the oxygen in the air. Eating rancid food isn’t bad for you, but it isn’t pleasant either!

How To Store Butter

bread and butter

Here’s the good news: storing your butter is simple.

The first step is to make sure your butter is in an airtight container. If it’s unopened, you’re already good to go.

If you’ve already opened your butter, you can leave it in its original packaging or tub, or double wrap it in a larger airtight container for an extended shelf life.

You should store your butter in the refrigerator, as your butter will go rancid slower in dark, cold conditions. Be sure not to store it in the fridge door, as this is the part of the refrigerator most prone to temperature fluctuations.

How To Freeze Butter

slices of bread and butter

One last thing before we move on from how to store butter: you can also freeze your butter. Here are the steps:

  1. Cut your stick of butter into portion-sized squares.
  2. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Lay your squares of butter down and cover.
  3. “Flash freeze” the butter. Pop it into the freezer for 2 hours.
  4. Now that your butter is frozen, it won’t all stick together, making portioning butter easier for thawing. Transfer all the pieces to an airtight container.

How Long You Can Expect Your Butter To Last

dark corn syrup on pancakes

When it comes to how long your butter lasts, your safest bet is to go by the date on the tub or packaging. That’s because butter is manufactured with a variety of ingredients in numerous different ways.

Therefore, how long the butter lasts will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. However, usually, you can expect your butter’s best-by date to be approximately 1-3 months after the date of purchase.

Provided you’ve stored your butter well (scroll up if you missed that), then you can probably use your butter 1-2 weeks after the best-before date. Make sure you check for signs of going bad or rancid before you use it, though.

If you like to keep some butter in a dish at room temperature for spreading, that should last for 3-5 days, so only get out the amount you’re planning to use over the next couple of days.

Here’s another bit of good news: when it comes to butter, you don’t need to worry about whether it’s open or not. Storage periods and instructions don’t change much either way.

If you want your butter to stay good for longer, consider opting for salted butter, as salt acts as a preservative.

Lastly, butter you’ve frozen will last for 6-8 months, provided you’ve followed our instructions.

The Round-Up On Butter

Now you’ve got all the info you need to store your butter appropriately. Plus, you know how long your butter will last – or at least you know how to find out! Here are the key points in case you missed them:

  • To check if butter can still be consumed, the main things you’re looking out for are mold and signs of rancidity (that means a sour smell or taste and bright yellow color).
  • For the most accurate date for when you should use your butter by, check the label on your butter.
  • Provided you’ve stored your butter well – in the refrigerator – it will likely be good to eat for up to 2 weeks after the best-before date.
  • You can freeze butter so that it lasts 6-8 months.

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Alisa Shimoyama

Alisa eats her way around the world on her travels and likes to have good food ready and waiting for her when she gets back.