In this brief publication, I will answer the question: “Can you eat peanut butter after the expiration date?” and I will provide some tips on how to store it properly to extend its shelf-life.
Can you eat peanut butter after the expiration date?
Yes you can still eat peanut butter after its expiration date. Depending on the amount of preservatives in it, it might last for months after the “best-by” date. The shelf life of peanut butter is also affected by how it is stored.
If stored in the fridge, the opened peanut butter can be used for at least a few months after the expiration date on the package.
As long as peanut butter does not come into contact with water or other contaminants, it is unlikely to spoil. It is normally safe to consume after the expiration date for a few months. However, its quality can be reduced. You may observe an alteration in flavor and taste.
Peanuts contain an endogenous lipoxygenase, but it is destroyed during roasting, therefore leaving the fatty acids susceptible to lipid oxidation via a non-enzymatic method. Peanuts contain metallic pro-oxidants such as iron that oxidize the fatty acids in peanuts and peanut products and result in a rancid flavor (1).
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How peanut butter is made?
Have you ever wondered how this nutrient-rich and tasty spread is made?
Peanut butter is a simple, natural food with only one ingredient: peanuts. To obtain the final product, peanuts are usually roasted and crushed into a paste.
Store-bought peanut butters contain at least 90% ground, shelled, roasted peanuts, and the remaining 10% are additives used to extend the product’s shelf life. Sugar, high-melting fatty acid derivatives that inhibit oil separation after standing, emulsifiers such lecithin, and salt are the most used additives.
The process of making peanut butter involves many steps to take raw peanuts, which are unpalatable to humans, and turn them into a palatable paste. First, the raw peanuts are shelled and roasted to about 200°C for roughly thirty minutes. Roasting causes a Maillard reaction to occur, creating the desired roasted flavor. During roasting, volatile compounds and moisture are lost, the enzyme lipoxygenase is inactivated. The peanuts are then cooled to 100°C and blanched in water to separate the skins, the cotyledons, and the hearts, which give off a bitter flavor. It is during the grinding process that ingredients such as salts and stabilizers are added. Chunky peanut butter incorporates larger chunks of peanuts into the finely ground paste typical of a smooth peanut butter. After grinding, the product remains under nitrogenous conditions to reduce fatty acid oxidation. The peanut butter is packaged and then the containers are left for two days at 50°C (122°F) to allow the peanut butter fats to crystallize and to prevent shrinkage which causes the peanut butter to crack in the container (1).
In the market, you can find less healthy products that contain added sugar and partially hydrogenated oils. The hydrogenated fats in conventional peanut butter are the key ingredient for a smooth and creamy texture. On the other hand, they are considered as the largest source of trans fats which are harmful for your health and it has been proven that they can increase the risk of heart diseases.
This is why it’s important to check the product’s label before you buy it from the stores.
In short, when it comes to choosing a healthy peanut butter, seek for one that has the fewest additives. Prefer natural, organic, pesticides free and no-sugar added products.
What is the shelf-life of peanut butter?
Peanut butter’s shelf life is linked to a number of factors, including the best before date, the method of production, and how it was stored. The initial quality and condition of the peanuts used to make the peanut butter, predictably, has an impact on the product’s shelf life.
When properly stored, the shelf life of peanut butter beyond its best before date will be as follows:
- Fresh, homemade peanut butter: Homemade peanut butter is simple and healthy, with none of the preservatives found in store-bought products. It’s better to keep it in the refrigerator, where it should last three to six months.
- Store-bought peanut butter: Preservatives are added to these commercially made peanut butters to make them last longer. Unopened, they can keep up to one year past the printed date. Once opened, they’ll stay up to three to four months in the pantry or 6-8 months in the fridge. However, the shelf life of peanut butter may extend to 2 years, provided that lipid autoxidation has not occurred to a noticeable extent (1).
How to ensure maximum shelf-life?
To preserve maximum shelf life and avoid rancidity, you can follow these simple steps:
- To avoid bacterial contamination in the jar, use clean utensils every time you consume peanut butter.
- Store the peanut butter in an airtight container.
- Keep it in a cool, dark place.
- Keep it away from humidity
Can peanut butter go bad?
Bacteria and mold are unlikely to be a problem. This is due to the high oil content and low moisture of peanut butter.
Due to the lack of stabilizers, natural peanut butter can be subject to oil separation. Oil separation causes lipid peroxidation in peanut butter, resulting in an off-flavor and rancidity. Oil separation can also have an impact on the spreadability of peanut butter.
The continuous oil phase has a tendency to float out of the suspension resulting in accelerated deterioration of peanut butter hence the importance of stabilization using hydrogenated oils. To avoid the oil separation some oil crystal lattices need to be formed in the peanut butter. The oils that are naturally present in the peanut butter do not have capacity to form these crystalline lattices at ordinary storage temperatures, hence the need to add hydrogenated oils which have capacity to form these crystalline lattices and stabilize the peanut butter. For complete dispersion of the hydrogenated oils in peanut butter, they must be added at a temperature higher than their melting temperatures. In commercial peanut butter production, hydrogenated rapeseed and cottonseed oils are invariably used as the stabilizers. Common practice is to add between 1% and 2% hydrogenated oils in peanut butter (2).
Here are some indicators to assist you figure out if your peanut butter is still edible.
- Texture: The ideal texture is soft and creamy. Peanut butter that has been stored for a long time can dry out and become hard. If you notice that, your product should be discarded. When no stabilizer is added, a strong oil separation may occur, leading to fast rancidity (1).
- Color: Deterioration of peanut butter can be noticed by the color change or darkening which results from an interaction between sugar and protein in the product
- Smell and taste: Peanut butter will develop an off-flavors as a result of oxidation. Oxidative rancidity develops in the unsaturated oil present when the latter is exposed to air. If you detect any change in the flavor and odor, the product should be thrown away.
In this paper, I answered the question “Can you eat peanut butter after the expiration date?” and I provided some recommendations to store it in appropriate conditions in order to keep its quality.
If you need further details about this subject, don’t hesitate to contact me.
- Stiles, Tara K. The effects of high pressure processing on peanut sauce inoculated with Salmonella. University of Nebraska, Lincoln. 2010.
- Sithole, Tapiwa Reward, et al. Technical aspects of peanut butter production processes: Roasting and grinding processes review. J Food Process Preserv. 2022.