How Long Can Butter Stay Out of the Fridge (A Handy Chart)

Butter, a delicious and versatile dairy product, is a staple in many households. Whether you use it to spread on toast, bake cookies, or sauté vegetables, butter adds flavor and richness to various dishes.

How Long Can Butter Stay Out of the Fridge

However, one common question often arises among butter enthusiasts: How long can butter stay out of the fridge before it goes bad?

Butter can generally stay out of the fridge for a short period without going bad. Butter can keep for a few hours to a day or two at room temperature (about 70°F or 21°C), depending on the particulars of your climate. However, if the temperature is higher or the air is particularly warm, the butter may start to soften and become susceptible to spoilage sooner.

In this post, we’ll look at the elements that influence butter’s shelf life and present a helpful chart to guarantee you can enjoy your butter safely.

What is Butter?

Before we go into the shelf life of butter, let’s briefly understand what butter is.

Butter is a dairy product made from churning cream or milk.

The process of churning separates the fat solids from the liquid, resulting in the creamy, spreadable product we know and love.

It can be used as a versatile ingredient in both sweet and savory recipes thanks to its robust flavor and silky texture.

Factors Affecting Butter Shelf Life

The shelf life of butter can vary depending on several factors, which include:


Temperature plays a crucial role in determining how long butter can stay fresh. Butter is sensitive to heat, and exposure to high temperatures can lead to spoilage.

To keep butter fresh in warm weather, keep it in the refrigerator or a cold, dark cupboard.

The ideal temperature for storing butter is below 70°F (21°C). Avoid leaving butter near heat sources like stoves or ovens, as the warmth can cause the butter to soften or melt.


Humidity can also impact the quality of butter. High humidity can cause butter to absorb moisture from the air, leading to a loss of its desirable texture and flavor.

When exposed to excess moisture, butter may become greasy and difficult to spread.

To protect your butter from humidity, store it in an airtight container or a butter dish with a lid.


Butter is often sold wrapped in foil or parchment paper to maintain its shape and freshness.

The packaging is designed to protect the butter from external odors and contaminants. Once the original packaging is opened, consider transferring the butter to an airtight container for extended shelf life.

This prevents the absorption of unwanted odors and helps keep the butter from being exposed to air, which can lead to rancidity.

Can Butter Stay Out of the Fridge?

butter in a white paper

While butter can be kept outside the refrigerator for brief periods of time, refrigeration is usually advised to keep it fresher longer.

Butter can deteriorate if left out at room temperature for a long time, especially in warm weather.

Butter should be kept at room temperature if it will be used within a day or two.

Refrigeration is the greatest option if you won’t be utilizing it for an extended amount of time.

The 2-Hour Rule

The “2-hour rule” is a general guideline for perishable foods like butter. According to the U.S. Perishable goods shouldn’t be kept at room temperature for longer than two hours, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

This rule helps to keep hazardous bacteria from growing, which can lead to foodborne illnesses. If the room temperature exceeds 90°F (32°C), the safe time for leaving butter out reduces to just one hour. Therefore, it’s crucial to return butter to the fridge promptly after use.

Refrigerating Butter

To keep butter fresh for an extended period, refrigeration is the best option. When stored properly in the fridge, butter can typically last for several weeks, and sometimes even a few months past the printed expiration date.

It is essential to keep butter away from foods with strong odors to avoid flavor contamination.

To further protect the butter from absorbing unwanted smells, consider using a butter keeper or wrapping the butter in wax paper before storing it in an airtight container.

Freezing Butter

If you have extra butter that you won’t be using soon, freezing is an excellent option. Freezing butter can significantly extend its shelf life.

If properly stored at 0°F (-18°C) or lower, butter can be preserved in the freezer for up to six months.

Before putting butter in an airtight container or a resealable freezer bag to freeze, wrap it tightly in wax paper or plastic wrap. Thaw frozen butter in the refrigerator before using it to maintain its texture and flavor.

Signs of Spoiled Butter

Spoiled Butter

It’s essential to recognize the signs of spoiled butter to avoid consuming it when it’s no longer safe.

Common indicators of spoiled butter include an off smell, unusual color, or a rancid taste. Fresh butter has a slightly sweet and creamy aroma, so if you notice a sour or unpleasant odor, the butter may have spoiled.

Additionally, fresh butter has a uniform pale yellow color, while spoiled butter might appear discolored or have dark spots.

Butter Storage Tips

To maximize the shelf life of butter:

  • Store it in an airtight container: Keeping butter in an airtight container or a butter dish with a lid keeps it fresher longer and prevents it from absorbing undesirable aromas from the fridge.
  • Keep it away from strong-smelling foods in the fridge: Butter absorbs aromas from other foods in the refrigerator, so keep it away from strong-smelling goods like onions and garlic.
  • Avoid exposing it to direct sunlight or heat sources: Butter should be kept out of direct sunlight and other sources of heat since they can cause it to soften and deteriorate quickly.
  • Follow the “first in, first out” rule to use older butter first: If you have multiple packages of butter, use the oldest one first to ensure you consume it before it reaches its expiration date.

Butter vs. Margarine

Butter contains saturated fat and cholesterol because it is a dairy product. Due to its reduced concentration of saturated fat, some people choose margarine as a healthier alternative.

However, it’s crucial to take into account the type of fats utilized in margarine and whether or not some varieties contain trans fats.

Trans fats are harmful and can raise bad cholesterol levels, so it’s crucial to choose margarine made with healthier fats, such as liquid vegetable oils.

Is Rancid Butter Safe to Eat?

Consuming rancid butter is not recommended as it may cause digestive discomfort and pose health risks.

Rancidity occurs when the fats in butter break down, leading to an unpleasant taste and potential loss of nutrients. To avoid any harmful impacts on your health, throw away any butter you believe has gone rancid right away.

Using Butter Safely

When using butter in recipes, make sure to follow proper food safety practices. Wash your hands before handling butter to prevent the transfer of bacteria.

Avoid cross-contamination by using separate utensils for raw meat and butter. After using butter in a dish, refrigerate any leftovers promptly to prevent spoilage.

Homemade Butter Shelf Life

Your homemade butter’s shelf life will depend on how thoroughly the buttermilk residue was removed during the washing process.

Properly washed homemade butter can last about a week in the fridge. To keep it from absorbing fridge odors, homemade butter must be kept in a sanitary, sealed container.

Butter in Recipes

Butter is a key ingredient in various recipes, such as:

  • Baked goods like cookies, cakes, and pastries: Butter enriches baked foods, giving them taste, moisture, and suppleness.
  • Savory dishes like sautéed vegetables and sauces: Butter enhances the flavors of savory dishes and helps create a smooth and creamy texture in sauces.
  • Spreading on bread, muffins, or pancakes: A classic use of butter is as a spread for bread and other baked goods, providing a delectable taste and richness.


In conclusion, butter is a delicious complement to many foods, but it is important to carefully analyze its shelf life to guarantee its safety and freshness.

Keep in mind to refrigerate butter to increase its shelf life; if you must store it for a long time, freezing is a possibility.

Be vigilant for signs of spoilage, and when in doubt, it’s best to discard the butter.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I leave butter out of the fridge overnight?

It’s not recommended to leave butter out overnight, as it may spoil and become unsafe to consume. To maintain its freshness, refrigerate butter when not in use.

Is it safe to eat slightly rancid butter?

It’s best to avoid consuming rancid butter, as it may cause digestive discomfort and is not suitable for consumption. It’s recommended to throw away butter if you think it’s gone bad.

How long does homemade butter last?

Homemade butter can last about a week in the fridge if it’s thoroughly washed to remove buttermilk residue. Proper storage in an airtight container helps maintain its quality.

Can I freeze butter for long-term storage?

Yes, butter can be frozen and kept there for up to six months, greatly extending its shelf life. Ensure it’s wrapped tightly to prevent freezer burn.

What are some alternatives to butter?

Some alternatives to butter include margarine, vegetable oil spreads, and plant-based butter substitutes. However, it’s essential to consider their nutritional content and ingredients. Opt for options made with healthier fats and minimal additives.