Peanut butter is a staple in nearly every pantry—but are you storing this classic ingredient correctly?
To refrigerate or not to refrigerate: that’s the great peanut butter question. Since it’s such a popular ingredient, it’s especially important to know how to safely store it and how long it can sit on your shelves. Let’s take a look at how you can make sure your peanut butter is always fresh and ready to use.
The great peanut butter debate continues to rage on, but in reality, peanut butter storage can actually be pretty flexible. Unless a label says otherwise, plain, store-bought peanut butter does not have to be refrigerated, but it’s also perfectly fine to do so. This doesn’t change whether you prefer creamy or crunchy peanut butter.
While refrigeration does absolutely extend the lifespan of a jar of peanut butter, it’s totally safe to simply leave the jar at room temperature. It’s really up to your personal preferences for temperature and texture—refrigerated peanut butter can be a little stiffer and harder to spread due to the cold.
Skippy Peanut Butter, Creamy, 16.3 Oz
Ease of storage makes classic peanut butter an all-time pantry staple.
However, this live-and-let-live attitude might not always be the safest bet, depending on if you prefer certain other types of peanut butter. In particular, natural peanut butter can have very different requirements for getting the best shelf life out of a jar.
Both natural and regular peanut butter start with the same basic ingredients: ground peanuts and, sometimes, a bit of salt. Natural peanut butter doesn’t add anything else to the mix, but traditional brand-name peanut butter will typically add other ingredients, usually stabilizers like hydrogenated vegetable oil, palm oil, and other preservatives.
You can see the difference even in the textures. Traditional peanut butter is one texture throughout, whether creamy or crunchy. On the other hand, natural peanut butter tends to separate in the jar, with solids on the bottom and some peanut oil floating to the top. This happens because those stabilizers aren’t there to bind the solids and oils together consistently, so you’ll usually need to stir up natural peanut butter (and other natural nut butters) before use.
Crazy Richard's 100% All-Natural Creamy Peanut Butter
Store natural peanut butter with a little more care.
These different ingredients actually do make a difference in best storage practices for different kinds of peanut butter. Traditional peanut butter, with stabilizers and preservatives, can usually be stored safely without refrigeration, even after opening. It just needs a cool, dry place, like a pantry; avoid storing it somewhere particularly prone to humidity, heat, or direct sunlight. The additional ingredients inhibit the growth of microorganisms that could spoil the peanut butter, while also preventing the product from separating.
Natural peanut butter, on the other hand, is best stored in the fridge after opening. Because it lacks the stabilizers and preservatives added to traditional peanut butter, it’s more prone to spoilage if not properly stored. The oils in peanut butter, like other nuts and seeds, can go rancid if left too long or if stored at warm temperatures, which is why you’ll usually see labels on natural nut butters recommending that consumers refrigerate the jar after opening. Refrigeration won’t entirely keep the natural peanut butter from separating—you may need to stir it on occasion—but that itself is not a sign of spoilage.
As with most food products, the shelf life of peanut butter depends on whether it has been opened or not. According to the National Peanut Board, unopened peanut butter has an average shelf life of six to nine months in the pantry. Once opened, it can last two to three months if left unrefrigerated in the pantry, or six to nine months after opening if stored in the fridge.
Natural peanut butter, as you might guess, has a shorter shelf life, due to its lack of stabilizers and preservatives. They can last up to six months unopened in the pantry, and around three to four months in the fridge after opening. Always double check natural peanut butter, especially as it nears the end of its shelf life, to make sure it doesn’t taste or smell off.
HOOJO Refrigerator Organizer Bins
Keep peanut butter (and everything else) organized so you won't forget to use it.
If you go through peanut butter quickly, however, none of this might matter as much! For households that finish a jar of peanut butter within three to four weeks of opening, you might be able to store even natural peanut butter out of the fridge and in a cool, dry, dark place. It’s probably not the best idea during hot summers or humid seasons, but otherwise, it’s certainly an option if you prefer the texture of the peanut butter when it’s not refrigerated.
Storing ingredients properly is critical to cooking safely, especially if you like to meal prep or otherwise plan ahead. With these easy tips, you’ll be able to keep peanut butter safe to eat for months at a time, so you can enjoy it in favorite recipes or just straight out of the jar without worry.