Butter Can Be Frozen Up To A Year — Here Are The Best Ways To Do It

By Jen Evansy / April 19, 2020

This ancient and extremely popular dairy product freezes quite well, which makes stocking up much easier. Here is how to successfully freeze butter. 

butter in the supermarket shelf

The answer is a resounding yes, although there are some things to keep in mind when freezing butter so that it's done safely. In this article, we'll take a deep dive into this delicious dairy delight and give you all the answers, advice, and information you could ever ask for about freezing it.

How Long Can Butter Be Frozen?

tub of butter in the freezer

​According to the manufacturers, you can freeze butter anywhere from 6 to 12 months. If it's wrapped well and kept frozen in stable temperature, butter that's been in the freezer longer than 12 months will still be safe to eat. The best way to tell is to let it thaw and give it the 'smell test.' If it smells ok and not rancid, putrid, or 'bad,' it's probably just fine to eat.

One interesting tidbit we found in our research was that unsalted butter stays at its best quality for only 6 months in the freezer. However, it should still be safe to eat up to 12 months.

Also, since it's a fatty food, butter should actually be stored in the freezer to make it last longer. Keep enough in the fridge for a few days and thaw out more as you need it.

How Do You Freeze Butter?

frozen butter

There's nothing easier to freeze than butter! It can be frozen in its original paper or aluminum packaging just as you purchased it from your grocery store. Doing it this way will also keep you from having to write the expiration date on anything.

Here are a few other tips and tricks to store it well in the freezer:

  1. Place it in an airtight container (in its original packaging).
  2. Place it in a thick freezer bag (again in its original packaging).
  3. Put it in the vacuum-sealed food bags.
  4. Wrap it tightly in aluminum foil.
  5. Don't place it near onions, garlic or other 'smelly' foods so it won't absorb their smell.
  6. Wrap smaller portions so that you don't have to thaw larger ones when you want more butter. 1/2 cup or 120 mL is good portion size.
  7. Buy butter in packages of 4 bars of 1/2 cup / 120 mL each to make it easier to wrap and freeze.

How Long Does It Take To Freeze Butter?

The answer to this question depends on the amount you're freezing at one time. A pound of butter, for example, will take between 2 to 3 hours to freeze solid, while a 120 mL / 1/2 cup or stick of butter will take about 90 minutes to 2 hours to become completely frozen.

The USDA recommends that some foods be flash frozen. Although, this isn't necessary for butter, it can prevent ice crystals from forming and might have a beneficial effect. Of course, you'd need a flash-freezing machine to do it, and they can get pretty expensive. [1]

Can You Freeze It In A Tub?

butter in the tube

Yes, most definitely. It would be best to do it in the original tub it came in when you purchased it at the grocery store since that will be sealed, but even opened, it's not a problem. Follow the steps I outlined above, and your butter will be just fine.

One thing about freezing it in a tub that you should keep in mind is that the bigger the tub, the longer it will take to both freeze and then thaw your butter. Also, if it's a big tub, you might be forced to thaw more than you need, so purchasing smaller tubs might be a better choice.

One thing that we noticed in our research was that one of the biggest brands, Land O'Lakes, recommends that you don't freeze their butter in its tub because it can "crack or break if frozen." If this concerns you, you might want to put your tubs in a freezer bag first.

Freezing It Once It Has Been Melted

melted butter in the cup

Keep in mind that butter physically changes when it's been melted. The solids will separate from the liquids. This isn't a problem if, say, you're planning on making a cake or cookies, but if you plan to spread it on bread, it will be harder and may have a slightly different taste. The texture will also be different and, oddly enough, the color also.

If you want to go a step further, you can clarify your melted butter, which removes the water and solids. Then you can take what's left and store it in a jar in the pantry since it won't need to be refrigerated! It's a great alternative to vegetable oil for cooking because it has a higher burning point.

Watch this short video below how to do it.

Can You Freeze Whipped Butter?

hand whipped butter

Yes, but there are a few differences between whipped butter and regular one that you need to remember. There are also two different types of whipped butter. There is the one that's been whipped using whisk, hand mixer or a spatula and butter whipped using nitrogen gas. [2]

Below are a few things to keep in mind about freezing whipped butter.

  • Air, which is whipped into whipped butter to make it smoother, makes fat go rancid faster.
  • The texture of whipped butter will change after it's been frozen. It will still be edible, but less smooth.
  • Since it can go rancid faster, it is suggested that whipped butter should only be stored in the freezer for 4 months or less.
  • Nitrogen whipped butter, since it replaces air with nitrogen gas, will last up to 12 months or even longer in the freezer.

Before placing it in the freezer, you can use Tupperware, a freezer bag, or the original packaging. Or you can follow any of the storing methods I mentioned above.

Can You Freeze Spreadable Butter?

spreadable margarine

The difference between spreadable and 'regular' butter is that, while regular one is made only from milk and cream (and possibly salt). Spreadable butter adds an extra vegetable fat, usually canola, sunflower or olive oil. By adding the extra vegetable fat, the butter stays 'spreadable' even if when it comes directly out of the refrigerator.

Keeping all of that in mind, yes, freezing spreadable butter is ok, but because it has vegetable oil, it will likely go rancid faster than regular butter, and so you shouldn't freeze it as long. Up to 4 months would be best.

Also, freezing spreadable butter will change its consistency, and it will be harder to spread when you thaw it back out again.

Should You Refreeze It?

Refreezing butter, contrary to popular opinion, isn't dangerous. It does, however, change the consistency of the butter. This is because every time you freeze, thaw and then refreeze it, it loses more and more of its moisture. 

Also, every time you thaw butter, it will inevitably develop bacteria, and so the more you refreeze it, the higher the chance that it will spoil and go rancid.

This holds for all the different types of butter, including;

  • Salted - The salty taste will become more intense as moisture is lost.
  • Unsalted - The consistency will change as moisture is lost.
  • Air whipped - Won't be as creamy and less creamy every time.
  • Nitrogen whipped - Won't be as creamy and less creamy every time.
  • Spreadable - Won't be as creamy and will become harder to spread.

Can You Freeze Country Crock Butter?

While technically not margarine, Country Crock 'butter' isn't really butter either because it doesn't contain any milk or, for that matter, any dairy ingredients whatsoever. That being said, you can freeze Country Crock Spread the same way, with the same results, as regular (actual) butter.

What Is The Best Way To Thaw Butter?

Thawing butter is easy and relatively fast. Simply remove a portion from the freezer and place it on a plate or bowl on your kitchen counter. At room temperature, it will thaw completely in 20 to 60 minutes, depending on the amount you're thawing. If you don't need it right away, you can place it in the refrigerator to thaw, which will take from 2 to 4 hours.

You can also thaw it quickly with your microwave if you like. Depending on your microwave, you should place it inside and microwave it for about 8 to 10 seconds. Check it and, if it needs to be softer, place it back for another 8 to 10 seconds.

How Can You Tell If Butter Has 'Gone Bad'?

bad smelling food

As a dairy product, butter does go bad, although it doesn't go bad very quickly. Below are a few telltale signs that your butter has gone bad and should be discarded, including;

  • If it's Discolored. If the inside, when you slice off a piece, looks more yellow than the outside, your butter has likely gone rancid.
  • If it smells like moldy cheese.
  • If it smells 'sour.'
  • If it has black spots, which are mold.

How To Use It In Cooking?

grater

The best thing about regular frozen butter, if it's been packaged well, is that it will stay practically perfect until you need it. Also, a lot of recipes call for cold butter so that the end product isn't 'greasy.' Below are 5 good ways to use frozen butter. (Note that having a cheese grater will make most of them much easier.)

  1. Use a cheese grater to grate frozen butter into pie crusts, scones, and biscuits.
  2. Slice a thin slice and whip it into eggs before making an omelet. (They'll stay light and fluffy in the oven if you're cooking for a big group!)
  3. Grate it into your gravy or sauce. It makes the gravy and sauce more smooth and creamy.
  4. Grate it into your cookie dough mix.
  5. Put a thin slice of frozen butter on your English muffin.

In Closing

Freezing butter is a great way to store it long-term and, if there's a sale at your grocery store, allows you to stock up and take advantage of the lower price.

Like learning new food hacks? Here are two very useful food hacks you might like to check out:

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About the author

    Jen Evansy

    Nutritionists, researchers, and writers, interested in everything healthy-living related. Helping you identify the best diets, learn about food and nutrition, to help you live happier, longer and stronger.


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