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Should Peanut Butter Be Refrigerated?
Getty Images/SEE D JAN

Close your eyes and picture this. You’re tiptoeing around the kitchen in your jammies making the usual midnight snack, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You get a plate, set down two slices of bread, take a butter knife out of the drawer and turn to grab the PB. Are you reaching into your pantry or fridge? Much like butter, the debate surrounding peanut butter’s slot in the fridge door is hot. So, should peanut butter be refrigerated? The answer is actually pretty simple.

Does Peanut Butter Need to Be Refrigerated?

An unopened jar of peanut butter can hang in the pantry for six to nine months. Once opened, it stays fresh for two to three months at room temperature. When kept cold, it can last six to nine months. 

Clearly keeping peanut butter in the fridge won’t harm it, but do we *need* to? (Tearing holes in a piece of toast with some rock-hard chunky peanut butter is pretty much the worst, right?) Thankfully, it’s not necessary unless you’re taking a really long time to finish the jar. If you’re still working on it outside that two- to three-month window for ideal freshness, keep it cold. Until then, spread away at room temp to your heart’s content.  

Of course, there’s usually a “Best By” or “Use By” date on the jar. But that’s mostly a guideline for flavor quality rather than expiration. In fact, keeping opened PB in the fridge past that date is safe and extends the shelf life by a few months. Your nose and eyes should be able to tell on their own if peanut butter has gone bad. If the smell is off or you see mold, toss it. 

How to Make Peanut Butter Last

  1. Keep it in a cool, dry place with limited to no exposure to light or heat (that means away from the stove and toaster, too).
  2. Store it upside down in the pantry. It keeps the oil from pooling at the top of the jar and evenly distributes it all the way through.
  3. Be sure to keep the jar tightly sealed at all times. Oxygen breaks down fat, PB’s natural barrier against going rancid.
  4. If you don’t finish the jar within three months, keep it in the fridge. That’ll extend its shelf life by another three or four months. 
  5. While we love dipping everything from celery to Oreos in peanut butter, don’t dip from the jar. Leaving traces of other food—especially if you keep the jar on the shelf—can make it go bad faster.

What About Natural Peanut Butter?

Natural peanut butter is unrefined, containing only ground roasted peanuts and sometimes salt without the preservatives and hydrogenated oils that make the standard stuff extra smooth and spreadable. Many brands advise refrigerating natural PB after opening, but it can last up to a month in a cool, dark place on the shelf. It really depends on how quickly you consume it.

If it takes you a long to time to finish a whole jar, keep it in the fridge where the oils won’t spoil and it’ll last for up to six months. If you do choose to keep it cold, be sure to stir the separated oil back into the peanut butter between uses. It can be hard to reincorporate the natural oils once it gets cold and hard.

What to Make with Peanut Butter

RELATED: How to Make Almond Butter (Because It’s Like $15 a Jar)

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