Should You Ever Refrigerate Peanut Butter?

You've just purchased a beautiful jar of handmade crunchy peanut butter at the local farmers market. When you get home and twist off the lid, you see a pool of oil floating at the top and remind yourself that this separation is normal. Determined, you begin to stir the liquid with a spoon until your peanut butter reaches the kind of consistency worthy of a warm piece of toast. But as you begin to clean up the kitchen, you pause to wonder: Where exactly does this artisanal batch belong? Will placing the spread into the fridge help preserve its freshness, or should it be shoved into the cupboard, next to that cheaper stuff you picked up at the store sometime last month? 

You're not alone if you're wondering where peanut butter belongs. (You might even have other questions, like: Does peanut butter even go bad? And what about that dried-out peanut butter that's been sitting in my pantry?) We have some guidelines you can follow.

Know what you're working with

Yes, there is a noticeable difference between natural peanut butter and more traditional brands. According to the Huffington Post, natural peanut butter can be kept on a cool, dry pantry shelf for the better part of a month; if you place this kind of spread into the fridge, it might be quite dense when you prepare your morning toast (or your favorite midnight snack). If you doubt your ability to polish off the jar within a month, though, you may want to preserve your peanut butter product in the fridge. The National Peanut Butter Board recommends that while opened peanut butter jars can stay fresh up to three months in your pantry, you can extend shelf life by placing jars in the refrigerator.

Though more traditional (and processed) peanut butter brands contain palm and hydrogenated oils, all-natural varieties are unrefined, and the oils can go bad quickly (via Food Network). As with any ingredient, if you smell anything funky or notice discoloration, throw that batch out and open a different jar before you start baking your next batch of peanut butter cookies.