Peanut butter is the creamy (or crunchy) delight that I grew up eating multiple times a week from PB&J sandwiches to delicious desserts. But, as much as we love it, peanut butter doesn’t last forever. So, how can you tell if your beloved jar of peanut butter has gone bad?
The last thing you want is to spread some on toast or whip up a smoothie only to find out it’s spoiled.
Whether it’s an off-putting smell, a change in texture, or even the dreaded mold, there are signs that your peanut butter is past its prime.
In this guide, I’ll break down clear signs that peanut butter needs to be tossed, whether natural or regular. So, let’s make sure you’re always spreading the good stuff!
How To Know If Peanut Butter Is Bad
What Does Fresh Peanut Butter Look Like?
- Creamy or crunchy texture, depending on your preference
- Consistent color, usually a light to medium brown
- Pleasant, nutty aroma
- Easy to spread, whether on bread or mixed into recipes
What Does Bad Peanut Butter Look Like?
- Off-putting smell, ranging from metallic to sour
- Separation of oils, leading to excessive oiliness on top
- Change in color, either darkening or lightening
- Presence of mold or bugs
- Slimy or hard texture, making it difficult to spread
If you’re keen on keeping your pantry staples fresh for as long as possible, you might also be interested in my other article, “How Long Peanut Butter Lasts.” It’s packed with tips and tricks to extend the life of your peanut butter so you can enjoy it to the last spoonful.
Whoa, if your peanut butter smells like something you wouldn’t want to put on your toast, listen to your nose. That funky smell, whether it’s metallic or sour, is your first clue that something’s off.
What’s causing that stink? Most of the time, it’s the oils in the peanut butter going rancid.
Rancid oils happen when the fatty acids in the peanut butter start to oxidize. Think of it like your peanut butter aging not-so-gracefully. This process speeds up when your jar is exposed to air, light, or heat. Have an older jar? Think about how many times you’ve opened it, allowing fresh air to get in.
If your peanut butter’s aroma is making you wrinkle your nose, it’s time to let it go.
Change in Texture
If your peanut butter’s looking and feeling weird, that’s a red flag. Whether it’s turned into a rock or it’s so oily you could fry an egg on it, something’s not right.
The main reason for this? The oils and moisture in the peanut butter have decided to part ways. You’ll see an oily top and a bottom layer that’s drier than a bad joke.
Now, why does this happen? Well, air and light are like party crashers for your peanut butter, especially natural peanut butter that doesn’t have stabilizers to keep things in check. Even the regular types with all their added stuff can’t dodge this completely. They’re just a bit more resilient.
The thing is, a little bit of oil separation is okay and can be mixed right back in. I’ll get to more of that in a minute. So, you’ll have to use your best judgment and keep this in mind when determining when it’s time to open a new jar.
Mold in your peanut butter? That’s a hard no. If you see any fuzzy spots, toss that jar out like yesterday’s trash.
Mold usually sets up shop when there’s moisture in the mix. Maybe you dipped a wet knife into the jar, or it’s been stored in a damp place. Either way, you’ve set the stage for mold to make its entrance.
Now, mold isn’t just a surface issue. Even if you only see it on top, its roots can go deep. So, don’t even think about just scraping off the moldy part and calling it a day. That’s like cutting off the top of a weed and expecting it not to grow back.
Presence of Bugs
Yikes, bugs in your peanut butter? That’s a deal-breaker, my friend. Toss that jar right into the trash, no questions asked.
Bugs usually crash the peanut butter party due to poor storage. Maybe the lid wasn’t on tight?
Now, you might see this more often in conventional peanut butter. Why? Well, it tends to sit on the shelf longer, and bugs love a long-term lease. They’re drawn to the fats and proteins in peanut butter, like bees to honey, so proper storage is key to keeping those little critters at bay.
So, what happens if you ignore the bugs and go ahead with a spoonful? Let’s not even go there.
Got a pool of oil sitting on top of your peanut butter? A little separation is normal, especially if it’s been a while since you gave that jar a good stir.
The main cause here is usually the separation of added oils like palm or vegetable oils. You’ll see this more often in regular types of peanut butter.
Now, in natural peanut butter, some separation is expected. As I say, just give it a stir, and you’re good to go. But in regular peanut butter, excessive oiliness can mean the stabilizers have broken down. It’s like the glue holding your peanut butter together has called it quits, and now you’re left with a greasy mess.
Why should you care? Excessive oiliness can throw off the balance of your peanut butter, making it less appetizing and harder to use in recipes. Plus, that separated oil can go rancid over time, and nobody wants that lingering in their PB&J.
What Happens If You Eat Bad Peanut Butter?
So you took a bite, and something tasted off. Now you’re wondering, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Well, eating spoiled peanut butter can lead to food poisoning. Symptoms can be from mild to severe and include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.
Food poisoning from bad peanut butter is usually caused by bacteria or mold. These little troublemakers produce toxins that can wreak havoc on your digestive system.
In more severe cases, you could experience dehydration, high fever, and even hospitalization. It’s not just a tummy ache we’re talking about; it can get pretty serious.
Alright, you’ve had a taste of the bad stuff. Now what? First off, stop eating it. Seems obvious, but you’d be surprised. Next, hydrate. Drinking fluids can help with dehydration as your body is trying to flush out the toxins.
If symptoms persist or worsen, don’t play the hero; seek professional medical advice. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to food poisoning.
Bad Peanut Butter FAQs
Is peanut butter good after the expiration date?
The expiration date is more like a guideline than a hard rule. Most peanut butters can last a few weeks past it if stored properly. However, always check for other signs of spoilage, like smell or texture, before diving in.
Is it okay to eat expired peanut butter?
It depends on how “expired” we’re talking about and how it’s been stored. If it’s just a few days past and shows no signs of spoilage, you’re probably safe. But if it’s way past the date or smells funky, it’s best to toss it.
What to do with expired peanut butter?
If it’s just a bit past the date but still looks and smells fine, you could use it in cooking or baking. For peanut butter that’s clearly gone bad, it’s best to dispose of it properly. Remember, when in doubt, throw it out.
Why is my peanut butter oily?
A little oiliness is normal, especially in natural peanut butter. Excessive oiliness in regular peanut butter usually means the stabilizers have broken down. If the oil layer is too thick, it’s a sign your peanut butter is past its prime.