Peanut Butter Storage Guide: Can You Freeze Peanut Butter?

Peanut butter is a spread made with roasted, ground, and shelled peanuts.

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They may have some preservatives and seasonings added. In order to be classed as peanut butter, the product must be composed of at least 90% peanuts.

What is the history of peanut butter?

There are records of peanuts from South America dating back to at least 3,500 years ago. The Inca Indians are believed to have created peanut butter by grinding the nuts to form a smooth paste. 

Peanuts have long been an established snack for poorer residents of North America. They became much more mainstream following the American Civil War and stadium peanuts became a fan favorite. 

The first major sale of commercial peanut butter was at the St Louis World’s Fair in 1904. It was added to the rations of the US Army due to its nutritional punch. By the time of World War II, PB&J sandwiches had become a staple for soldiers. 

What is the nutritional content of peanut butter?

Peanut butter is high in fat, a 2 tablespoon portion giving nearly ¼ of your daily saturated fat requirement.

There are also many monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids included in peanut butter. These are found in similar ratios to olive oil, which comes with many advantageous health benefits too. 

A serving of peanut butter contains 1.8g fiber and 7g protein. Peanut butter is not a source of all the essential amino acids your body requires, and so should not be relied on as your sole protein source. 

There are many different minerals included in peanut butter, such as phosphorus, zinc, calcium, magnesium, and Vitamin B6. 

Peanut butter is recommended by the American Diabetes Association to promote cardiac health, improve blood lipids, and help to control the weight of diabetic patients.

They do not advise a free-for-all, instead recommending a maximum of 46g per day.

What are the different types of peanut butter?

Pure / natural peanut butter

This is a peanut butter made solely from peanuts, with maybe a little added salt and/or oil.

This should hold up very well to the freezing process and should not cause a compromise on flavor or texture. 

Crunchy peanut butter

This is peanut butter that has not been fully pulverized. There should be many small chunks of peanuts dispersed throughout the spread.

This gives it a crunchy appearance and texture, hence the name ‘crunchy’.

Smooth peanut butter

This is peanut butter that has been blended completely until it is a smooth and consistent texture throughout.

Every spoonful of smooth peanut butter should taste and feel exactly the same.

Smooth peanut butter tends to hold up better to the freezing and thawing process than a crunchy one. 

Peanut butter spread

A peanut butter spread is defined as a peanut-based spread containing less than 90% peanuts, according to the Food and Drugs Federal Regulations.

Why would you freeze peanut butter?

If you like to make your own peanut butter at home, freezing peanut butter allows you to make it in bulk and preserve it for the future.

This is also a good hack for if you do not eat peanut butter regularly and wish to prevent waste. 

Peanut butter will keep in the freezer for up to 6 months before it begins to deteriorate in flavor. If it is left longer this does not mean that it will be unsafe to eat, but it may just develop a stale taste and not be as pleasant to eat. 

A viral internet hack went around a couple of years ago. This involved spreading a thin square of peanut butter onto a sheet of parchment paper and allowing it to freeze.

This makes making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches a breeze! You will never have to worry about tearing the bread again.

Another good use for frozen peanut butter is as a cookie dough filling.

How do you freeze peanut butter?

As different types of peanut butter freeze with varying amounts of success, it is wise to do a small test freeze to try it out.

To do this, spread about a tablespoon of peanut butter onto a small square of parchment paper.

Place this in the freezer and leave for a couple of hours to freeze. This means that if it does not freeze well, you will not have wasted a full jar of peanut butter. 

Freezing an entire, unopened jar

We do not advise freezing peanut butter in glass jars. This is because substances expand as they freeze, putting the sides of the jar under excess pressure.

If you have placed a glass jar in the freezer, this pressure increase can cause the glass to shatter. 

This is not only an issue for food hygiene, as you could get glass in your food, but could also pose a health and safety threat.

The glass could potentially go around your entire freezer which could lead to serious injuries if it is not cleaned up correctly.

If you do not wish to transfer the peanut butter out of the jar, open the lid and remove the safety seal. This will allow more space for the peanut butter to expand into and decreases the chance of the jar shattering. 

Replace the lid once the peanut butter has frozen completely. This can take up to 6 hours to occur. 

Freezing an opened jar

We suggest transferring the peanut butter out of the jar if it has been opened for a while or is less than half-full. It is a good idea to transfer the peanut butter to an airtight container, or freezer-safe ziplock bag. 

We suggest choosing a container that is roughly the same size as the volume of peanut butter you wish to freeze.

This is to reduce the amount of air left at the top of the container. You need some to allow for expansion, but air is one of the key components to generate freezer burn. 

If your container is much larger than the volume of peanut butter you have, place a layer of plastic wrap on the surface before putting the lid on.

This will prevent any extra air from contacting the peanut butter and will help to retain its quality. 

If you are freezing the peanut butter in a ziplock bag, you should press out as much air as possible prior to sealing. Ensure that the bag is clearly labeled and dated. 

Freezing a small amount

A really easy way to freeze smaller quantities of peanut butter is to portion it out into ice cube trays.

A standard tray makes ice cubes of about 2 tablespoons in volume, but it is wise to check this before adding the peanut butter.

2 tablespoons is the perfect portion size for peanut butter, making meal prep a breeze!

Pop some peanut butter into each cube of the tray and place in the freezer for a couple of hours to freeze solid.

Once they have frozen, pop the peanut butter cubes out of the tray and place them in a large ziplock bag. This should be clearly labeled and dated. 

Freezing cookie fillings

Another fantastic use for frozen peanut butter is as a filling for an indulgent chocolate cookie. To make these filling patties, you will need a large baking sheet covered with a layer of parchment paper.

Spoon out 1-2 tablespoon portions of peanut butter, depending on how large your finished cookies should be.

Spread out the portions into small, thin circles. Place the tray in the freezer for an hour or so to allow the circles to freeze.

Use this time to make your cookie dough! Place a peanut butter patty in between 2 layers of cookie dough and pinch the edges to seal in the peanut butter disc.

Bake the cookies as usual and wait to see the surprised look on your kids’ faces!

Other ways to freeze peanut butter

If you are as much of a PB&J addict as we are, you will love this hack! You can make the sandwiches ahead of time and wrap well in a double layer of aluminum foil.

Ensure you spread a base layer of peanut butter on both slices of bread to prevent the jam from making the bread soggy. 

You can remove these sandwiches from the freezer in the morning and pop into your lunch bag.

By lunchtime, it will be perfectly defrosted and ready to eat - with no mess or hassle! These will keep in the freezer for up to a month.

You could also create a fun frozen snack for your canine pals during the warm summer months. Mash a banana and mix with some peanut butter.

Spoon this mixture into ice cube trays and place in the freezer overnight, before transferring to a labeled ziplock bag. 

It is important to ensure any peanut butter you feed your dog is 100% natural and contains no xylitol.

A good measure is to feed your dog between ½ and 1 tablespoon of peanut butter a day, depending on your dog’s size.

How do you thaw peanut butter?

Pure peanut butter

If you are freezing and thawing pure peanut butter, you will see the natural separation occurring.

This is the same as the oil and butter emulsion splitting that you will see if the peanut butter was stored in the cupboard. This is known as syneresis - the process of the oils and solids separating as the temperature increases.

This will be reduced slightly if you pop the peanut butter in the refrigerator to thaw. This will be a slower process but will reduce the amount of separation.

This does not mean that you must dispose of your peanut butter, instead just mix well for a few minutes. Use a smooth, churning motion and a fork to gently reincorporate the natural oils into the emulsion.

Other peanut butters

Peanut butter with additives will often also have stabilizers incorporated into the spread. This prevents the spread from separating as it is stored. 

These are more resilient and can just be defrosted on the kitchen counter. 

A full jar of peanut butter

As with the freezing process, we advise removing the lid from the peanut butter jar as it defrosts. You can replace the lid once it has thawed completely.

Place it in the refrigerator overnight to gently thaw. 

Small portions of peanut butter

The easiest way to thaw small portions of peanut butter is to place them on a dish on the countertop. If you are using the small disc method for filling cookies, you can simply add the frozen discs into the center.

We do not recommend thawing peanut butter in the microwave under any circumstances. This is because the extreme heat can cause the oils to burn, which could potentially lead to health implications. If you are adding it to a hot dish, you can pop it in frozen and the heat will gently defrost it. 

If you need a more rapid thawing method, you can place the sealed container into a bowl of warm water. This will gently heat the peanut butter without being too aggressive with the heat used.

How do you store peanut butter?

Commercial peanut butter will last for about a year once it has been opened. You should store it with the lid firmly closed.

Ideal storage situations for peanut butter are a dry, cool, dark place - for instance, a food cupboard. Storing the jar of peanut butter in the refrigerator can further extend the shelf life.

Some brands of peanut butter will suggest to store them in the refrigerator, please read the label to check the appropriate storage conditions. This may be because the cooler temperatures can help to reduce the natural separation. 

You should never refreeze thawed peanut butter. The freezing process will reduce its shelf life once thawed and it will not keep for as long as an unfrozen jar. Once peanut butter has been frozen and thawed, it must be stored in the refrigerator.

Can you lose weight from eating peanut butter?

Not exclusively, but you can lose weight eating a diet that incorporates a moderate amount of peanut butter.

Provided you stick to recommended serving sizes, there is no reason peanut butter can help you to lose weight. 

If you are trying to lose weight, or are very health conscious, we would recommend opting for 100% natural peanut butter.

This means that you will only be eating pure peanut products, without the addition of salt, sugars, and extra oils.

The high protein and fat content of peanut butter will increase feelings of satiety and will help to keep you fuller for longer.

This is likely to mean that you will eat less, therefore helping you in your weight loss journey. It is also unlikely to cause a spike in your blood sugar levels.

How do you know when peanut butter has gone off?

Peanut butter contains a high concentration of oils. As these are exposed to oxygen, they can begin to turn rancid as they break down. This leads to flavor, textural, and odor changes in the peanut butter.

The Vitamin E inside the peanut butter helps to prolong its shelf life, and this is believed to be why peanut butter keeps longer than other fats. The Vitamin E acts as a natural antioxidant, slowing down the rancidification process.

The normal appearance of peanut butter is creamy, soft, and light brown. Peanut butter that has gone off will become dark brown, hard, and dry. 

The smell is likely to change from a salty, nutty odor. If the peanut butter has turned rancid, it is likely to smell bitter, sharp, or even soapy. Look to see if mold is growing on the surface - if there is, we recommend disposing of it.

Peanut butter, even when rancid, will be unlikely to make you ill. It just may not taste as nice.

Can you eat 2-year-old peanut butter?

In theory, yes. It is not going to give you food poisoning or make you will, but it is unlikely to be anywhere near as nice as fresh peanut butter. 

Is peanut butter safe for babies?

Yes, it is safe for most babies, with the obvious exception of babies with a peanut allergy. If your child has other known allergies, in particular eggs, be very wary. This places them at a much higher risk for an allergic reaction to peanuts. 

Be careful when introducing new foods to your baby. It is good to know what allergies your child suffers so they should be exposed to peanuts at some stage.

If you have any serious concerns, consider waiting until you are at a doctor’s office or allergist. This will mean you are in a safe environment if your child does begin to experience an allergic reaction.

If your baby has no known allergies, you should introduce peanut butter to them between the ages of 4 and 6 months.

Do not feed them crunchy peanut butter as this is a choking hazard. Some smooth peanut butter can be very thick and difficult for babies to eat. Consider diluting it with a little water to thin out the consistency. 

Watch out for early indicators of an allergic reaction. These include red eyes, swelling, irritation, and a runny nose. If you have any concerns, take them to a doctor as soon as possible. 

Is peanut butter a good survival food?

Yes, it is. It is easy to access and is very shelf-stable. It can last for years unopened, and even when the taste has gone, it will still provide a nutrient hit.

It is a very calorie-dense food, making it ideal for survival food packages. It is also very cheap to purchase in comparison to most other survival foods. 

You can also purchase powdered peanut butter. This is turned into a spread with the addition of a little water. This is specially designed for survival stores.

This has an incredibly long shelf life, of up to 10 years. It is also very light and even more nutrient-dense than standard peanut butter.

A standard jar of peanut butter is around 2,660 calories. This is made up of 98g protein, 224g fat, and 98g carbohydrates. 

A standard American needs a minimum of 2,000 calories a day. If you are planning on eating nothing but peanut butter for a year, you will need around 275 jars of peanut butter per person.

If you only wish to eat the equivalent of one meal a day consisting of peanut butter, you will need approximately 92 jars of peanut butter per person.

Dry peanut butter contains around 65 servings per can - around 4,000 calories. This shows how much more nutrition is included in the powdered version, making it better for survivalists. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Does frozen peanut butter taste good?

We don’t recommend that you eat frozen peanut butter while it’s still frozen or partly frozen. Here’s why...

When you thaw out frozen peanut butter you will see a natural separation occurring as the oil separates from the solids. It’s the same process that you will see if you had left the peanut butter in the cupboard.

So for best results you should allow the peanut butter to properly thaw before you use it in a meal, snack, or recipe.

The best way to do this is to let the peanut butter thaw in a refrigerator. This is because this method helps to slow down the separation of the oils and the solids we described earlier known as syneresis. Remember to remove the lid, as this will help it to better thaw.

Sure it takes longer to thaw this way, but that’s how you get the best possible results. 

When you’re satisfied that the peanut butter has properly thawed, be sure to give it a good stir for a few minutes to gently reincorporate the natural oils back into the emulsion.

How long does peanut butter last in the freezer?

Peanut butter will keep in the freezer for up to about 6 months before it begins to deteriorate in flavor. 

If it is left for longer than 6 months, this does not necessarily mean that it will be unsafe to eat. However it may just develop a stale taste and not be as nice to eat. 

If you place the frozen peanut butter into the refrigerator to thaw, this will help to sustain the peanut butter for longer than if you were to simply leave it out to thaw.

How do you make peanut butter soft again?

If you’re patient about getting your hands on thawed out peanut butter, you can wait until it has properly thawed over time in the refrigerator.

As the peanut butter starts to thaw the oils will separate from the solids in the peanut butter, in a process known as syneresis. Putting the peanut butter in the refrigerator to thaw helps to slow this process down.

When the peanut butter naturally becomes soft enough to stir in the refrigerator, you can give it a really good stir for several minutes. This stirring can help to restore the peanut butter to the very same consistency and texture that it had when you first bought it.

You can still achieve this effect without the refrigerator but it would require a lot more stirring, and is not the recommended method. 

We strongly advise against defrosting peanut butter in the microwave, because the heat will cause the oils in the peanut butter to burn, which can have health implications.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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