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Have you ever forgotten a peanut butter jar in a pantry for a few months and wondered what the shelf life of peanut butter is?
Peanut butter is one of the delicious spreads, whether you’re making a midnight snack, preparing a post-workout sandwich, or adding it to different recipes. If you take time to finish your peanut butter, you may wonder how long it lasts and if it’s okay to consume it past the stated date.
Natural peanut butter can last for up to a month when opened in the pantry and two months in the refrigerator. However, commercially processed peanut butter lasts for 3-4 months in the pantry and six months in the fridge.
Peanut butter contains healthy fats, minerals, and vitamins, making it an excellent source of essential nutrients. However, there are varieties of commercially-produced peanut butter with added preservatives to extend their shelf life. Read on to learn more about the shelf life of both natural and processed peanut butter and how to know if it's time to discard your peanut butter.
Here’s what our research on different food safety sites and speaking to nutritionists uncovered.
What’s the Shelf Life of Peanut Butter?
Peanut butter, unlike other spreads, tends to have a long shelf life. That’s mainly because peanut butter is rich in fats and has low moisture content. These factors help prevent bacterial growth, which often reduces the shelf life.
The shelf life of peanut butter depends on certain factors. For example, processed peanut butter has extra ingredients like hydrogenated vegetable oils, stabilizers, and sodium benzoate. The preservatives are to extend the butter’s shelf life, while the stabilizers improve the texture and prevent oil separation.
Natural peanut butter lasts for two to three months when unopened in the pantry and three to six months in the refrigerator. Opened natural peanut butter can last for up to 2 months. Unopened peanut butter lasts for a year in the pantry and up to a year in the refrigerator. Crunchy processed peanut butter lasts for a year in both the pantry and fridge past the printed date.
However, opened natural peanut butter can last in the refrigerator for five to six months. Commercially manufactured, smooth, and crunchy peanut butter, when opened, lasts for three to four months in the pantry and six to eight months in the refrigerator after the past printed date.
Some manufacturers are now opting for powdered peanut butter, which involves pressing most of the oils from roasted peanuts. The peanuts are later ground into a powder. Powdered peanut butter can last for up to a year unopened and six months once opened.
Does Peanut Butter Have an Expiration Date?
Most peanut butter containers have a best-by date. That’s the date the manufacturer guarantees that the product still meets the set standards, but this doesn’t ensure that the product is still safe to consume.
You can still consume your peanut butter a few months past the sell-by date with proper storage.
How Can You Tell That Peanut Butter Has Gone Bad?
Peanut butter has little moisture content, but it's very high in protein and fats. That makes it difficult for fungi and bacteria to grow in the butter. Although consuming peanut butter that’s past the sell-by date isn’t likely to make you ill, its fats can oxidize and go rancid, resulting in a bitter taste.
Apart from checking the product’s best by date, there are other ways to tell if your peanut butter is still safe to consume some months past the expiration date.
Some of the things to look out for are:
Fresh peanut butter has a creamy and soft texture. However, peanut butter that has gone bad has a dry and hard texture, making it difficult to spread on bread. Its color may also darken.
Rancid or spoiled peanut butter has a sour smell and should be thrown away.
Peanut butter with a slightly sour or bitter taste should be discarded as it may have gone bad. Some butter jars will have a soapy-like taste, which indicates they are spoiled.
Note that natural homemade peanut butter may have an oil separation, which is normal as they don’t have stabilizer ingredients. Stir the oil back in and continue using your peanut butter.
Is There a Proper Way to Store Peanut Butter?
Buying powdered peanut butter guarantees you up to 15 years of shelf life, but if you’re planning to buy the regular store peanut butter, there are certain things you can do to ensure longer shelf life.
Check the Peanut Butter Ingredients
When shopping, find peanut butter with full fat as bacteria are less likely to survive. Chunky or crunch peanut butter tends to oxidize slowly and won’t go bad quickly compared to smooth peanut butter. Choose peanut butter stabilized with hydrogenated oil rather than corn or palm oil.
Store the Peanut Butter in a Cool and Dry Place
High temperatures can make your peanut butter go rancid. Store your peanut butter in a cool place away from high temperatures. The area should also be dry to prevent moisture from seeping in and causing mold growth.
While some may suggest freezing peanut butter, it can absorb fridge smells and have a bad taste over time.
Additionally, ensure your preferred storage space is dark as UV light speed up the oxidation process.
Put Your Peanut Butter in Glass Jars
Although plastic containers are a popular choice for peanut butter storage, glass jars are a better storage option as they don’t allow in a lot of oxygen.
Plastic containers have tiny holes that can pass in moisture and air, leading to bacterial growth. Glass jars are more airtight and a good option for long-term storage.
Use Clean Utensils When Applying the Peanut Butter
Always use a clean kitchen knife when spreading your peanut butter. That will prevent cross-contamination that could promote spoilage.
Keep the Peanut Butter Container Upside Down
Storing your peanut butter for a long time can lead to the formation of an oil layer on top. Although this is normal, mixing the oil back in can be messy. You can reduce this by keeping the jar upside down. That ensures that the oils are evenly spread, and you don’t have to deal with the mess.