Does Butter Spoil?

Author: Gabrielle Marks
Yes, butter does spoil.

As a dairy product, butter has a relatively short shelf life.  Butter is made with about 80% fat and 15% water.  Exposure to bright light and air break down the fat molecules that make the butter rancid so butter that is left out at room temperature will begin to degrade in odor and taste within a few days compared to weeks when stored in a cool dark place.  

How to Store Butter

If packaged and cared for properly butter will last for one to two weeks in a refrigerator at a temperature set below forty degrees Fahrenheit.  Butter absorbs odor so ensure that it is wrapped properly. For best results keep unopened butter in its original packaging.  Butter that has been opened should be returned to the refrigerator in a waterproof, airtight container.  Do not wrap butter for storage in aluminum foil as metal hastens food oxidation. 

Freezing Butter

Butter absorbs odors readily so should be stored in an airtight, moisture-proof container like a freezer bag.  Butter will keep at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below for six to nine months.  When you are ready to use the butter, thaw it in the refrigerator. 

How to Tell If Butter Is Rancid

Rancid butter is evident in the bitter taste and foul odor.  A stick of butter that has gone bad will also have a translucent look and be darker in color than when it purchased fresh.  If butter has been minimally exposed to heat, light, and air it may be salvageable.  Dark yellow patches will be evident where the butter has had the most exposure.  These can generally be removed to salvage the rest of the butter that can still be enjoyed.


Works Cited

Mcgee, Harold
"On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen"

Extension, University of Missouri
"GH1115 Using and Storing Butter"

purple arrowCite this Article

"Does Butter Spoil?." Sophisticated Edge. N.p., n.d. Web. . <>.  

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to treat or diagnose any health problems or illnesses without consulting a physician. It is not meant to take the place of health care or services you may need. Please consult a physician with any questions you may have regarding your health.

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