12 Foods You Don’t Need to Refrigerate, from Butter to Hot Sauce

Ever try to spread rock hard butter on a slice of toast? It’s like nails on a chalkboard. Here, 12 foods that actually taste, slice and spread better when you don’t refrigerate them.

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foods you shouldnt refrigerate butter
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1. Butter

Although it contains pasteurized milk, butter can sit on the counter for a couple of days (even longer for salted, which has a lower risk of contamination). It’s totally safe, according to the USDA, however, the flavor can turn rancid after too long. Just make sure to keep butter in an airtight container (we like a French-style butter crock) and that your kitchen room temperature stays below 70°F. Worried you can’t go through butter that quickly? Put out a quarter stick at a time.

foods you shouldnt refrigerate melons
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2. Melons

Uncut melons with a rough skin (like watermelon and cantaloupe) need to be left out in order to properly ripen. The one exception? Honeydew, which actually doesn’t continue to ripen after picking and does just fine in the fridge. However, once those melons are ripe, they should go straight into your fridge for optimum freshness.

foods you shouldnt refrigerate tomatoes
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3. Tomatoes

Like melons, these guys just get better and better at room temperature. According to the experts at Serious Eats, refrigerator temperatures are actually a little too cold for optimum tomato storage, and can make their texture mealy. If you’re worried they’re getting soft, you can refrigerate them or, better yet, use them right away.

foods you shouldnt refrigerate potatoes
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4. Potatoes

Per the USDA, refrigeration causes the starch in potatoes to change into sugar, which means a gritty texture and sweet flavor. Instead, keep them in a paper bag in a cool, dark place—like under your sink. Or, heck, under your bed. (And keep them away from onions, which can cause both veggies to spoil faster.)

foods you shouldnt refrigerate onions
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5. Onions

Onions + fridge = mushy goo at the bottom of your crisper. That’s because alliums love to absorb moisture. The USDA recommends storing onions in a dark, cool, well-ventilated place like a basement, pantry or cellar.

how to keep bread fresh cat

6. Bread

We know you’re worried about bugs, but refrigerating that loaf of rye is not the answer. (It’ll dry out and get stale, thanks to the cold temperatures.) Instead, store bread in an airtight bread box (or better yet, your microwave) for up to a week, or freeze for up to three months.

foods you shouldnt refrigerate honey
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7. Honey

Cold temps cause sugar crystals to form faster, and nobody wants crystals in their chamomile. The USDA says honey will keep at room temperature for at least a year, and after that time, it’s still safe to eat but the quality may not be as good. (To soften crystallized honey, gently heat it in a pot of hot water.)

foods you shouldnt refrigerate ground coffee
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8. Coffee

Ground beans can actually absorb the odor of other foods while in the fridge. Tilapia-flavored coffee? Ew. Baristas recommend you store coffee grounds in an airtight container away from moisture, heat and sunlight. Keep the bag in the pantry for up to two weeks. Better yet, purchase whole beans and grind them as you go; they’ll stay fresher longer even at room temperature.

foods you shouldnt refrigerate basil
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9. Basil

Unlike other herbs, basil wilts in the cold temperatures and absorbs other food smells, leaving you with black, wilted leaves. Instead, place it on your counter in a cup of water like fresh flowers and it will last for seven to ten days.

foods you shouldnt refrigerate peanut butter

10. Peanut Butter

There’s a lot of debate surrounding peanut butter’s place in the fridge, but according to the USDA, an opened jar will stay fresh at room temperature for two to three months (and six to nine months if unopened). However, natural peanut butter will go rancid much faster, so stash it in the fridge if it takes you a long time to finish a jar.

foods you shouldnt refrigerate olive oil
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11. Olive Oil

Olive oil will stay fresh at room temperature for up to 60 days, and it’s best stored in a cool, dry place, ideally between 60°F and 72°F, away from sunlight. You could stick it in the fridge, but it will solidify and become a pain in the you-know-where when you want to cook with it. Just buy small quantities and use it up quickly.

foods you shouldnt refrigerate hot sauce
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12. Hot Sauce

Sure, storing your collection of spicy sauces in the refrigerator will extend their shelf-life to an extent. But with all that vinegar and salt (both natural preservatives), they’ll be just fine in a cool cupboard if you want to free up space on your fridge door…for wine.


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Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...