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Nerdy Science in the Kitchen

Expired Butter: Keep or Throw Away?



white coffee cup filled with pats of butter on wooden surface
Keep your butter fresh and delicious in the fridge, freezer, or even on the counter by storing it properly.

Are you skeptical about the expiration date of butter or clueless about keeping or throwing it away once it expires? Are you curious if you should either keep it frozen or refrigerated?

We all use butter, yet we only know that dairy products, in general, have a short life. We are not, however, always sure about the signs of butter going bad and whether it’s safe to eat or not after its expiration date.

To understand how this all works, we will share information about butter’s shelf life (frozen and refrigerated) and the best ways to store it.

Interested in finding out how long butter lasts when kept cold? Check out How Long Does Butter Last in the Fridge?

Does Butter Expire?

Yes, butter expires. Since butter is made up mostly of fats, it can go rancid if not stored correctly. Heat, light, and air will make butter go bad more quickly than butter stored in air-tight containers.

How do you know, though, if your butter is bad? Firstly, you need to check the expiration date on the package. To maximize the shelf life of butter, following the “best by” date on the cover serves as your guide.

There are obvious signs, of course, when your butter has gone bad. Clearly, if mold is growing on it, it needs to be discarded. The same goes if it smells “off” or rancid, or if it has changed color significantly.

Using butter within a week after the date of expiration is usually fine; however, if you plan to use it after a month or more, you need to store it correctly. Read on to find tips on how to store your butter wherever is best for you: the fridge, the freezer, or the kitchen counter or table.

Shelf Life of Butter

Shelf Life of Refrigerated Butter

When refrigerated, the shelf life of butter is one month after the “best by” printed date on the package.

However, to enjoy refrigerated butter that long, you need to store it in an airtight container or wrap it tightly using an aluminum foil or plastic wrap.

Ironically, it’s best to avoid storing butter in your fridge’s butter compartment because it is actually warmer than other parts of the refrigerator. Ensure you keep it in the main body of your fridge to maintain its optimal temperature.

Shelf Life of Frozen Butter

If you plan to store butter for a longer time, put your butter in the freezer, and it can last for up to six months to an entire year.

That said, you need to check to see if your butter is salted or unsalted.

Frozen unsalted butter will maintain its quality for about six months, while frozen, salted butter reaches a shelf life of up to twelve months.

To freeze opened butter, wrap it tightly using a heavy-duty aluminum foil, or store it inside a heavy-duty freezer bag.

How Do You Know if Your Butter is Bad?

The best way to know that your butter has gone bad is to use your basic senses: look it it, smell it, and touch it.

Rancid butter will look intensely yellow, possibly even moldy. It will either be too soft or hard once touched, and it will not be easy to spread. It will smell and taste off —sour or decomposed. Of course, if it has gone bad, the butter has to be discarded.

Want to see what expired, moldy butter looks like? Watch this short YouTube video:

Can You Safely Eat Expired Butter?

If your butter’s expiration date has passed, check for any signs that your butter has gone bad.

If you don’t observe any, remember that if butter is stored correctly, it will not instantly turn bad at midnight of the expiration date.

Butter may still be good for a month if refrigerated, and up to a year if frozen. Therefore, you can safely eat butter even after the expiration date if you’re positive it has been stored correctly.

What are the Best Ways to Store Butter?

The best way to prolong the butter’s shelf life, as we’ve mentioned numerous times, is to store it in the refrigerator or freezer.

If you freeze butter, it is best to keep the butter in its original box or container to remind you of its expiration, or “sell by”, date.

If you throw away the packaging, you can wrap the butter with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and place it inside a heavy-duty freezer bag. We suggest using a freezer-proof marker to note the expiration date on the outside of the bag.

To store the butter in the fridge, wrap it tightly using either its original packaging or aluminum foil. Place it away from other food to keep it from absorbing the stronger flavors and smells of other foods in your fridge.

Pro tip: if you do not plan to use the butter soon, double-wrap the butter to keep its freshness.

Progressive GBD-2 Prepworks Butter Keeper

Progressive GBD-2 Prepworks Butter Keeper

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We recommend this butter dish because it has featured markings to easily measure the precise amount of butter you need for baking or cooking.

The Progessive has an innovative airtight silicone seal that keeps your butter fresh and can be safely placed in your pantry or fridge or even kept on your kitchen counter or table.

One customer review on Amazon stated that it is not dishwasher safe, so hand wash this nifty butter keeper.

Karat 18″x 500″ Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil Roll

Karat 18"x 500" Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil Roll, FW-AFR206

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Karat Aluminum Foil is highly recommended for its flexibility and durability.

It can maintain the moisture and temperature of food, which helps in prolonging butter’s life.

An added plus is that it has multiple uses in preparing and transporting food and saving leftovers.

Karat foil comes with a jagged edge to easily cut the foil to your desired length. However, some reviews complain that the foil wasn’t “heavy-duty” enough for them.

Ronaldos Food Safety Film

Ronaldos Food Safety Film, 18 inch x 2000ft Plastic Wrap, Commercial Grade, Great for Sealing and Storage, Used for Food Service Industry, Easy to Use Slide Cutter for Clean Cut Use (1 Box)

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Ronaldo’s Food Safety Film is be a perfect substitute if you accidentally threw away your butter’s original packaging.

It is made of durable, disposable plastic suitable for multiple uses for both food and non-food items.

Ronald’s film will help you store butter properly, as it insulates food while preventing leaks. It comes with a slide cutter to cut the wrap to the preferred length to avoid plastic waste.

Go slowly when unrolling the film from the container, as some users experienced difficulty with it getting stuck in the package.

Fantalife Reusable Storage Bags

Fantalife Reusable Storage Bags - 15 Pack Reusable freezer Bags BPA FREE - 5 Leakproof Reusable Food Storage Bags + 5 Reusable Sandwich Bags Washable + 5 Reusable Snack Bags - Lunch Bags for Food

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We recommend Fantalife’s BPA-free reusable storage bags because they’re environmental-friendly and safe to use.

These well-designed bags come with an upgraded zipper and air-tight, anti-slip, and leak-proof features.

Since this set includes bags of different sizes, you can easily find which one is suitable for the amount of butter you want to store.

Plus, you will have lots of other storage bags as well when you buy Fantalife’s storage bags: store food in them, sure, but also use them to carry baby wipes in your purse or separate your jewelry when traveling. This product received great feedback on Amazon, with only one complaint: these are not washable in the dishwasher.

Tamaykin Butter Dish with Steel Knife

Butter Dish with Steel Knife, Porcelain Airtight Butter Keeper Container with Bamboo Lid, Holds Up to 2 Sticks of Butter, White, 22OZ

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This adorable, retro-looking butter dish is made of quality porcelain, which makes it heat-resistant, so you can keep it in the fridge or at room temperature.

The Tamaykin butter dish has an airtight bamboo lid with a silicone ring seal to keep the butter as fresh as possible.

The size of the butter dish is perfect for most brands of butter available in the supermarket.

This product has consistent four to five-star ratings, yet it may be a bit costly if you are looking for a more affordable butter dish.

Souper Cubes 1-Cup Extra-Large Silicone Freezing Tray with Lid

Souper Cubes 1-Cup Extra-Large Silicone Freezing Tray with Lid - makes 4 perfect 1cup portions - freeze soup broth or sauce

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One of the cleverest ways to freeze butter is to cut it into small portions so you can use just as much as your recipe calls for without thawing out a whole stick.

We recommend this Souper Cubes freezing tray, as it freezes four perfectly sized portions of butter.

It has a clear, tight-fitting lid that both keeps the butter fresh and prevents odors from permeating its contents.

It is BPA-free and conveniently both dishwasher and oven safe! So, you can use this for both freezing food and baking it.

The drawback? It can be challenging to remove the pieces of frozen butter from the tray if you keep it completely full, according to the reviews.


Butter has a “best before” date, not an expiration date, because its shelf life can be extended for a month up to a year if stored properly.

If you freeze or refrigerate butter and use the right storage methods, then it is safe to eat. However, once it turns rancid with off smell or taste, discard it immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can old butter make you sick?

Don’t worry. If you do eat some bad butter, it’ll probably be so unappetizing that you won’t eat much. But either way: eating bad butter will not kill you.

Ingesting bad butter lowers your vitamin E and B stores, but it can not give you food poisoning, so there is no need to panic.

However, if you see discoloration, an off smell, or a sour taste, then the butter is starting to go bad: don’t risk eating it.

How do you know if the butter has gone bad?

There are four ways to know: by smelling, touching, looking, and tasting the butter. A rancid butter has an off-putting odor, looks intensely yellow, tastes sour, and feels either too hard or too soft.

What does expired butter taste like?

Yuck! Expired butter has a sour/bitter taste. The taste is actually similar to that of blue cheese. However, even if you can still handle the rancid flavor, the off smell itself can stop you from using the expired butter.

Is it safe to leave the butter out on the counter?

Yes, it is completely safe to leave butter on the counter for one or two days, provided it is covered properly to prevent oxidization. However, when butter is left at room temperature for several days, it can easily go bad.

Does butter have to be refrigerated?

If you want to prolong your butter’s short life and keep it safe from contaminants, then you need to refrigerate it.

However, if you prefer to leave it on the counter, then you need to follow the following guidelines:

  1. Ensure it is salted butter, as salt helps keep bacteria away.
  2. Place it inside an airtight container.
  3. Avoid cross-contamination by making sure your hands and any utensils you use are clean when handling the butter.

Additional Resources:

Image Credit from Pexels: Photo by Monserrat Soldú from Pexels

Kitchen Professor author
About the Author: Rhonda Richardson, Editor

Rhonda grew up with parents who gardened, hunted, fished, canned, and preserved food. Her mother was a professional cook and Rhonda credits her teaching everything from how to make homemade biscuits and gravy to what kind of meals to serve for different occasions. In the kitchen, Rhonda uses a mix of old-fashioned country cooking and up-to-date fads in the kitchen, often experimenting with replacing higher-calorie or fat ingredients with healthier options that still retain the delicious flavors of the originals.

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