Can Butter Go Bad? What Is the Shelf Life of Butter?

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on August 3rd, 2022

Exact answer: Yes, butter expires.

Are butter and margarine the same thing? How does butter become made? What is the shelf life of butter? Take a few moments to read this page to learn more about butter!

sliced cheese on clear glass plate

Not only is butter a popular meal, but it is also one of the oldest. It goes back to the beginning of animal domestication.

Butter, like cheese and yogurt, is assumed to have evolved from milk held in animal stomachs. The digestive fluids in the milk curdled it, resulting in churned milk products.

Consumption spread steadily, affecting both peasants and aristocrats.

In the late nineteenth century, industrial churning was introduced. In late 1870, a Swedish engineer is credited with developing the first cream separator.

Originally, butter was made from sheep and goats. Any milk or cream can now be used.

The Different Types of Butter and Their Applications


This is the purest kind of butter. The unsalted variety is useful in both cooking and baking. This is especially important in meals designed to bring out the flavor of butter. It also lends a creamy flavor to foods. Aside from that, it provides you an advantage when it comes to salt addition.


This has been salted, as the name implies. Concentration levels differ from one brand to the next. This kind has a bite to it and goes well with foods with many flavors. It’s a great spread and topping for garlic bread, pasta meals, and roasted or grilled meat.


You’ve probably heard of compound butter. This butter has extra additives such as herbs, spices, sauces, and food coloring.

Aside from being widely available in stores, it is also simple to modify at home. Some variations include only one component, whereas others incorporate many. This variety is great as a dip on all meat meals, soups, stir-fries, and roasted vegetables.


You’re most likely used to whipped cream. However, whipped butter is also available. Nitrogen gas is added to whipped butter commercially. Because of the aeration, it becomes lighter and fluffier. Whipping also adds volume and so makes the product last longer.

There are also homemade versions available. Some recipes call for milk to be added, which dilutes it. Whipped cream is excellent for cooking and baking.


I mean, aren’t all butter spreadable? You are free to muse! That is correct. On the other hand, this variety is thus named on purpose for a reason: it contains vegetable oil.

Spreadable types prepared with refined and virgin oils are available commercially. Some have a salty taste. You may make your version at home. Unrefined olive oil works great as well.

However, the oil should not overshadow the buttery flavor. Unlike ordinary butter, which hardens when refrigerated, spreadable butter keeps its texture even after refrigeration.


Clarified butter is made by melting ordinary butter and separating the butterfat from the milk solids and water.

These milk solids cause the butter to burn when heated to high temperatures. They also contribute to rancidity.

As a result, removing them raises the smoking point and extends the shelf life.

The clarified kind is suitable for high heat and extended cooking methods such as stewing, roasting, frying, and grilling.


This has also been explained. Conversely, Ghee takes clarity to the next step by extracting all of the water. This produces a nutty, caramelized flavor.

Ghee is highly regarded in India and has been used for thousands of years in Ayurveda and cookery.

Its nutty flavor enhances whatever meal it is used in, from baked goods to stews to desserts.


Think again if you thought yogurt was the only cultured dairy product! It is also possible to cultivate butter. This is prepared from fermented cream — a cream containing living microorganisms.

Cultured butter, as you might expect, has a tangy taste and functions just as well as ordinary butter.

You don’t have to buy it from the market; you can easily manufacture some at home. Make sure you use cultured buttermilk and heavy cream.


Butter is more likely to be related to blocked arteries, heart disease, and excessive cholesterol for any health-conscious purist.

It is worth mentioning, however, that healthier options abound. Light butter is a nice example.

This sort of butter has half the fat and calories of ordinary butter. The light type has more water and may contain fillers. As a result, it is good for dieters.

Butter’s Nutritional Value

What is the nutritional value of butter? Is it even useful? The nutritional value of butter is a contentious issue.

To summarize, butter contains saturated fats and is a high-caloric meal. Did you know a single cup has up to 100 calories?

Despite this, this creamy meal contains trace levels of vitamins and minerals such as A, E, K, B12, and calcium. It also includes linoleic acid, commonly found in dairy products and meat. It also contains a lot of butyrates, which are good for digestion.

Overall, when it comes to consumption, moderation is crucial.

Butter Shelf Life and Expiration Dates

When it comes to all types of butter, the best by date is a good starting point, but it’s not a hard and fast rule. A stick or butter container should last a reasonable period if properly stored.

  • Unsalted butter — Unopened, it will keep in the fridge for about a month beyond the best date. When opened, about two weeks after the printed date in the fridge. When kept in the freezer, unsalted butter will keep its best properties for around six months after the printed date, but it will be safe to eat for much longer. If placed on your counter, it will only last one or two days or a week, depending on the temperature.
  • Unopened salted butter – Should keep in the fridge for about two months after the printed date. Suppose it opened, about one month. It will keep its greatest properties in the freezer for up to 12 months, although it is safe to eat afterward. When stored properly, salted butter may be kept at room temperature for up to three weeks.
  • Homemade butter – The shelf life varies depending on the components’ quality and the preparation method. Homemade butter may be stored in the refrigerator for one to three weeks or frozen for up to nine months.
TypeRoom TemperatureIn the RefrigeratorIn the Freezer
Salted ButterUp to 10 days5 monthsUp to 12 months
Unsalted ButterUp to 2 days3 monthsUp to 6 months

Butter is a perishable product. The regular kind immediately goes rotten. This is because there are water and milk solids present.

Clarified one, on the other hand, is shelf-stable since it lacks the two. Overall, the shelf life of any variety is determined by how it is stored and handled.

In terms of storage, butter is adaptable; it may be kept in the pantry, refrigerator, or freezer. Storing in the pantry or at room temperature, on the other hand, hastens decomposition. However, if you use it regularly, it is great.

When storing, try to keep it in its original packaging as much as possible. If you make your own, however, utilize heavy-duty storage containers or bags. They are good at preventing deterioration caused by light, heat, or moisture.

One that is commercially packaged has a sell-by date. You can continue to use it beyond this date without risk.

For example, ordinary variety may be stored in the refrigerator for up to one month. The salted kind can last up to three months.

Freeze sub 0° temperature for longer shelf life. Make use of heavy-duty plastic wrap or aluminum foil. The salted variety will keep for up to a year, while the unsalted variety will keep for up to 9 months.

Ghee can also be stored for up to a year. On the other hand, the compound or flavored kind has a limited shelf life. Refrigerate and consume within 1 week if handmade. Alternatively, you can freeze it for up to 3 months.

How long does butter keep in the fridge?

Butter will typically survive for about one month after the “sell-by” date on the box if it has been kept chilled continually.

How long can you leave the butter out at room temperature?

Butter may be stored at room temperature for 1 to 2 days, but if not refrigerated, it will degrade quickly.

What is the best temperature to keep butter at?

Butter should be kept at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The majority of dairy products must be kept refrigerated. We advise consumers to observe the “Keep Refrigerated” instructions on the product label and the BEST BY date inscribed on the box.

Does butter go bad if I don’t keep it refrigerated?

Butter that has not been refrigerated may darken in color and vary in taste and odor over time. That is why butter should be kept chilled.

Does salted butter have a longer shelf life?

While being a dairy product, butter has a long shelf life due to its high fat and low water content. Bacterial growth is made difficult by these two circumstances. Salted butter has a lower water content than unsalted butter and has a longer shelf life.

How to store Butter

Butter should be kept at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The oils in the butter will grow rancid if left at room temperature for too long.

Put your butter in the freezer for 6 to 9 months for long-term storage. It should keep in the fridge for a month after the printed date if unopened and two weeks once it’s been opened.

Keep the butter fresh by storing it in the fridge, sealed, immediately after purchase and after each use. Because the temperature swings when the fridge is opened, utilize an inner shelf rather than the shelves on the door.

Keep away from the air.

The amount of oxygen and moisture in the air are important variables in the spoilage of butter. The most typical method for butter to turn rancid is by oxidation, which breaks down the butter into glycerol and fatty acids.

While oxygen from the air primarily splits the butter into components, it also aids in the growth of any bacteria. The little moisture in the air, particularly in humid areas, also contributes to hazardous bacteria being hydrated and able to increase. As a result, preventing air contact with your butter can only be a positive thing.

It is best to keep your butter as contained as possible to avoid these kinds of deterioration.

Precautions such as re-wrapping your butter after each usage will help it last longer. If you want to take your butter out of the fridge to soften before using it, try purchasing a butter dish or a French butter keeper, which keeps air away from the butter. Other possibilities include resealable plastic bags or an airtight container.

Keep it away from direct sunlight.

Light, like air, causes oxidation and causes your butter to grow rancid rapidly. This is why butter dishes are opaque. For a long time, scientists believed that riboflavin, commonly known as vitamin B2, was one of the most impacted components of butter that is destroyed by light and that it was this that caused the butter and milk to get rancid.

However, B2 does not react as severely to sunshine as previously supposed. Instead, the chlorophyll in the grass that cows consume and end up in the final product is what causes off-flavor in dairy products, including butter, when exposed to light.

Chlorophyll is significantly more sensitive to light than riboflavin and was discovered in cow’s milk by coincidence when scientists examined other molecules. As a result, weak interactions may be impacting additional molecules in butter that we are currently unaware of. In any case, keeping your butter out of direct sunlight will keep its taste wonderful for as long as possible.

How to Tell If Your Butter Is Bad

Other than going rotten, how can you tell if something is spoiled? Here are three suggestions:

  • Discoloration: Butter should be a single hue. If you cut into your butter block and the center is a brighter hue than the outside, it’s a dead giveaway that the butter has gone bad. This color change
  • Spotted mold: If you notice any black patches on your butter, mold has grown on it. Remember that mold is a fungal spore; thus, even if the spore is removed, the fungi remain in the butter, making it dangerous to eat. However, the butter will likely have gone rancid long before mold begins to develop.
  • Texture: Expired butter will be very soft, almost mushy to the touch. Throw away any butter that has a softer texture than usual. The inverse is also possible. Extremely hard butter indicates that it is no longer safe to consume.
  • Smell: The butter should be almost odorless. If you smell your butter and discover a sour fragrance, the fatty acids in the butter have broken down substantially. It’s also conceivable that the odor is caused by bacterial development. Don’t eat it and then toss it.
  • Taste: If you consume butter and it has an unpleasant flavor, the fats and oils have most likely gone rancid. In any case, the unpalatable flavor should deter you from eating any more of it, but avoid consuming butter if it tastes bad. You’re specifically seeking a soap, baby vomit, or blue cheese flavor. It’s an obvious sign that the butter has gone rancid.

What Happens If You Consume Old Butter?

You’ll be alright if the butter still looks, smells, and tastes well. Expired butter that is still edible may alter in texture and color. Butter may become less creamy if frozen for an extended period.

If you eat rotten butter accidentally, you’re unlikely to become sick — unless you ignored the stomach-turning odor and ingested big amounts, which might create an upset stomach.

When Should You Toss Your Butter?

Any butter that has developed an off-color, taste, or odor should be discarded. It won’t help your recipe and might make you sick. If you need to replace your butter, you can use a butter replacement until you can go to the shop.

Is it possible to freeze butter?

To increase the shelf life of butter, wrap it securely in heavy-duty aluminum foil or plastic freezer wrap, or store it inside a heavy-duty freezer bag.

How long can you keep butter in the freezer?

Frozen, salted butter will normally keep its best quality for around 12 months, while unsalted butter will keep its optimum quality for about 6 months; in both situations, the butter will be safe after that period.

How to use Your Frozen Butter

It’s almost as easy to store butter in the freezer as in the fridge. It can be ready to use in thirty seconds or less.

If you need melted butter for a recipe, take a small amount from the freezer and melt it on the stove or microwave. Butter burns readily, whether frozen or thawed, so keep an eye on it while it melts.

If you’re making a recipe that asks for softened butter, place it in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 10 seconds at a time until it softens but does not melt. Flip the butter after every 10-second interval to ensure equal heating on all sides. If you don’t need it immediately, put part of your frozen butter in the fridge and let it thaw overnight. It should be ready to use the next day.


Editorial Staff

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