How Long Does Butter Last in the Fridge?

A big tub of butter... But how long will it last?

A big tub of butter… But how long will it last?

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Butter is one of the most useful condiments. We throw it on pancakes, waffles, and biscuits to make breakfast more delicious. We put it on corn on the cob, inside of mashed potatoes, cook steaks on stove tops with it. Butter even makes sure our food doesn’t stick to the pan while we cook.

As much as we use it in our daily lives, it’s no wonder that butter comes in those giant tubs. But of course, that leaves the question of how long you have before it spoils.

How long does butter last in the refrigerator?

Butter can last up to anywhere between six to nine months inside your refrigerator. If it has an expiration date (which is usually actually a sell by date), then you can safely continue to use it for at least one month after the date listed on the package.

This all depends on proper food storage, including the temperature of your fridge.

What is butter made from?

Butter is a dairy product. It comes from the milk of a cow (or any other milk-producing animals such as sheep or goat) and churned until it reaches a thick solid consistency. Once churned, there are several different ways to finish it. It can be salted, whipped, preserved, and cultured just to name a few.

Of course, being a dairy product means that butter is perishable.

OXO makes a classy butter dish (Amazon).

How do you know if butter is spoiled?

Determining whether or not butter has reached the end of the road and needs to be tossed in the trash is pretty simple. Once butter goes bad, it will start to darken in color and develop a translucent quality to the outer edges. 

It will also develop a faintly rancid odor as well as an off-putting taste. (But tasting things is not really a recommended way of deciding if something has gone bad.)

The good news is that it is not that difficult to prolong the life expectancy of a tub or a stick of butter. But first, I would like to start with a baseline of how long butter can last in its least optimal environment.

Check out this condiment spreader at Amazon.
Excellent for butter.

A butter dish on the counter

The general consensus is that butter is able to last up to two weeks while sitting at room temperature (you should keep it covered with this butter dish from Amazon). This is good news because it tells us that butter has a long and predictable shelf life.

How to make butter last longer

Much like any other perishable foods, there are ways of getting butter to last longer. The most efficient way to do this is to store it in your refrigerator at or below 40º F.

Some people swear this butter crock from Amazon extends their butter’s lifespan.

This means you should keep your fridge colder than 40º. For whatever reason, refrigerator manufacturers seem to love putting what they call “butter compartments” on the door. I know that it looks like it is just the perfect place for it to go, but please, restrain yourself from doing so.

If there's no butter on my pancakes, I don't see the point.

If there’s no butter on my pancakes, I don’t see the point.

Instead, it is a good idea to keep your butter in the back of the fridge. There it will not get exposed to temperature fluctuations associated with opening and closing the refrigerator door. 

Butter makes me think of waffles.
I found the best waffle iron.

Another good practice: keep your butter in an airtight container. If you have ever used sticks of butter, then you have no doubt seen what happens to butter once it has been exposed to oxygen for too long. When that happens, the butter will begin to harden and becomes stale.

This Lock+Lock butter dish means business (Amazon).

How to get even more time or use from sticks of butter

Butter is just like anything else. If you freeze it, you can get up to 6 more months of shelf-life from it.

I’ll show you the best freezer wrap.

Again, airtight containers are what you want. When you keep the temperatures down and expose it to the least amount of moisture and oxygen as possible, the better off your butter will be.

Ready for a different butter altogether?
Here’s the best food processor for nut butters.

Wrap -Up

Butter is an amazingly versatile ingredient. We are lucky that it is also one of the more stable products we have in our kitchen. As long as you make sure to follow some of these most basic butter storing steps, you probably won’t have to worry about spoiled butter.

Click here for the best way to store cheese in the fridge.

Additional Resources

Image credit via Flickr Creative Commons: Matthew and Jeffrey W.

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