Peanut butter is not just a spread. It's a lifestyle. There are so many ways you can enjoy its delicious nutty properties, from spreading it onto a slab of bread, a slice of an apple, or by just going ham and eating it straight out of the jar with a spoon, which I've definitely done more than once. Ok, at least 27 times. But while we usually eat a whole jar of peanut butter earlier than the expiration date on the top, we've got to know, for the sake of our pantries, does peanut butter go bad? Or can we just leave it in the pantry forever and happily grab it whenever a pb craving strikes? Which could be now. Or you know, five months from now. Or five years. Let's find out.

Does peanut butter go bad?

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Caroline Ingalls

In the simplest terms (and most convenient definitions), yes, peanut butter does go bad. While it can remain at room temperature for months without spoiling, especially if you store your peanuts in airtight containers, a jar of peanut butter does not last forever.

An open jar of peanut butter can stay fresh for up to three months in the pantry, and after that, it's recommended to store it in the fridge for safe-keeping and maintain its quality for another three to four months. If you don't put it in the fridge, then oil separation could occur where the fats separate from the peanuts and pool at the top of the jar, which is totally normal and doesn't ruin the taste, but means you'd have to stir your pb to get it back to its usual state. Meanwhile, an unopened jar of peanut butter can last for six to nine months, and no refrigeration is needed. 

And natural peanut butter?

peanut butter, spread, butter, peanut
Mary Mattingly

For the unprocessed kind, a jar of unopened natural peanut butter that you might purchase from the store or a farmers' market would last you two to three months past the printed date in the pantry and three to six months in the fridge. But if you open a jar of natural peanut butter without the preservatives, you have to put it in the fridge right away, where it will last for five to six months.

What about smooth vs crunchy?

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Jocelyn Hsu

The texture of the pb is an important factor, too, and is a relevant consideration whether you're a smooth or crunchy advocate. Either in the fridge or the pantry, an unopened jar of crunchy or smooth peanut butter lasts for one year, whereas if it's opened, it lasts for three to four months in the pantry and six to eight months in the fridge.

How can you tell?

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Julia Gilman

Are there obvious signs to answer the question of "does peanut butter go bad?" Indeed there are. While low moisture levels and high oil content keep your pb gooey and luscious for quite some time, peanut butter can go rancid in about a year and lose its flavor thanks to exposure to oxygen over time (unscrewing the lid off your jar too many times). Although peanut butter's consistency can seem pretty wet and greasy due to the high amounts of oil and fatty content, not leaving much room for water, it's actually pretty dry, which makes it hard for any fungus or bacteria to survive without water to rely on. This would lead you to believe that your pb is flawless, right?

Wrong, unfortunately. You can tell if your pb has become rancid if you see that the texture has changed from soft and creamy to hard and dry. Also, the color of the pb may become darker and the smell will have changed from aromatic and nutty to more of a rank stench. Keep in mind that if you do see oil separation occur in a processed brand like Jif, then it's an indication that the quality of the peanut butter will soon be going downhill. But don't worry! If you end up eating peanut butter that's gone rancid and you haven't realized it, you will not get sick and no harm will come to you--except to your tastebuds, since it won't taste the same as when you first bought it at the store. 

Can you prolong the mortality of your beloved pb?

coffee, candy, dairy product, milk, cream, sweet, chocolate, peanut butter, spoon, jar
Caroline Ingalls

So we've determined that "does peanut butter go bad?" is a valid question with a disappointing but not fatal answer. But is there a way to make its delectable quality last longer?That's a yes, too. Because peanut butter is replete with the natural antioxidant Vitamin E, it helps stave off oxidation and prolongs its shelf life. Also, as noted above, storing it in an airtight container and, especially if it's homemade or natural pb, keeping it in the fridge after opening for the first time can help you enjoy peanut butter for a longer period of time.

Well, now we know that this wonder-spread is not impervious to the sands of time and the answer to "does peanut butter go bad?" is a definite yes. It eventually grows older, drier, and less tasty. But not to fret, peanut butter does ultimately have a supremely long shelf life. And if you're like me, you can finish a jar single-handedly in a matter of days, so the expiration date is really an irrelevant matter.