Does Peanut Butter Need to be Refrigerated?
Both regular and natural peanut butters are made from peanuts.
What makes the two peanut butters different is what else is put into the jar when it is made. The difference between regular peanut butter and natural peanut butter is what the manufacturer adds to the peanuts when processing their product.
In order to produce an extremely shelf stable product of regular peanut butter, manufacturers add hydrogenated oil to the peanuts.
This hydrogenated oil, which is also a source of unhealthy trans fat, keeps the peanut butter smooth and continually mixed together. This added oil extends the shelf life of peanut butter and makes it extremely shelf stable. Most manufactures also add some type of sugar to the peanuts.
ALL Natural peanut butter is ground peanuts, and usually some salt. That’s it.
Over time, as the jar sits, the natural peanut oils will separate from the peanut solids and rise to the top of the jar. This is perfectly normal. In order to get a smooth peanut butter for spreading, the jar needs to be stirred before use. Natural peanut butter will have “all natural” or “100% Natural” printed on their label.
Some peanut butters that add only the word “natural” to their label will usually add palm oil in place of the hydrogenated oils.
Although these peanut butters lack artificial ingredients and preservatives, these products are generally only 90% peanuts and will also add sugar or molasses during processing (along with the added oil).
For a thicker, somewhat healthier, peanut butter some of the separated oil on the top of natural peanut butter can be poured off before stirring.
Don’t throw this oil away though, save it for frying up some crispy potatoes. Many restaurants use peanut oil to produce very tasty french fries.
To make a jar of all natural peanut butter easier to use, simply place the jar upside down when bringing it home from the store (and before opening). The oils will again try to make their way to the top and thus again mix in the solids. Do this when a creamy peanut butter with all the natural oil incorporated is preferred upon opening. .
The possible advantage to keeping natural butter in the refrigerator is that the peanut oil (once it has been stirred back into the product) does not separate out again when kept cold.
Natural oils harden in colder temperatures so natural peanut butter will thus remain unified but thicker and harder to spread when refrigerated. So, depending on how a person uses peanut butter, it can be an advantage to store the product in the fridge. Some people prefer to refrigerate natural peanut butters, while others do not – it’s a personal choice that does not affect the shelf life of the product.
The refrigerator does nothing for regular peanut butter.
It may be slightly less creamy when cold, depending on the type of oil used in processing, but shelf life in unaffected since these peanut butters have preservatives anyways.
Many people will store natural peanut butters in the refrigerator and regular peanut butters in the pantry.
If peanut butter isn’t used often, this can eliminate the need to stir the natural peanut butter before use, but it will be harder to stir.
Although refrigeration of all peanut butters is optional, freezing is not recommended.
This is true for any type of peanut butter.
According to Laura Scudder and Adams, both major players in the natural peanut butter field, a jar will have the best flavor, quality and performance if used within 9 months of production or by the best by date. This statement is true whether the jar was opened or remained unopened and whether the jar was refrigerated or not for the duration of the shelf life.