How Long Can Butter Stay Out of the Fridge: A Handy Chart

A stick of butter on a tray sitting on the counter.
A stick of butter on a tray sitting on the counter.

Butter is one of those foods that can stay outside of the fridge, or can be refrigerated, Like eggs. However, if you do it wrong, it can go bad.

Butter can stay out, for up to ten days before it spoils. If kept in the correct environment, however, butter can remain unrefrigerated for longer. The type of butter is important to consider because some kinds of butter (such as pasteurized and salted butter) will keep longer unrefrigerated.

The USDA doesn’t have a definitive answer on how long butter last, and some will say you can only leave the butter out for a few hours. The FDA states that butter shouldn’t be left out for more than one to two days, this is because, after a thirty-five-hour mark, the butter begins to deteriorate and produce spoiling bacteria. This doesn’t mean, however, that doesn’t mean it’s completely inedible.

Looking at our chart you should be able to discern how edible your butter is, based on how many days it’s been left out of the refrigerator.

1-3The butter at this point is still good and edible
2-5At this point, your butter should be well softened, and perhaps beginning to spoil, but still edible
6-10The butter will be fully into the spoiling process, but depending on how you have stored it, it could still be edible.
10+Most likely spoiled. Inedible if stored incorrectly.

While most dairy products deteriorate as they’re left out, butter is mostly fat. Which means it doesn’t spoil as fast as other products like milk. Due to its high-fat content, and has a lower water amount than other dairy products, it doesn’t grow the bacteria that causes dairy to spoil as fast. However, there are still recommendations for butter products on how long they can be left out on the counter.

Butter that is left on the counter will soften, and remain softened.

Tips For Keeping Butter Un-Refrigerated

Wooden board with a cut block of butter on white background.
Wooden board with a cut block of butter on white background.

Store It In The Right Container

If you plan on keeping your butter outside of the fridge, then you’re going to want it in the right type of container. Butter goes rancid faster if it is exposed to sunlight and air. This is why having a container for your butter is important.

Avoid leaving it in the wax or foil that it’s brought in, and instead opt for either a butter dish, to keep the air and light out. An even better option would be a butter bell, or butter crock. This is a dish that butter is put into, and then submerged into water, creating an air tight seal. This allows the butter to be soft, but not spoil.

Purchase a Butter Crock HereOpens in a new tab.. The Original Butter Bell Crock by L. Tremain for $24.99

Purchase a classic Butter Dish HereOpens in a new tab.: Butterie Flip-Top Butter Dish for $15.99

Make Sure Your Butter is OK at Room Temperature

One common mistake is leaving out the wrong type of butter, you may be thinking that there can’t possibly be that many types of butter, but that’s not true. If you’re going to leave out the butter, the best type of butter to leave out is salted butter. The most common butter is pasteurized, which is going to help in the preservation of it, as opposed to “raw” butter. So even if it’s unsalted, it can be left out, but salted butter lasts longer unrefrigerated.

Salt in butter also helps with the prevention of bacteria growth within the butter. This will make your butter last longer!

Keeping Your House Too Warm

This seems like an obvious one, the warmer your house is the softer your butter gets, and the faster bacteria grows! However, it’s still something to consider. Of course, you don’t have to have your house be the temperature of an icebox, but if your house or apartment is 70 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, it might be too warm.

Or you can simply keep the butter resting in a cool dry place such as a cabinet or pantry.

What About Margarine?

Margarine is a popular substitution for butter. If you’re thinking of leaving out your butter, you might be thinking about putting margarine out too. However, the two are very different.

Margarine is also 80% fat but contains more oils than butter does. This means if you’re to leave margarine out, it may develop a weird texture. Though it will not necessarily spoil, the oils will eventually separate and give you a different type of taste that you may not like.

Because of this, it may be better for you to consider leaving it in the fridge.

How To Tell If Butter Has Spoiled

Butter block on wooden board.
Butter block on wooden board.

If you’re unsure about whether or not your butter is still good, here are a few good things to help you decipher!

How Long Have You Had It?

While this may be a redundant question, if you’ve had butter for a little more than 2 weeks, it may be spoiled. If the butter has been kept in the refrigerator it can be viable at around 3 and a half weeks, but it’s best to toss it at week two. To keep butter good until you’re ready to eat it, consider putting it in the freezer! Butter is good in the freezer for as long as it’s frozen, but the texture may change the longer it’s frozen.

Does It Smell?

The scent of something is a great way to tell if something is spoiled. Milk’s smell is often what gives away that it’s rancid. Butter on the other hand doesn’t really have a scent, and so when you can smell your butter, that’s a sign that your butter has gone bad or is about to spoil completely.

Spoiled butter should smell stale, or sour, if it’s spoiling or completely spoiled.

Does It Taste Greasy?

If your butter happens to have no smell, it may have an awkward taste. Like we mentioned earlier, butter is mostly fat and oil, so when it softens it separates and spoils faster. If you spread butter on toast and it tastes greasier than usual, it may be spoiled!


Being part of a really big family, cooking for big groups of people is just how we do things. Cooking, baking, and outdoor cooking have all been huge parts of my life, and I love sharing what I've learned with you.

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