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Does Peanut Butter Need to Be Refrigerated After Opening?

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I had never stored peanut butter in the refrigerator until a few years ago when I discovered that my mother-in-law refrigerated her peanut butter. Now, granted, she did use the natural kind while I have always just used the regular stuff, often generic. Also, she didn’t eat peanut butter as often as we do, and a jar in her refrigerator lasted a lot longer than at our house.

Peanut butter is shelf-stable even after it has been opened and does not need to be refrigerated. When purchased having 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.

But, the real question is whether they should be refrigerated after opening. So, 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 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!”


“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.”

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 expiration date on the label

Type 4 – Nutella Should Not Be Refrigerated 1 Month past “Sell By” date

How to Tell If Peanut Butter and Nutella Has Gone Bad

  • Usually, the first sign that peanut butter 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.
  • If your Nutella has gone bad, there will be a definite rank smell when you open the jar. Hazelnuts, like peanuts, contain natural oils that eventually go bad and produce an unpleasant odor.
  • 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:

  • 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.
  • Refrigerate after opening if you do not expect to use the entire jar within six months.
  • Once refrigerated, continue to keep it refrigerated.
  • Keep the jar lidded to avoid airborne contamination.
  • Use a spoon or other utensil that is dedicated solely to that jar/container of peanut butter to avoid cross-contamination with other food.
  • Keep the outside and rim of the container, and the jar lid clean to avoid contamination.
  • Store the jar in a cool, dry place such as a pantry or cabinet and not on a countertop or tabletop where it may come into contact with a bright light, a heat source, or direct sunlight.

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.

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

If you inadvertently open more than one jar of Nutella at the 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, 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 unrefrigerated 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

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 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 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)

Crepes with Nutella


  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 tbsp Nutella® hazelnut spread
  • Vegetable Oil


  • Combine the milk and flour into one mixing bowl. In a second bowl, mix the eggs with the melted butter. Then combine the contents of the two bowls.
  • Let the batter rest for 15 minutes at room temperature.
  • Heat a skillet and grease either by wiping on some oil with a paper towel or by using cooking spray. Pour 1/4 cup of batter into the skillet to make crepes that are ½ inch thick and 10 inches in diameter. Cook on both sides until they turn an even golden brown.
  • Spread hot crepe with 1 tablespoon of Nutella Hazelnut Spread and enjoy!

Makes 4 servings.

Apple and Banana Pops With Nutella


  • 1 Banana, peeled and cut into 4 sections
  • 1 Apple cored and cut into 8 wedges
  • ¼ cup Nutella
  • 12 Popsicle Sticks
  • ½ cup Granola


  • Insert popsicle sticks into banana pieces. Freeze for 2 hours or until firm.
  • Insert popsicle sticks into apple wedges. Pat dry with a paper towel.
  • Spread 1 tsp Nutella evenly over the top half of each apple wedge and banana piece. Roll in granola.

Tip: If desired, replace granola with chopped nuts or graham cracker crumbs.

Makes 12 tasty treats.

Recipes Using Peanut Butter

Peanut Butter Cake



  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup peanut butter


  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ¾ cups confectioners’ sugar


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a baking pan.
  • Combine flour, granulated sugar, and baking soda together in a mixing bowl. Add 1/2 cup milk, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract to flour mixture beating on low speed until smooth.
  • Combine water, 1/2 cup butter, vegetable oil, and 1/2 cup peanut butter in a saucepan and cook over medium heat approximately 5 minutes until smooth. Add peanut butter mixture to flour mixture and mix well. Pour onto the prepared baking sheet.
  • Bake in preheated oven about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  • Combine 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup peanut butter in a saucepan and melt over medium heat until smooth; add 1/3 cup milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Stir confectioners’ sugar into the peanut butter mixture until icing is smooth. Pour icing over warm cake.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 458 calories; 200 mg sodium; 62.3 g carbohydrates; 44 mg cholesterol; 22 g total fat; 5.6 g protein.

Servings: 20

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Total: 50 minutes

Peanut Butter Candy

Microwave Peanut Brittle


  • 1-½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup corn syrup
  • 1 cup water
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups raw peanuts
  • 1 tablespoon margarine
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  • Combine sugar, syrup, water, salt, and peanuts in a 2-quart microwavable bowl.
  • Microwave on High for 5 minutes; stir; microwave 13 minutes or until syrup separates into threads.
  • Stir in margarine, soda, and vanilla until light and bubbling.
  • Pour onto a greased cookie sheet and spread into a thin layer.
  • Cool and break into pieces.

Yields 1-½ pounds.

Peanut Butter Cookies

Low-Sugar Gluten-free Peanut Butter Cookies


1 cup peanut butter

½ cut Truvia Baking Blend

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Combine ingredients and mix well. Form into balls and place on a prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool before removing from the baking sheet.

Peanut Butter Fudge

Easy Peanut Butter Fudge


  • ½ cup butter or margarine
  • ½ cut milk
  • 1 – 16 oz package brown sugar
  • ¾ cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
  • 3-½ cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Melt butter or margarine in a medium saucepan over medium heat and stir in brown sugar and milk.
  2. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter and vanilla.
  4. Combine peanut butter mixture with confectioners’ sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat until smooth.
  5. Pour into a buttered 8-inch dish. Chill until firm and cut into squares.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge


  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • ¼ cup cocoa
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine


  1. Butter 9 x 9 pan.
  2. Combine sugar, evaporated milk, and cocoa in a saucepan. Stir over high heat until mixture comes to a rolling boil. Lower heat and cook to the soft boil stage.
  3. Remove from heat, add peanut butter and butter or margarine. Beat by hand until creamy.
  4. Pour into buttered pan. Cool and cut.

Peanut Butter Pie


  • 1 prepared graham cracker crust (9 inch)
  • 1-8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1-16 ounce container frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter morsels


  1. Combine the cream cheese, peanut butter, and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Fold in 1/2 of the whipped topping and spoon the mixture into the graham cracker crust.
  2. Add the remaining whipped topping on top of the peanut butter mixture and garnish with the peanut butter morsels.
  3. Chill for at least 2 hours or overnight before serving.

Nutrition Per Serving: 605 calories; 367 mg sodium; 49.5 g carbohydrates; 43.1 g total fat; 32 mg cholesterol; 9.5 g protein.

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 cellular damage and cancer, and Phytosterols that may lower 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.

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