Food Safety

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

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When it comes to leaving butter out of the refrigerator, opinions vary on how long it remains safe for consumption. While the USDA doesn’t provide a definitive answer, the FDA suggests not exceeding one to two days due to potential spoilage after the 35-hour mark. In this guide, we’ll explore the factors affecting the edibility of unrefrigerated butter and offer tips to keep it safe.

How Long Can Butter Stay Unrefrigerated?

Days Edibility
1-3 Good and edible
2-5 Well-softened, possibly beginning to spoil, but still edible
6-10 Fully into the spoiling process, but may still be edible based on storage
10+ Most likely spoiled, inedible if stored incorrectly
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Why Does Butter Last Longer Unrefrigerated?

Unlike other dairy products, butter, with its high fat content and lower water amount, doesn’t spoil as quickly. While it softens when left out, it doesn’t encourage the rapid growth of bacteria responsible for dairy spoilage.

Tips for Keeping Butter Unrefrigerated

  1. Store It in the Right Container:
    • Use a butter dish, butter bell, or butter crock to keep air and light out.
    • A butter bell or crock, submerged in water, creates an airtight seal, maintaining softness without spoiling.

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  2. Choose the Right Type of Butter:
    • Salted butter is the best choice for leaving unrefrigerated.
    • Pasteurized butter, whether salted or unsalted, lasts longer outside the fridge compared to raw butter.
  3. Control Room Temperature:
    • Avoid keeping butter in a house warmer than 70°F to prevent excessive softening and bacterial growth.
    • Alternatively, store butter in a cool, dry place such as a cabinet or pantry.

What About Margarine?

Margarine, while also 80% fat, contains more oils than butter. Leaving it unrefrigerated may result in a change in texture and taste due to oil separation. It’s advisable to store margarine in the fridge.

How to Tell if Butter Has Spoiled

  1. Check Duration:
    • Butter is typically viable for around 3 and a half weeks in the refrigerator but is best tossed after two weeks.
    • Consider freezing butter if not consumed within the recommended timeframe.
  2. Smell Test:
    • Spoiled butter emits a stale or sour smell. Unlike fresh butter, spoiled butter will have a noticeable scent.
  3. Taste Inspection:
    • Spoiled butter may taste greasy. Any deviation from its usual taste could indicate spoilage.


Understanding how long butter can stay unrefrigerated and following proper storage practices ensures that your butter remains safe and enjoyable. Consider the type of butter, the right container, and the environmental conditions to maximize the shelf life of your unrefrigerated butter.

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