How long does peanut butter last?

Peanut butter is probably the world’s second most popular sandwich spread after butter. Even though many people eat it regularly and never let it sit in the cupboard for too long, there are one or two people out there who do such terrible things. This piece is for those people. All jokes aside, in this article we go through storage, shelf life and spoilage of peanut butter. If you’re unsure if that half empty jar of this delicious sandwich spread is still safe to use or if you should toss it out, read on!

Peanut butter jar
Photo by robinmcnicoll on Flickr.

How to store peanut butter?

Unopened jar of peanut butter should be stored in a cool and dark place. Pantry is the obvious option here. Storing at room temperature in the kitchen cupboard isn’t much worse either. Putting unopened peanut butter into the fridge makes little sense. It won’t extend the shelf life of the product much, plus it’ll likely harden and become difficult to spread on a sandwich right after opening. Don’t do it.

After opening the jar there are a few options when it comes to storage. If peanut butter is a staple in your diet, feel free to keep it on the countertop or in the cupboard. Just like you would do with peanuts. Its quality won’t even start to degrade before you use the contents of the jar. If you love peanut butter but eat it only every so often, moving it to a bit cooler place like the pantry makes perfect sense. It will still be easily spreadable whenever needed and its quality will degrade slower than if kept at room temperature.

The last option is to store this spread in the fridge. If going through the jar will likely take you a year or more, for best quality keep it in the fridge. It might harden, depending on the preservatives it includes, but you can deal with that. If it hardens, scoop a few tablespoons and put onto your sandwiches half an hour before preparing them. In this time the nut butter will warm and soften, so it’s easily spreadable.

How long does peanut butter last?

Shelf life (meaning dates on the package) of peanut butter varies from brand to brand. You can safely assume that for most brands unopened peanut butter will remain at best quality for at least two years. The National Peanut Board suggests a shorter time span of 6 to 9 months. Those 6 to 9 months is a really safe estimate and unless something bad happens, the sandwich spread will still be safe to eat after that. Generally speaking, peanut butter in an unopened jar won’t go bad for a very long time, much longer than those mentioned two years. Those two years are only a sort of an indicator of how long the product retains its quality. After that period the quality degradation speeds up a bit.

Once the jar is opened, the degradation process speeds up. Many sources say that peanut butter will last for two to three months in the pantry once opened. That’s a really safe assumption. In most cases it should stay fine for a few months more. An important piece of information is that the less peanut butter in the jar (and more air), the quicker the degradation process. So the closer you’re to finishing the jar, the quicker the quality drops. Just to be safe, if you expect to take more than 3-4 months to eat the jar of peanut butter in its entirety, consider storing it in the fridge to keep the quality as good as possible.

Oats with peanut butter
Photo by Taylor Kiser on Unsplash.

How to tell if peanut butter is bad?

Let’s start of by reminding you that separation of oil is completely normal and expected. The less preservatives are in the product, the more oil separates, which is understandable. Oil separation also happens in heavily processed peanut butter, but it’s often a sign that the product will go back soon. You stir the oil back into the peanut butter or use it however else you like. Please note that if you won’t stir it back to where it came from, the resulting peanut butter will be thicker and more difficult to spread.

To tell if peanut butter has gone bad first off check its texture. If it has lost its creamy texture, something is obviously going on and not something good. Please note that different peanut butters have different consistency. Natural peanut butter is often less creamy than processed one. So don’t expect as much creaminess from a two-year-old natural peanut butter as you would from a fresh processed one. Second thing is color change. If the color changes or there are any discolorations on the surface, toss it out as well. The smell is another thing to check. If the nutty aroma isn’t there anymore, and it starts to smell bad, throw it out. If it looks and smells good, taste it. If something is wrong with the taste, discard it. Otherwise, chances are it’s perfectly fine to eat.

Is peanut butter safe to use after “expiration” date?

Definitely. Peanut butter’s shelf life is really long, so as long as it doesn’t show any signs of spoilage, it should be perfectly good to eat.


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