Butter is a popular, versatile dairy product made when milk is churned. Its high fat content adds a rich flavor and creamy texture to foods and sauces. It’s used in a variety of cooking methods, including sautéing, pan-frying, baking, and roasting (
Although butter can be refrigerated for up to 6 months, there are notable changes in its freshness and quality after 3 months in the fridge (
Whether you’re a butter connoisseur or use it on occasion, you may want to know how to extend its shelf life without compromising its flavor.
This article explains whether you can freeze butter.
Butter is very easy to freeze.
It’s especially convenient if you’ve found yourself with extra butter on hand or don’t use it very quickly and want to avoid spoilage.
Studies show that you can safely freeze stick and bulk butters with at least 80% fat content for an extended period (
The quality of the butter is not compromised when it’s frozen, and there are minimal changes in its texture (
You can use frozen butter just as you would fresh butter.
Stick and bulk butters with at least 80% fat can be frozen without compromising their quality and texture.
Quarter-pound (115-gram) stick butters can be frozen at 0oF (-18oC) for up to 12 months without deterioration in quality and flavor, or at 14oF (-10oC) for up to 8 months (
Bulk butters, which often come in 55-pound (25-kg) blocks, last even longer in the freezer — up to 18 months (
Studies have found that the shelf life of frozen butter depends on its packaging, size, and salt content (
For instance, bulk butters keep longer than stick butters, and wax paper packaging rapidly decreases butter’s quality whether it’s refrigerated or frozen (
While it’s unclear how long unsalted butter and spreadable butters last in the freezer, anecdotal sources suggest up to 6 months. More evidence-based data is needed.
Stick butters may keep 8–12 months in the freezer, while bulk blocks of butter may last up to 18 months without compromising quality or taste.
The packaging used to store butter significantly affects its shelf life and quality.
For instance, wrapping butter in wax paper rapidly decreases its flavor and quality when refrigerated or frozen (
Plus, exposure to light and air causes butter to become rancid over time, and light coming through the wrapper may result in it tasting off (
Here are some tips for freezing butter:
- Freeze when fresh. For the best quality, you should freeze butter when it’s fresh rather than when it’s almost expired.
- Cut before freezing. If you plan on using small amounts of butter at a time, slicing it before freezing it makes things much simpler.
- Use parchment paper. This type of wrapping uses a different coating than wax paper and has been shown to maintain the quality and shelf life of frozen butter (
- Try foil. Compared with parchment paper, foil retains more flavor (
- Polyethylene packaging is another great option. Cling wrap and bags made from polyethylene (a common type of plastic) have also been shown to retain frozen butter’s quality, providing the best protection against spoilage and supporting thawing (
- Keep butter in its original packaging. You can also keep sticks of butter in their original wrap paper or boxes. Optionally, you can reinforce them by wrapping them in foil or plastic wrap.
- Avoid odorous foods. Freeze butter away from foods like onions and meat, as it may absorb the flavor and odor of surrounding foods.
For the best quality, freeze butter when it’s fresh and in freezer-safe packaging like parchment paper, foil, cling wrap, or its original packaging. Store it away from foods with a strong smell and consider cutting the butter before freezing it.
When thawed, frozen butter can be used just like fresh butter, such as in baked goods or as a spread.
However, you should discard butter if it has developed freezer burn, off colors, or a bad smell.
Here are some tips for thawing frozen butter:
- Refrigerate it or leave it on the counter. Store it in the fridge overnight or keep it at room temperature for 3–4 hours.
- Grate it. Grated butter will thaw in a few minutes. You can even add grated butter directly to pastry dough.
- Melt it on the stove. If a recipe requires melted butter, you can simply place frozen butter in a saucepan and heat it on the stove.
- Soften it in the microwave. If you want to use frozen butter immediately as a spread, nuke it in 10-second increments and monitor it closely, as it can explode in the microwave or become soupy very quickly.
You can thaw frozen butter in the fridge or on the countertop in a few hours. If you need to use it immediately, heat it on the stovetop or microwave it.
Butter is a versatile dairy product that can be safely frozen without compromising its quality and flavor.
Quarter-pound (115-gram) stick butters can be frozen at 0oF (-18oC) for up to 12 months, while bulk blocks of butter last up to 18 months without losing quality.
Avoid freezing butters in wax paper and use the original packaging, parchment paper, foil, polyethylene (plastic) bags, or cling wrap instead.
Just one thing
Try this today: Frozen butter is great for making pastry dough. Try it in treats like pie crusts, butter tarts, and turnovers.