Does Butter Go Bad?

Butter can be considered a staple ingredient for many people. Whether you’re using it for baking, spreading, cooking, or sautéing – everything tastes better with butter! 

Does Butter Go Bad?

Therefore, stocking up on a few blocks never sounds like a bad idea. Well, that is until one of them is past their use-by date, unopened, and untouched. 

Alternatively, you could simply forget to put the butter back in the refrigerator after breakfast the day before. At this stage, you may be thinking: “Does butter go bad?”

We have all been in a similar situation at one point in our lives. Despite butter being a kitchen essential and being around for hundreds of years, these questions keep popping up. 

Therefore, if you’re curious about the answer to this question, then you have come to the right place! 

With this in mind, this article will explore everything you need to know about whether or not butter goes bad. 

Does Butter Expire?

Like all foods and perishable items, butter does, in fact, expire. Even when stored in the refrigerator, it will eventually go bad. 

This is why looking at the expiration date is a good way to determine its freshness. Your butter should keep – at the very minimum – to this date. 

When stored correctly in the refrigerator or freezer, your butter can last anywhere between a month to a year. 

That said, the more you expose your butter (and most foods) to the elements, including oxygen, heat, and light, the quicker the fast breaks down – making it go bad. 

To delay this, you should always store your butter in the fridge or freezer. 

Shelf Life Of Butter

While all butter will eventually go bad, the shelf life is something that can vary significantly. This is entirely dependent on how you’re storing your butter. 

When stored properly, both salted and unsalted butter can outlast their recommended shelf life. 

That said, if stored improperly – whereby it is exposed to the elements – it won’t last past its use-by date and can potentially go bad beforehand. 

Why Does Butter Go Bad?

Despite being made from milk, butter has the potential to last longer. This is due to the fact that it contains a lower water content – making it difficult to grow bacteria. 

Since salted butter has a higher salt content, the risk of it growing bacteria is even lower.

In addition to this, since butter has a higher fat content, this works as a protective barrier – preventing the formation of bacteria. 

That said, this fat content also makes butter more susceptible to spoilage.

When exposed to heat, oxygen, and light, the butter starts to oxidize, altering its molecular structure and changing its texture, color, and taste. 

How To Tell Your Butter Is Bad?

Does Butter Go Bad?

There are a few tell-tale signs that your butter has gone rancid. That said, this is dependent on your storage methods. 

Below, we have outlined the most common signs:


Before you even taste the bad butter, you’ll know it’s sour just by the smell. This is because the butter will smell nearly as bad as it tastes. 

This unpleasant odor will deter the majority of people without even having the taste of it. 

While the odor of your butter can indicate its freshness, butter that is perfectly fine can sometimes smell strange, too. 

When not stored correctly – in an airtight container or a butter dish – it can sometimes absorb odors from other foods found in your refrigerator. 


You’ll know your butter is bad by its taste. Old butter tastes sour, similar to that of blue cheese. This is immediately noticeable upon even the smallest of bites. 

Even the smallest of old butter will ruin the entire flavor of a dish due to its potency. This may be the reason why very few people have got food poisoning from eating butter. 

Anyone near enough to eat rancid butter would immediately spit it out! 


The appearance of your butter can also give an indication of how it is going to taste. As your butter starts to expire, the color will change slightly. 

Typically, butter has an off-white, cream, or pale yellow coloration. Although once expired, it resembles a darker yellow color. 

However, when left too long, your old butter will start going moldy. This will start as furriness or spots of discoloration in shades of green, blue, or white. 

Before this happens, it is likely that you’ll have already discarded this spoiled butter. That said, if you haven’t, you should immediately throw it away. 

How To Store Butter?

There are a few differences when it comes to butter, most namely, this includes salted and unsalted butter, unpasteurized butter, flavored butter, cultured butter, and butter with oil. 

When it comes to most dairy products, these require refrigeration at all times, including crème fraîche, sour cream, and buttermilk. 

This would lead you to believe that other dairy products, including butter, require similar storage methods, too. 

Manufacturers will always recommend you keep butter in the refrigerator – to help maintain and extend its shelf life. 

That said, when stored in an airtight container or butter pot, you can keep your butter on your kitchen counter, too. 

What To Do With Expired Butter?

Butter won’t necessarily go bad on the expiration date printed on the label. In fact, its freshness can vary from a few days to weeks past its use-by date. 

Before using your butter, check for any signs of spoilage. If you can’t find any, then it is good to eat, otherwise, you’ll want to discard it immediately. 

Final Thoughts

Butter is one of those ingredients that is always in your refrigerator. It is a versatile food item that tastes equally delicious. 

Unfortunately, butter has the potential to go bad. That said, with proper storage, you can extend its shelf life. 

Hopefully, this guide has informed you on everything you need to know about butter and whether it goes bad.

Mark Williams
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