Home | Food Safety | How to Tell if Butter is Bad

How to Tell if Butter is Bad

Are you tired of second-guessing the state of your butter? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll teach you exactly how to tell if butter is bad, so you can enjoy your favorite spread without any unpleasant surprises.

With our expert tips and tricks, you’ll be able to identify spoiled butter in a jiffy and prevent any potential food-related mishaps.

Let’s dive in and discover the secrets behind preserving the freshness of this kitchen staple.

How to tell if butter is bad?


Butter can last for weeks or even months in the fridge, but it will eventually go bad. You can tell if your butter has gone bad if it has an off smell, is discolored, or has a sour taste. If your butter meets any of these criteria, it’s best to throw it out.

Block of butter next to a glass bowl with cubed butter

Most people don’t realize that butter can go bad. In fact, it’s one of the most common kitchen items to go rancid. Here are a few signs that your butter has gone bad and how to tell if butter is bad.

How it looks

To tell if butter has gone bad just by looking at it, look for its packaging for a best-before or expiration date. If this date has lapsed, do not attempt to use the butter.

Visual inspection is also important; slice a small portion of the butter using a clean knife and look at its color. If the inside looks brighter than the outside, this is a sign of oxidation, as air has penetrated.

Look out for wet or distorted packaging, as this can affect freshness, and also look for any discoloration or possible appearance of mold.

How it feels

While touching butter isn’t the most reliable method to determine if it’s bad, you may be able to pick up on some signs.

Spoiled butter can become either too soft or too hard, depending on storage conditions. If the butter feels excessively soft and greasy at room temperature or overly hard when refrigerated, it may indicate that its quality has been compromised.

Keep in mind that using your sense of smell, sight, and taste is generally more reliable for detecting spoiled butter.

How it smells

Determining if butter is bad by its smell is one of the more reliable methods. Fresh butter typically has a mild, slightly sweet, and creamy aroma.

However, when butter goes bad, it can develop an off smell, which could be described as rancid, sour, or musty.

This unpleasant odor occurs due to the oxidation of fats and the growth of mold or bacteria.

If you notice any of these smells when sniffing your butter, it’s a strong indicator that it’s spoiled and should be discarded. Always trust your nose when it comes to detecting the freshness of butter.

How it tastes

Butter is a dairy product that is made from cow’s milk. When it goes bad, it will have a sour or off-putting smell and taste. It may also have a lack of taste, or it may have a characteristic “rancid” smell and taste.

It is recommended to look at the other signs of spoiled butter before you try and taste it. If no other signs are present, but the taste is off, throw it out and start fresh.

Signs of Spoiled Butter Description
Color Fresh butter has a consistent pale yellow color. Discoloration or mold indicates spoilage.
Smell Spoiled butter has a rancid, sour, or musty smell, unlike fresh butter’s mild and slightly sweet aroma.
Texture Fresh butter is smooth and creamy. Spoiled butter may be excessively soft, greasy, or overly hard.
Taste Butter that tastes bitter, sour, or off in any way could be spoiled and should not be consumed.
Expiration Date Check the expiration date on the packaging as a general guideline, but always inspect for other signs of spoilage before use.

How long does butter last in the fridge?

When it comes to storing butter in the fridge, it is generally recommended to use the butter before the sell-by date on the label.

However, if the butter is kept well-wrapped and refrigerated, it can usually last for an extra week or two past the recommended date.

Salted butter generally lasts longer than unsalted and can retain freshness for at least 3 to 4 weeks in the refrigerator.

For best quality, it is recommended to use the butter within 1 to 2 months of the printed date. If you know you will need the butter to last longer, it is best to cut it into portions and freeze it.

Lots of people ask, can you eat expired butter? I have a post that will answer just that.

How long does butter last at room temperature?

At room temperature, butter can last a few days to a week if properly stored. It should be stored in an airtight, opaque container and away from direct sunlight, the stove, or other sources of heat.

Butter will last longer if it is salted, as salt is a natural preservative that helps it last longer and be less prone to harmful bacteria.

It is important to note that while butter may be safe to eat, its quality will diminish over time.

I also have a post on how long can cream cheese sit out at room temperature.

Frequently asked questions for butter that is bad

It’s not recommended to use any part of moldy butter, as mold spores can spread throughout the butter even if they are not visible. Discard the entire block to avoid potential health risks.

Fresh butter has a consistent, pale yellow color. If you notice any discoloration, like dark yellow spots or visible mold, it could indicate that the butter has spoiled. Be cautious and discard the butter if its appearance seems off.

It’s generally safe to leave butter out in a covered butter dish for up to two weeks. However, if the butter develops an off smell, becomes discolored, or has an unusual texture, it could be a sign of spoilage and should not be consumed.

Butter and ghee are two popular ingredients used in cooking and baking. Butter is made from cow or buffalo milk by heating it on low heat until the water evaporates, leaving behind milk solids.

Ghee is clarified butter that has been cooked for a longer period of time and the milk solids are removed.


In conclusion, learning how to tell if butter is bad can save you from unpleasant culinary experiences and potential health risks.

By using the tips shared in this article, you’ll be able to preserve the quality of your butter and enjoy its rich, creamy goodness without any concerns.

Remember to store your butter properly, keep an eye on its expiration date, and trust your senses to determine its freshness.

Online Cooking for Beginners Course

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *