Have you ever gone to eat or drink something perishable that looks and smells fine but the printed date says otherwise? Of course you have, we all have after all. Whilst milk will quickly develop a sour smell or unpleasant texture when past the shelf life, the same isn’t necessarily true for butter. As such, you may be wondering what the signs of spoiled butter are. Along with whether expired butter is even a real thing?

Does Butter Go Bad – Shelf Life Of Butter

Whilst it does go bad, the shelf life of butter is something that can vary wildly. The main reason for this comes down to whether you store butter properly or poorly. If stored properly, then both unsalted butter and salted butter can significantly outlast their recommended shelf life. However, if improperly stored it won’t last past the printed date and may even become bad butter beforehand. 

How To Know If Butter Is Bad

There are a few hallmark signs that will be able to show you when you’ve got rancid butter rather than fresh.

Is Expired Butter A Thing? Does Butter Go Bad?

Taste

Old butter tastes sour in a manner reminiscent of old blue cheese. This rancid taste will be immediately noticeable upon even the smallest taste. In fact, it can be so potent that using even a little bit of rancid butter will ruin the flavour of any dish it is included within.

The terrible taste of rancid butter may be why very few people have ever had food poisoning as a result of eating it. This is because near enough anyone who would consume butter that has gone bad is likely to spit it out along with only eating a small amount.

Odour

However, before you taste rancid butter the sour taste will be reflected in the odour. This is because butter past its best will smell near enough just as rancid or sour as it tastes. As a result of this unpleasant odour, the majority of people may be immediately put off.

Although odour can indicate the butter being off, butter that is perfectly fine can smell strange in other ways. This is because when not stored properly in a butter dish or airtight container it may absorb odours from other foods present in your fridge.

Appearance

The appearance of expired butter can also give it away as being such. When butter begins to turn bad, the colouration will change slightly. Normally butter will be an off white, cream or pale yellow colour. However, when the butter has expired it will appear more of a darker yellow shade.

When left long enough, however, rancid butter will start to go mouldy. This may appear as furriness or spots of discolouration that are either blue, green or white. Most of the time, you’ll have likely discarded the spoiled butter before this has happened. If not though, you should definitely get rid of it immediately.

How Long Does Butter Last?

As mentioned above, how long butter will last can vary greatly depending on the manner in which it is stored. However, whether the butter has any preservatives will also have an influence on its longevity. Most commonly this will come in the form of salted butter, as salt along with slightly altering the taste increases the shelf life of many different foodstuffs, including butter.

The process of butter going rancid is exasperated by certain environmental factors. Mainly these are heat, light and air, which all have detrimental effects on fat. As a result, since butter is mostly made up of fat, they will have the biggest impact.

How Long Does Butter Last On The Countertop?

Under typical conditions such as in a butter dish on a countertop, butter should still be fine to eat for roughly a week after the expiration date.

Salted butter will probably last slighter longer but not by a significant amount of time. If uncovered, however, both unsalted butter and salted butter may go rancid before the printed expiration date.

Is Expired Butter A Thing? Does Butter Go Bad?

How Long Does Refrigerated Butter Last?

When you refrigerate butter and keep it covered whilst in the refrigerator, it will last much longer than it would when left on the countertop. This is because it will be exposed to heat and light far less often when left in the refrigerator.

As such when stored in an airtight container within the refrigerator, the butter will last roughly one month past the expiration date. Again, salted butter will probably last slightly longer than unsalted butter, but this will not be by a large amount of time.

How Long Does Frozen Butter Last?

If you freeze butter in an airtight container, the length of time it will last is far longer than the stated expiry date. This is because even less heat, light and air will be interacting with the butter than in the fridge.

The result of this is that unsalted butter will last for roughly half a year longer than the expiration date would have you believe. However, unlike with the prior storage options, freezing makes a massive difference to salted butter. This is because when salted butter is frozen it can last twice as long as unsalted butter that has been frozen.

Does Butter Expire In The Fridge?

As mentioned above, refrigerated butter will last roughly a month longer than butter left on a countertop. However, it will still go bad after roughly a month from the expiration when stored in an airtight container and refrigerated.

Is Expired Butter A Thing? Does Butter Go Bad?

Is It Okay To Eat Expired Butter?

Butter that has gone past its expiration date but is still fresh is perfectly safe to eat and will still taste fine. However, if the butter has truly expired and started to turn it will taste repulsive and could potentially make you ill.

What Happens If You Eat Expired Butter?

If you eat expired butter you will immediately notice the unpleasant rancid taste. The taste will be incredibly sour and is likely to make you gag or spit it out from pure disgust.

This is also true when expired butter is used as an ingredient in other foods such as baked goods. Even if you’re using other fresh ingredients, the taste of gone off butter will often overpower these other ingredients.

Can Expired Butter Make You Sick

Whilst rancid butter will taste vile, it is unlikely that it will actually make you sick. This is because the amount of butter typically eaten in one go is relatively quite minuscule.

However, to say that rancid butter can’t make you ill would be untrue. In large enough portions it is near enough guaranteed to make you ill, just as any other off dairy product would do. This is especially true if mould is present as that is a sign of bacteria.

Even if you don’t notice any mould and eat only a small amount of rancid butter, it is still possible to suffer negative effects. Whilst it still likely won’t kill you, if you have a sensitive stomach, you’ll likely have some stomach upset or discomfort. This shouldn’t last too long but even so, it is best avoided.

Better Butter Storage

In order to maximise the freshness of your butter, there are a few simple things you can do. None of these steps are particularly complex and all of which will help you save the butter for longer.

The benefits of which are that you’ll save money and time by not having to buy butter as regularly. Additionally, this will also help you to reduce food waste as the butter is less likely to go bad before being fully used.

Is Expired Butter A Thing? Does Butter Go Bad?

How To Effectively Store Butter To Keep It Fresh

By adhering to the practises outlined below, your butter will last significantly longer. Potentially even up to a year past the stated expiry date. To achieve these results do the following:

  • Keep butter in an airtight container: One of the key contributors to butter going bad is airflow. This is because the fat is prone to absorb aspects of its surroundings.
  • Store In The Freezer: For the longest-lasting results storing in the freezer will go a long way. This is because the lack of heat and light present will greatly inhibit the growth of any bacteria or mould. This is especially true when combined with the first step as air, heat and light are the primary reasons fatty foods go off quicker. For unsalted butter, the combined use of a freezer and airtight container can keep it fresh for roughly six months. For salted butter, however, it can last up to a year.
  • If not the freezer, use the fridge: If it is impractical to use the freezer or you go through a decent amount of butter then using the fridge is a good alternative. The fridge won’t keep it fresh as long, roughly a month vs at least half a year past expiration. However, the convenience of not having to defrost as long can help balance this if you expect to go through the pack quickly.
  • Soften in the microwave: When you want to use butter that has been refrigerated or frozen then you should cut away the part you plan on using. Following which you should then immediately put the rest of the butter back in the airtight container before returning to the fridge or freezer. To soften the butter you plan on using microwaving for fifteen seconds should do the job. If not, microwave in fifteen-second increments until the butter is at the correct consistency.

So Does Butter Past The Sell-By Date Immediately Become Rancid Butter?

Depending on how butter is stored it can potentially go bad before the expiration date or potentially last up to a year after the fact. You’ll know if the butter has gone bad if there are any signs of mould or discolouration. However, if it tastes or smells sour then these are also signs that it isn’t fit for consumption.

Inevitably your butter will go off. However, preventing it from doing so quickly is surprisingly simple. To make it last as long as possible, storing it in an airtight container in the freezer will make unsalted butter last six months longer. Meanwhile, salted butter can last up to a year. If using a fridge though, both will probably only last a month longer. However, this may be more convenient if you use a lot of butter.

FAQs About Expired Butter

How Long Is Butter Good After The Expiration Date?

Butter that has been stored on a countertop in an airtight container will be good for up to a week after the expiration date typically. In an airtight container in the fridge, it will be good for up to a month. Meanwhile, unsalted butter in the freezer can be stored for six months whilst salted can last nearly a year.

What Does Expired Butter Taste Like?

Expired butter that has gone rancid will taste incredibly sour. This taste is incredibly unpleasant and is often likened to vomit or gone off cheese.

Is It Safe To Leave The Butter Out On The Counter?

Butter is perfectly safe to leave on the countertop so long as it is covered. This is because it can absorb substances in the air when left exposed. However, whilst the practice of leaving covered butter on the countertop is safe, this will greatly reduce the amount of time the butter will maintain its freshness.

Can I Use Expired Butter In A Recipe?

Expired butter cannot be used in any context as the sour taste will completely ruin the taste of any recipe containing it. Additionally, whilst food poisoning from rancid butter is incredibly rare it can still cause stomach upset when consumed.