Does Apple Butter Go Bad & How Long Is It Good for?

Apple butter is one of my all-time favorite things to make during fall and the holiday season. This delicious, perfectly spiced treat screams autumn and coziness and it’s a gift that nobody will say no to.

That said, not all of us are going to be chugging apple butter all year round. A little bit of this baby goes a long way, so you’ve got to know how to make the most of it. 

Does apple butter go bad? Well, apple-solutely! But stored properly, apple butter can last anywhere from three months to two years.

My name is Angie, I am a self-taught baker with over 10 years of experience. Having run my own baking business, I know how important it is to store your food at maximum freshness and I’d love to make that knowledge available to you too.

In this article, I will share with you my tips on how to tell when apple butter has gone off, how to store them and for how long, and answer any further questions you may have on this topic. 

Without further ado, let’s get cooking!

Does Apple Butter Go Bad?

Although apple butter originated as a method to preserve apples for a long period of time, improper storage, as well as bacterial contamination, can spoil apple sauce and make it unsafe for ingestion. 

How Can You Tell If Your Apple Butter Has Gone Bad

Here are five ways to tell whether your apple butter has gone bad.

Tip #1: Smell

Spoiled apple butter gives off a distinctive rancid odor. My tip, if it no longer smells like the apple butter you put in the fridge, let’s not even risk it alright?

Tip #2: Appearance

You know your apple butter has gone bad if you see spores of mold forming on the surface or anywhere inside the jar. Discard at all cost!

What If You Eat Apple Butter That Has Gone Bad

Although extremely unlikely, bacteria such as clostridium botulinum can form and multiply in improperly canned and stored apple butter. 

The earliest symptoms of foodborne botulism include difficulty swallowing or speaking, weakness in muscles that control your face, blurred vision, abdominal pain, and nausea. If left untreated, you may even develop paralysis.

Botulinum poisoning is serious, so seek immediate medical attention if you find yourself with the above symptoms. Your doctor should treat you with antitoxin right away. 

How Long is Apple Butter Good for?

Depending on how you choose to store your apple butter, it will last for a different amount of time.


Homemade apple butter will keep in your fridge for three months and up to 12 months in the freezer.


Whether you got your apple butter from the neighborhood’s farmers market or from the grocery store, for this section we’ll assume that they’re commercially canned and packaged.


Unopened apple butter can keep forever. Well not — FOREVER, but 12-18 months on the pantry, nice and cool and dry, it should be no problem. If kept refrigerated, your apple butter can last a little longer and if you’re freezing it, it should still be good even after two years. 


Stored continuously and refrigerated, your apple butter should stay in good condition for about a month. Freezing your apple butter can extend its shelf life to between one to two years. 

How to Properly Store Apple Butter

Apple butter can be stored in the pantry, the refrigerator, and the freezer. Wherever it is you decide to keep it, I recommend you do so by keeping it in a jar or a can. Vacuum sealing apple butter ensures that air is not trapped in it. 

Once exposed to air, your apple butter has a much higher chance of spoilage as oxygen creates an environment for bacteria to grow. 

If you are freezing your apple butter, make sure that it is in a freezer-safe container otherwise you risk the glass container exploding and the freezer burning your apple butter. You should be able to find out if the container is freezer safe by checking its label. 

Also, remember to leave about an inch of space at the top of your container in case your apple butter expands while freezing. 

Once frozen, your apple butter will need to be thawed completely to be enjoyed again. You can thaw your apple butter in the fridge overnight for the best results. Keep in mind that once this process should only be performed once.

Apple Butter FAQs

The following are some other common questions people have about apple butter shelf life and storage.

Why is apple butter called butter?

Apple butter is called butter for its smooth, thick, buttery texture. There isn’t any butter in apple butter, not even a drop of oil. The texture is achieved by blending, boiling, and caramelizing the apple until nearly all of its water content evaporates. 

Do you have to refrigerate apple butter?

You do not have to refrigerate apple butter but it will certainly prolong its shelf life if you do.

Is applesauce the same as apple butter?

Noooo… I can see why you might ask though. They are similar in that they’re both made by slow-cooking apples with tons of spices.

However, applesauce has a much more liquidy texture, sometimes with chunks of apple in it. 

Apple butter, on the other hand, is much thicker and more concentrated and will last much longer!


Despite its long shelf life, apple butter can still go bad. That said, don’t feel the need to hurry and toss your precious jar of apple butter as soon as it’s passed the expiration date. Its smell and appearance should tell you more about whether it is still edible.

I hope that these tips have helped you as much as they’ve helped me 🙂 If there’s anything I’ve missed, feel free to let me know in the comments section and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

About Angie
I am a self-taught baker. I’ve been baking for over 10 years and started my own home baking business as a side hustle. I was born in Hong Kong and spent a pretty big chunk of my life in Canada. If you’re ever looking for me, I am probably there whisking vigorously away in the kitchen.

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  • Laura

    I made homemade apple butter for the first time in the crockpot. After sealing in jars it seemed to be very thick. I think I cooked it down too much. After opening the first jar, my apple butter is very thick and almost not spreadable. Is there anything I can do to remedy this problem? After refrigeration it is very stiff. Can I leave it out at room temperature?

    • Michelle

      Hi Laura,
      You can try leaving it out at room temp to see if it thins. Or, you can mix some thinner applesauce to “dilute” it without ruining the flavor.
      Happy baking,

  • Duane

    If my Apple Core leaves just a little bit of peal on the Apple do I have to make sure that gets taken off before I put it in the Crock-Pot to make apple butter this is my first attempt I know nothing about it.

    • Michelle

      Hi Duane,
      It’s best if *all* of the peel is removed from the apples when making apple butter. However, I don’t think a tiny amount will make too big an impact. Let me know how it turned out!
      Happy baking,

  • Chris

    Bauman’s apple butter from PA never requires refrigeration and will last for years. Awesome apple butter that can be ordered online.

    • Angie

      Nice!! I’ll definitely check it out 😀