After several major peanut butter recalls, your attention to the freshness of this seemingly long-lasting spread may have increased. Recalls due to potential salmonella contamination during processing unfortunately leave you, the consumer, with no way to tell if the butter is bad. Improper storage or keeping it too long can also lead to rancid peanut butter.

Peanut butter in general does have a long shelf-life, but a lot depends on the way you store it.

  • Natural peanut butter, which is usually just peanuts and salt, should be refrigerated after opening. Unopened, it’ll last you about 2 to 3 months in the pantry and once opened, another 5 to 6 months in the refrigerator
  • In the pantry, regular peanut butter lasts about 9 months unopened and 3 months opened. Refrigerate it to extend its life to 6 to 9 months. 

Tips

When you do keep peanut butter in the pantry, make sure the temperature is cool and exposure to light and heat is minimal.

Spoiled peanut butter may have an unpleasant odor or obvious mold growth. Other ways to determine whether peanut butter has gone bad:

  • As you shop for peanut butter, look for clean jars. Anything that’s dented or nicked may indicate an older product that could be spoiled.
  • A rancid flavor that tastes sour, rather than nutty and rich, like fresh peanuts.
  • A hard or dry texture that doesn’t resemble its usual creaminess.
  • A color that’s darkened from light tan to a deep brown.

Most jars of peanut butter have an abbreviation stamped on the lid or bottom of the jar. This date is usually a freshness, or sell by, indicator. It doesn’t tell you when the product will spoil and is no longer safe for consumption, rather it indicates the last date at which the producer will guarantee quality.