Does Peanut Butter Need to Be Refrigerated After Opening?

I had never stored peanut butter in the refrigerator until a few years ago when I discovered that my mother-in-law had refrigerated her peanut butter. Now, granted, she did use the natural kind, while I have always just used the regular stuff, often generic.

Peanut butter is shelf-stable even after it has been opened and does not need to be refrigerated. When it has been canned by the manufacturer using a USDA-approved canning process, it will last a significant amount of time in your pantry, even after the expiration date.

Since peanut butter should not be home-canned, due to safety issues, this article will mostly talk about peanut butter manufactured by the various brands out there. Now, let’s explore peanut butter and related products (including Nutella) in greater detail.


What Do the Peanut Butter Companies Say About This Issue?

The leading manufacturers of peanut butter, Jif, Skippy, and Peter Pan, all agree that their products do not require refrigeration but will maintain their fresh taste longer when kept cold, although it may cause the oils to separate and will make it harder to spread.

Here is information found on the websites of three of the largest manufacturers of peanut butter:


“Jif peanut butter does not require refrigeration.

Unopened and stored in a cool, dry area, Jif peanut butter will last about two years (refer to the “Best If Used By” date).

  • After opening, you can keep Jif peanut butter for about three months on the pantry shelf.
  • If unopened, Jif To Go Peanut Butter and Jif Natural Peanut Butter Spread will each last one year (refer to the “Best If Used By” date).”


“SKIPPY® Peanut Butter—opened or not—is happiest when stored at room temperature. You can refrigerate it to savor its flavor for longer, but know that when refrigerated, it doesn’t spread as easily. You should also know that SKIPPY® Peanut Butter doesn’t like being too cold, so keep it freezer-free!

You can find the “Best By” date printed on the lid! SKIPPY® Peanut Butter should be enjoyed before that date—which shouldn’t be a problem!”

I wrote an article on freezing peanut butter that you may want to check out. It’s called How To Freeze Peanut Butter | The Best Way.


“This varies slightly depending on the actual product. Creamy and Crunchy varieties of Peter Pan Peanut Butter have a recommended shelf life that is 18 months from the date of manufacture.

Beyond this date, the product does not spoil but may develop “off” flavors due to age. The end of the recommended shelf life is noted by the “Best By” date stamped on the jar.

You may store both unopened and opened jars of Peter Pan Peanut Butter at room temperature.

Exposure to air and excessive heat may accelerate the loss of optimum flavor and—in the case of heat exposure—cause oil separation. Avoid this by keeping the jar tightly closed and in a cool place. Cold temperatures, even those that still are above freezing, may change peanut butter’s consistency, texture, and thickness.

Although both unopened and opened jars of Peter Pan Peanut Butter may be stored at room temperature, refrigeration may help retain the product’s optimum flavor—particularly in places where the room temperature tends to be warm.

Keep in mind that colder storage temperatures will make Peter Pan Peanut Butter firmer and not as easy to spread. We do not recommend freezing peanut butter.”

What About Nutella?

The manufacturer of Nutella, Ferrero, also states that the hazelnut spread does not require refrigeration. In fact, it should not be refrigerated at all.

All agree that peanut butter and Nutella should not be frozen and should be discarded after the expiration of the “best-by date.”

By the way, peanut butter cannot be home-canned safely. To read more about why check out my article called How to Can Peanut Butter? (You Can’t But Do This Instead).

How Long Does Peanut Butter and Nutella Last Once Opened?


How long peanut butter lasts depends on whether it is regular commercial peanut butter or whether it is all-natural, containing only peanuts and salt, and how it is stored, before and after the jar is opened. USDA recommends only buying what you expect to use within the time recommended on the label for each product.

Here is the shelf life of a few common types of peanut butter and Nutella:

Type Shelf Life In Fridge Table Shelf Life

  • Type 1 – Natural Peanut Butter 6-8 Months 1 Month
  • Type 2 – Regular Version w/preservatives 1 Year 3 Months
  • Type 3 – Unopened Jars – Go by the expiration date on the label
  • Type 4 – Nutella Should Not Be Refrigerated 1 Month past the “Sell By” date

How to Tell If Peanut Butter and Nutella Has Gone Bad

  • Smell- Usually, the first sign that peanut butter or Nutella has gone bad will be the odor. The oil that is in peanut butter, either natural peanut oil or added, will begin to go bad, causing a rank odor. If this occurs, the best thing to do is just throw it out.
  • Mold- If mold is growing on your peanut butter or Nutella, there is no doubt that the entire jar may be contaminated by the bacteria, which is causing the mold to grow, and the entire contents should be discarded.

Things That Help Peanut Butter and Nutella Last Longer

Here are some common-sense practices that can help to keep your peanut butter and Nutella good for a longer period of time:

  1. Store the unopened jar in a cool, dark, and dry area, such as a pantry or cabinet that is away from any light or heat source. Check out my article on ideal storage conditions for more detailed information.
  2. Refrigerate after opening if you do not expect to use the entire jar within six months.
  3. Keep the jar lidded to avoid airborne contamination.
  4. Use a spoon or other utensil that is dedicated solely to that jar/container of peanut butter to avoid cross-contamination with other food.
  5. Keep the outside and rim of the container, and the jar lid clean to avoid contamination.

What to do if You Have too Many Opened Bottles of Peanut Butter

If you find you have several jars of peanut butter that have been opened:

  1. If unrefrigerated, immediately put open jars into the refrigerator.
  2. Make it a point to serve peanut butter and jelly sandwiches more often until the excess is used up.
  3. Make a batch of peanut butter cookies to use up your extra supply.
  4. Make batches of peanut butter cookie dough and freeze to use later.
  5. Try your hand at making peanut butter pie.
  6. Spread peanut butter on crackers for snack time.
  7. Make peanut butter fudge, some to eat now and some for gifting. (Peanut butter fudge freezes well.)
  8. Make a peanut butter cake.
  9. Try your hand at making peanut butter cheesecake.

See below for some examples of recipes that use peanut butter as an ingredient.

If you want to keep peanut butter long-term, you might want to check out my article called How to Make Powdered Peanut Butter | A Quick Guide.

What to do if You Have too Many Opened Bottles of Nutella

If you inadvertently open more than one jar of Nutella at a time, it would be a great time to have pancakes, waffles, Belgian waffles, English Muffins, or just plain toast and spread on the Nutella. All that’s left to do is enjoy the treat!

What makes certain types go bad faster, and what makes them keep longer?

Certain types, such as natural peanut butter, will not keep as long as the regular version because they do not contain a sufficient amount of added hydrogenated oils to help extend their life by keeping peanuts and their natural oils from separating and hardening.

This can help prevent the oils from becoming rank. Regular peanut butter has preservatives and added hydrogenated oils that make them keep longer after opening than natural peanut butter.

I would not recommend leaving any type of peanut butter except the regular version un-refrigerated after opening. The regular versions can be considered safe to leave unrefrigerated for up to 3 months.

Types That Would Not Be Safe to Ever Leave Unrefrigerated:

In my opinion, no type of natural peanut butter would ever be safe to leave unrefrigerated after opening because they do not contain any preservatives, and the natural oils would become rancid faster than the hydrogenated oils used in regular peanut butter.

Interesting facts about the product and a brief history

Peanut Butter History of Why It Doesn’t Require Refrigeration


How people butter was developed will help us understand better why it does not require refrigeration.

Even though the peanut butter that we know and love was first introduced at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, there were variations produced as early as 1895, by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, of Kellog’s Company fame, and then another version that was developed by a St. Louis physician as a dietary supplement for his patients whose teeth were so bad they couldn’t eat meat.

But, the main ingredient, peanuts, has a long and interesting history.

There is evidence that peanuts originated in South America, in either Peru or Brazil, at least as far back as 3500 years ago. This was determined by the discovery of pottery from that era that was either in the shape of a peanut or painted with pictures of peanuts, and peanuts were found in the tombs of the Inca Indians of Peru, having been placed there as sacrificial offerings. There is also evidence that early tribes of Brazil made a drink by grinding corn and peanuts together.

Early European explorers took the peanuts they found in South America back to Spain, where they eventually spread to Asia and Africa through the early trade routes and were eventually brought to North America from Africa.

Virginia planters began to grow peanuts in the 1800s but considered them to be food for livestock and the poor. It wasn’t until soldiers in the Civil War discovered they liked peanuts and took them home after the war and began planting them that peanuts became a prominent crop throughout the South.

P. T. Barnum’s circus gave the peanut the boost it needed to become an important food crop as the circus traveled around the country selling “hot roasted peanuts,” thus creating a demand for the lowly peanut.

And, with the help of modern farm equipment and methods developed by Dr. George Washington Carver to control the boll weevil, peanut production finally became a cost-effective crop.

Peanuts and peanut butter became an important part of the United States Military MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) rations during World Wars I and II, and the United States Army is credited with having made the peanut butter and jelly sandwich a popular meal or snack in America by using them for food for the troops during field maneuvers during World War II.

U.S. peanuts fall into four basic types: Runner, Virginia, Spanish, and Valencia, each of which has a distinctive size and flavor. Other countries grow similar types of peanuts but by different names.

Peanuts are grown in 13 Southern states across the United States, as well as in other countries around the world. China is the number one producer at this time, with the U.S. coming in as the third-largest producer of peanuts.

There are many added benefits to eating peanuts and peanut butter, either as a snack or as part of a meal, as they are naturally cholesterol-free, are protein powerhouses, and offer protection from chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer and from diabetes.

Nutella History of Why It Doesn’t Require Refrigeration

Nutella got its start as a solution to the shortage of cocoa following World War II when an Italian pastry maker, Pietro Ferrero, created a paste from hazelnuts, sugar, and just a little cocoa and called it “Giandujot” after a famous circus performer of the time.

The original form of what would later be called Nutella was shaped into a loaf, sliced, and served on bread. This creation led to the official founding of the Ferrero Company on May 14, 1946.

This original Giandujot was later transformed into a product called SuperCrema that could be spread onto bread, and Mr. Ferrero’s son Michelle continued to improve the product until the delicious hazelnut cream spread that we know today was created and given the name Nutella.

Nutella spread to Germany, where it was a huge success, then to France, all of Europe, and to Australia.

From there, Nutella made its way around the world and now has its own global Facebook page that reaches 10 million fans, and on May 31, 2017, the first Nutella Cafe was opened in Chicago, where all Nutella fans can go to experience a wide variety of menu items “designed to take your taste experience to new and delicious heights.”

Recipes for Using Nutella (from the Nutella website)

The Health Benefits of Peanuts & Peanut Butter According to the American Peanut Council

There are many added benefits to eating peanuts and peanut butter, either as a snack or as part of a meal, as they

  • Are naturally cholesterol-free,
  • Are protein powerhouses,
  • Offer protection from chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer and from diabetes as they contain Resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant, P-coumaric acid, a polyphenol that may protect against cellular damage and cancer, and Phytosterols that may lower the risk of cancer and heart disease.
  • Contain niacin, magnesium, vitamin E, biotin, and copper.
  • Contain 80% unsaturated fat, the good fat.
  • Contain dietary fiber.

Final Thoughts

Although peanuts are considered to be one of the earliest known foods, their popularity has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years as the peanuts themselves and the many products made from them, mainly peanut butter, are now considered to be “Superfoods” and some of the most nutritious, convenient, and affordable foods available to us.

How many other kinds of high-protein foods can you use to prepare a meal for your family that does not have to be refrigerated?

Nutella, like peanut butter, doesn’t require refrigeration. This makes both the perfect solution for lunches on workdays, picnics, hiking trips, and many other occasions when refrigeration is not handy.

For more, don’t miss How To Freeze Peanut Butter | The Best Way.

Anne James

Anne James has a wealth of experience in a wide array of interests and is an expert in quilting, cooking, gardening, camping, mixing drinks (bartending), and making jelly. Anne has a professional canning business, has been featured in the local newspaper as well as on the Hershey website, and has been her family canner for decades. Anyone growing up in the South knows that there is always a person in the family who has knowledge of the “old ways,” and this is exactly what Anne is. With over 55 years of experience in these endeavors, she brings a level of hands-on knowledge that is hard to surpass. Amazingly, she doesn’t need to reference many resources due to her vast wealth of experience. She IS the source. Anne wants nothing more than to pass on her extensive knowledge to the next generations, whether that be family or anyone visiting her website, her YouTube channel, or

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