Do we need to refrigerate butter?

Release time:2023-10-27 Number of views: 157

When it comes to butter, there's been a debate for years - should it be refrigerated or not? The answer, it turns out, depends on the type of butter, the climate of the kitchen, and the storage container used.

Can you do it without the butter?

According to the FDA, not all butter is classified as a TCS food, which means that certain butter types can be safely stored at room temperature. Pasteurized butter contains enough fat and salt to prevent bacterial growth and can be safely stored at room temperature for one to two days.


Butter is made from whipped milk or cream and usually contains at least 80% milk fat. Compared to other perishable dairy products, butter's high fat content helps it last longer. To keep it safe and prevent bacterial growth, commercially produced butter undergoes a pasteurization process, which involves heating the butter to kill any harmful bacteria that may be present. This process helps extend the shelf life of butter and reduces the risk of foodborne illness.

How long can I keep butter?

We've outlined below how long certain types of butter can sit on the counter and which ones should be refrigerated.


Salted butter can be kept at room temperature for one to two days if stored properly. Adding salt as a natural preservative significantly reduces the risk of bacterial contamination. If you do not use salted butter during this time, it is best to refrigerate it.

Unsalted butter can be left at room temperature for up to six hours before baking. Unlike salted butter, unsalted butter is more susceptible to spoilage due to the lack of salt as a natural preservative, so it is best to store it in the refrigerator.

Whipped butter, margarine, compound butter, and vegan butter are more likely to spoil and should always be refrigerated.

Unpasteurized or homemade butter is considered a TCS food and should always be refrigerated.

Tips for storing butter on the counter

If you do plan to keep salted butter at room temperature for easy spread, follow these tips to ensure it stays fresh:


Store only a small amount of butter at room temperature at a time. Store the rest in the refrigerator or freezer for future use.

Store it in an opaque butter dish or airtight container to protect it from light and air.

Store it away from direct heat sources, such as a stove.

Make sure the room temperature is below 72 degrees Fahrenheit. If you live in a warm climate or your kitchen is particularly hot, it's best to err on the side of caution and refrigerate your butter to maintain its quality.

How long does butter keep in the fridge?

In the refrigerator, unsalted butter can be kept for up to a month, while salted butter can be kept for up to three months due to the preservation properties of salt. For the best shelf life, it is recommended to store butter in its original packaging in the back of the refrigerator. This part tends to be the coldest part, ensuring that the butter stays fresh longer.


If you have a lot of butter that you can't use in a few weeks, you can also freeze it. Freezing butter can extend its shelf life by a year. Just make sure to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or put it in an airtight container to prevent freeze burns.

Does butter go bad?

In short, the answer is yes, butter is a perishable product that can go bad if not stored properly. Due to its high fat content, butter turns sour due to the oxidation process. When butter is exposed to oxygen, light, or heat, it oxidizes and produces an odor and color.


To prevent butter from spoiling and rancid, it is best to store it in the refrigerator. Cool temperatures help slow down the oxidation process and keep the butter fresh for longer. However, if you want the butter to be soft and easy to spread, you can place a small amount of butter in a covered butter dish at room temperature. Make sure to use it within a few days to avoid any potential damage.

How can you tell if butter has gone bad

If you're worried about the quality of your butter, look out for some signs. Rancorous butter often has a sour or unpleasant taste. It may also have a yellow or brown color instead of the usual milky white color. Also, if you notice any mold growing on your butter, it's definitely time to discard it.

While refrigeration is the best way to store butter, it's worth noting that salted butter can be safely stored at room temperature for up to two days. If you choose not to use butter, follow our guide to maintain its freshness and prevent spoilage.