How to Tell If Peanut Butter Is Bad

The next time you open a jar, check for these signs before consuming.

Whether you're team creamy or team crunchy, peanut butter is a pantry staple in many households. The nutty spread can be used in an array of recipes, from energy balls to overnight oats, so keeping a jar on hand is always a good idea. But if you've left that jar on the shelf a little too long, you may be wondering, "Does peanut butter go bad? And if so, how can I tell?"

To help answer your questions, keep reading for all the details. Plus, get tips for how to store peanut butter so it stays delicious.

a jar of open peanut butter with a spoon scooping some out
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Does Peanut Butter Go Bad?

Yes, peanut butter can go bad—but it's not a frequent occurrence. Peanut butter has an extremely long shelf life, so odds are low that it'll spoil before you can use it. But still, the nutty spread can spoil, as its high levels of fat content put it at risk of turning rancid. Spoiled peanut butter would result in a spread that has an off-putting smell, taste or appearance.

How to Tell If Peanut Butter Is Bad

When peanut butter has turned rancid, there are three key indicators that you can check for in the jar. First, check the smell: If the peanut butter has a bitter or metallic odor, it's a sign that the spread has spoiled. Additionally, rancid peanut butter may also smell stale, like it's been left too long in the pantry.

The next indicator to look at is the appearance of the peanut butter. Spoiled peanut butter may look darker in color. The peanut butter may also appear dried out. If you have natural peanut butter (i.e., peanut butter made without stabilizers), it may also grow mold as a sign of spoilage.

Finally, check the taste. Rancid peanut butter will have a sharp or bitter taste, and it won't taste like the spread you know and love. Don't worry about consuming rancid peanut butter—trying a small amount to check its quality shouldn't have any negative effect on your body. If your peanut butter has any of these indications of spoilage, it is best to discard it.

How to Store Peanut Butter

Peanut butter, whether it's an opened or unopened jar, should be stored in a cool, dark place, like the pantry. An open jar of peanut butter can also be stored in the refrigerator to extend its shelf life. If you have natural peanut butter, which doesn't have as long of a shelf life as conventional peanut butter, it's best to store it in the refrigerator.

Here's how long you can store peanut butter, according to FoodSafety:

Type of Peanut Butter Open or Unopened Pantry or Refrigerator Length of Storage
Conventional peanut butter Unopened Pantry 6-9 months
Conventional peanut butter Opened Pantry 2-3 months
Conventional peanut butter Opened Refrigerator 3-4 months
Natural peanut butter Unopened Refrigerator 12 months (if refrigerated from the date of purchase)
Natural peanut butter Opened Refrigerator 3-4 months

After storing, if your natural peanut butter has a layer of oil at the top, don't worry! That's not a sign of spoilage, but is a natural occurrence as the oil separates. You can easily fix it by stirring the oil back into the peanut butter until you achieve the desired consistency. To prevent oil separation, try storing the peanut butter jar upside-down so the oil is more evenly distributed.

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