How To Store Butter Long Term ( In 3 Easy Steps )

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The question of where to store butter often sparks debates within households. Should it be kept in the fridge to prolong its lifespan? Or is room temperature storage preferable for easier spreading? It’s a topic that divides opinions.

For extended storage, the most secure option remains refrigerating butter while wrapped or covered. Butter is also amenable to freezing, though for added safeguarding, it’s advisable to employ additional foil or a freezer bag as protection. Well-wrapped freezer butter can remain preserved for several months.

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For many, the default choice is to store butter in the fridge, driven by habit and little further consideration. Conversely, some are firm believers in leaving it on the counter. After all, there’s nothing more disheartening than spreading cold butter on your toast in the morning and inadvertently ruining it with a stubborn knife. For the sake of longevity and preserving its prime quality, a significant portion of us opt to refrigerate our butter.

A middle ground solution involves storing the bulk of your butter in the refrigerator, while keeping a portion for the next 1-2 days in a covered dish on the counter or in the pantry. Most butter brands recommend refrigeration, but for enhanced spreadability, it’s safe to maintain a small quantity at room temperature, as long as it’s well covered, airtight, and shielded from light. Butter’s high fat and low water content render it less attractive to bacteria than other dairy products. Additionally, for enthusiasts of salted butter, the salt acts as a natural preservative, further safeguarding it against bacterial growth.

Air and light are the culprits that can lead to butter spoilage, which is why certain butter brands utilize foil packaging to offer added protection, ensuring freshness at the point of purchase. Therefore, when refrigerating butter, it’s advisable to retain it in its original packaging. Effective strategies also encompass storing butter in the coolest compartment of the fridge—typically the cooler drawers—rather than the warmer fridge door. Furthermore, it’s wise to avoid placing butter near pungent foods like onions or garlic, as butter has a tendency to absorb strong flavors. If you want to know how to store olive oil then check out my recent article How To Store Olive Oil Long-Term ( In 3 Easy Steps ).

How to Store Butter

Following USDA guidelines, similar to most dairy products, butter should be stored in the refrigerator at around 40 degrees Fahrenheit to adhere to food safety standards. Here are three distinct approaches for butter storage:

  1. At Room Temperature: Keep a stick of butter on the countertop within an airtight container or butter dish for a day or two, ensuring it remains soft and spreadable. Its blend of water and fat prevents spoilage when left at room temperature. (Salted butter has a lengthier shelf life than unsalted butter in this method due to the preserving properties of salt.) A suitable storage container for this technique is a butter bell crock or French butter keeper, which envelops the butter in water within a cup to avert oxidation.
  2. In the Freezer: To extend freshness beyond two weeks, store butter in the freezer. Place butter within an airtight container or freezer bag, and indicate the freezing date on the container. When you intend to use the frozen butter, defrost it overnight in the refrigerator.
  3. In the Refrigerator: For extended, day-to-day usage, refrigerating fresh butter is the optimal choice. Original unopened packaging or a butter crock can house butter in the fridge for up to two weeks or until the expiration date. Should you open the initial packaging, transfer the butter to an airtight container or a sandwich bag for storage.

Tips for Storing Butter

Select an appropriate container. When storing butter at room temperature, opt for a butter bell crock to thwart oxidation. If a crock isn’t available, a covered butter dish or a compact airtight container will suffice.

Safeguard against sunlight. Shield your butter with a cover and place it out of direct sunlight when stored at room temperature. This practice helps deter bacterial growth and prevents spoilage.

Steer clear of aluminum foil. Refrain from using aluminum foil to wrap butter, as it can expedite fat oxidation, leading to butter turning rancid.

Storing Packed Butter

If you’ve acquired a substantial amount of butter from the supermarket and aim to preserve its freshness for an extended duration, it’s advisable to leave it as is within the refrigerator while retaining its original packaging. In case you’ve already opened the packaging and intend to store it for an extended period, the best approach is to wrap it in aluminum foil before storing.

For an added layer of freshness, consider employing double wrapping with aluminum foil. This technique can significantly enhance the butter’s overall freshness. If you want to know what foods last a long time without refrigeration then check out my recent article Foods That Last A Long Time Without Refrigeration ( Top 186 ).

Storing Butter At Room Temperature

Many of us prefer to keep butter at room temperature in the kitchen for convenient use, as refrigerated butter often requires melting before spreading.

Unsalted, raw, and unpasteurized butter carries a higher risk of bacterial growth. In contrast, salted butter has a lower susceptibility to bacterial growth due to its salt content. Salted butter can be safely stored at room temperature for approximately 2-3 weeks.

Storing Butter In The freezer

An alternate method for preserving butter for extended periods is by freezing it.

  1. Dice the butter into smaller pieces and wrap them in aluminum foil.
  2. Insert the wrapped butter cubes into a freezer storage bag and put it in the freezer.
  3. When needed, remove the desired amount of butter cubes and either heat them or let them reach room temperature before use.

Guidelines for Storing Butter in the Refrigerator

  1. Separation from Other Foods: Ensure that when you place butter in the refrigerator, it’s kept away from other food items. Butter is prone to absorbing flavors and odors from neighboring foods.
  2. Summertime Storage: During warmer summer months, regardless of its fat content, it’s advisable to refrigerate butter to prevent souring.
  3. Unsalted and Whipped Butter: Unsalted or whipped butter should never be left at room temperature, as it can swiftly spoil.
  4. Usage Considerations: If your butter consumption is modest, set aside a small portion for immediate use and store the remainder in either the fridge or freezer.
  5. Airtight Containers: Always employ an airtight container for butter storage to prevent quick souring.
  6. Sunlight and Heat: Keep butter away from direct sunlight and heat sources in the kitchen.
  7. Observation: Prior to use, inspect your butter for a shiny layer. If the outer appearance differs from the inside, it indicates spoilage and the butter should not be consumed.
  8. Freezing Duration: Freeze butter only if you anticipate using it beyond a month. Employing a zipper-lock bag can enhance its freshness during freezing.

Containers For Storing Butter

The choice of appropriate packaging is as crucial as selecting the storage location. The packaging container serves as a shield, safeguarding butter from factors that could lead to rancidity, such as light and air exposure. Butter can be packaged in a variety of materials, including glass jars, paper, aluminum foil, or its original packaging.


Whenever feasible, opt for storing butter within an airtight container. Glass jars offer a protective barrier against heat, air, and light, especially when stored in the fridge or freezer. Furthermore, they prevent neighboring odors from permeating the butter. If you opt for a glass jar, it’s advisable to choose a freezer-safe mason jar for optimal results.

Original Packaging

In general, the original packaging of butter is not intended for extended storage. If your goal is to maintain the quality of store-bought butter, it’s advisable to explore options like butter in glass jars or canned containers.

Furthermore, it’s wise to refrain from choosing butter in plastic containers. Plastic containers have been associated with the potential leakage of microplastics into their contents. Moreover, plastic is more susceptible to heat-related warming compared to glass containers.

Aluminum Foil

Aluminum foil proves to be a proficient method for butter storage, particularly when dealing with butter sticks. The use of aluminum foil effectively wards off unwanted odors from adhering to the butter. For optimal preservation, it’s recommended to wrap a stick of butter in paper, followed by an aluminum foil wrap, and ultimately, placement within a freezer bag. This approach not only safeguards the butter’s freshness but also ensures it remains insulated from potential exposure to microplastics.

How Long Does Butter Last?

The duration of butter’s shelf life hinges on your chosen storage approach. Generally, butter can persist in the refrigerator for around two weeks, while being kept at room temperature in an airtight container away from direct sunlight can extend its viability to two days. In the freezer, butter maintains its quality for up to nine months.

Commonly, store-bought butter features an expiration date on the packaging. This “best-by” date pertains to butter stored in the refrigerator. If you observe areas of discoloration or detect an unpleasant odor emanating from the butter, it’s probable that it has turned rancid and should not be consumed. If you want to know which high protein foods last a long time without refrigeration then check out my recent article High Protein Foods With Long Shelf Life ( Top 21 ).

Shelf Life of Butter

According to a study published in the Journal of Dairy Science, the longevity of butter’s shelf life is influenced by factors such as its salt content and quantity. Higher salt content and larger quantities can potentially impact the duration for which butter remains viable.

In general, a stick of butter can retain its quality for approximately 1-2 months when stored in the refrigerator, or extend its shelf life to over 1 year when placed in the freezer. However, freezing butter for durations exceeding 12 months may result in diminishing quality. Nonetheless, the butter remains suitable for consumption until signs of rancidity become apparent.

When kept at room temperature, butter’s freshness is limited to only 1 to 2 days, underscoring the necessity of refraining from storing it outside of refrigeration or freezing.

It’s important to note that two types of butter offer extended shelf lives beyond that of standard butter. Powdered butter can be preserved for up to 5 years, while canned butter can endure for over 3 years.

How to tell if Butter is Rancid?

If butter deteriorates prior to its designated expiration date, the cause is likely due to exposure to heat, light, or oxygen. If you suspect that your butter has turned rancid, you can follow a straightforward three-step method to assess its condition. By relying on your sense of sight, smell, and taste, you can determine whether the butter has gone bad.

Sight: Begin by examining the butter for any indications of discoloration, mold, or bacterial growth. Noticeable shifts in color serve as an obvious indicator of spoilage.

Smell: Next, rely on your sense of smell. Rancid butter emits a sour, cheesy, or spoiled milk-like odor. Should you detect such an aroma, it’s advisable to dispose of the butter, as it signifies spoilage.

Taste: Lastly, if no apparent signs of spoilage are detected, you can sample a small portion of the butter. Depending on whether it tastes sour or retains its regular taste, you’ll have a conclusive answer regarding its condition.

While consuming spoiled butter may not lead to illness, it results in a loss of nutritional value and could potentially cause stomach discomfort, adversely impacting your homemade meal. Hence, it’s prudent to discard it rather than subject your family to compromised quality.

Key Takeaways

The optimal storage for butter is either in the refrigerator or freezer. Leaving it at room temperature exposes it to spoilage within just 2 days. In terms of shelf life, refrigerated butter remains viable for up to 2 months, while frozen butter can retain freshness for about 1 year. Beyond that point, while still consumable, the quality may diminish. Moreover, alternatives like canned and powdered butter offer extended preservation capabilities. Canned butter has a storage life of up to 3 years, while powdered butter can last over 5 years.