» Does Margarine Go Bad? How Long Does It Last?

Does Margarine Go Bad? How Long Does It Last?

Does Margarine Go Bad How Long Does It Last
Image: Lucky Belly

Do you have an oversupply of margarine? Are you wondering whether to consume that old tub that’s been in the refrigerator for months now?

In short, you want to know, ‘Does margarine go bad?’ That’s a great question and in this article, we give you the answers you need. Read on to learn more.

Does Margarine Go Bad?

Does Margarine Go Bad
Image: Lucky Belly

If it is not properly stored, margarine can go bad. Soft margarine contains monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which can oxidize if it is left to sit at room temperature and will eventually go rancid.

Improperly stored margarine can also become contaminated by harmful bacteria, making it unsafe to consume.

We’ ’ll talk about how to best store margarine in a bit but first, let’s look at the shelf life of margarine and ways to tell if your spread has gone bad.

How Long Can Margarine Last?

How Long Can Margarine Last
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Several factors influence how long margarine can last. In particular, how you store the spread, the ratio of polyunsaturated to monosaturated fats, and how much antioxidants and emulsifiers have been added will affect the shelf life of margarine.

Unopened, margarine will generally last about 4-5 months past its sell-by date in the refrigerator and 6-12 months in the freezer.

When you open the spread, its shelf life shortens to 1-2 months past its sell-by date in the fridge at 40oF and 6-8 months frozen at 0o F.

Generally, stick margarine contains a high amount of saturated fats and trans fats, which not only harden it but also protect its texture and flavor, and gives it a longer shelf life than the tub type.

Margarine bought in a tub contains polyunsaturated and monosaturated fats, which are easily oxidized, turning the spread into liquid and eventually rancid if left at room temperature even for a few hours.

In addition to this, some brands add a high amount of antioxidants and emulsifiers in their spreads. These types of margarine will have a comparably longer shelf life than those with a smaller amount of preservatives.

Lastly, margarine with a higher ratio of polyunsaturated fats to monosaturated fats will tend to have a shorter shelf life. This is because polyunsaturated fats go bad faster.

Here’s a quick summary of the shelf life of margarine:

Margarine Shelf Life


Refrigerator Freezer
Unopened margarine 4-5 months


Opened margarine

1-2 months

6-8 months


3 Tips To Tell If Margarine Has Gone Bad

3 Tips To Tell If Margarine Has Gone Bad
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Hardy as it may seem, margarine is quite sensitive and will easily go off if it is exposed to moisture, oxygen, and heat.

Telling whether your favorite spread has gone bad isn’t difficult. Trust your senses here to detect signs of spoilage. you should also keep an eye on the sell-by date.

Here are some easy steps to check the freshness of your margarine:

1. Mold

The vegetable fat in margarine oxidizes pretty fast and can create the perfect breeding ground for mold if the spread is further exposed to water.

Even in the refrigerator, margarine can still become moldy if it hasn’t been handled or stored properly or has overstayed its recommended sell-by date.

Any sign of mold is your cue to toss out that tub or stick of margarine. Do not try to scoop out the moldy part and continue using the rest; some mold spores are invisible and could be hiding inside your margarine.

2. Texture

Margarine that is still good to use will have a nice, smooth, and spreadable consistency. This will change to a liquidy mess if the spread goes bad. Any signs of moisture on your spread should warn you of the potential for mold to grow on it soon.

Another tale-tell sign of diminished freshness is when the surface of the margarine becomes darker and thicker than the rest of the spread. This happens because of oxidation and it’s also another sign that mold might begin to grow on it.

You should cut your losses and discard your margarine if it shows significant changes in texture.

3. Taste and smell

Fresh margarine should have undertones of butter flavor. Usually, looking at your spread is enough to tell whether it has gone bad but if you aren’t too sure, try taking a small bite to ascertain.

Margarine that has stayed too long or lost its freshness might have a soapy, paint-like taste. It will also have a rancid smell, a sign of bacterial action.

3 Tips To Store Margarine

3 Tips To Store Margarine
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Now that you know how to tell whether your margarine is still fresh, check out these storage tips to get the most out of your spread.

1. Refrigerate immediately

Both stick and tub margarine do not store well in the pantry, kitchen cabinet, or countertop. Many manufacturers discourage eating margarine that has stayed out at room temperature for an extended period of time.

Extend the shelf life of your spread by storing it in the fridge as soon as you get it from the store. Once you open your margarine, you should store it at 40oF or lower, preferably in the butter compartment.

2. Protect from other flavors

Margarine easily picks up odors from other foods. While this will not necessarily cause spoilage, you don’t want your favorite spread tasting like onions or bananas.

It is best to store your spread in the designated butter compartment in the fridge. Alternatively, you should keep it far away from pungent foods that are likely to mess up with the buttery flavor of margarine.

You also want to check that the cover on the tub fits tightly to prevent exposure to smells from other foods.

For stick margarine, a neat trick is to place the spread in an airtight butter dish to slow down drying and keep it free of odors from other foods in the fridge.

3. Buy just enough

When buying margarine, resist the temptation to buy too much just because your favorite spread is on offer. Buy an amount of margarine that you will reasonably finish in a month. Ideally, you should use at least half an inch each week to prevent oxidation and enjoy the spread at its peak freshness.

The Risks of Consuming Expired Margarine

The Risks of Consuming Expired Margarine
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You can safely consume margarine past its sell-by date as long as you had stored it properly and it does not have signs of spoilage.

That being said, we recommend that you do not consume margarine that has stayed too long past its sell-by date. Not only will it have lost its peak flavor and aroma, but chances are also good that it is just a day away from going bad.

In short, if you have a tub of margarine that has been sitting in the fridge for more than four months, it is best to throw it out even if it looks okay.

It is possible for invisible mold and bacteria to gradually grow on consumables that have been kept too long, which puts you at risk of potential food poisoning or mild but inconvenient symptoms.

Can You Freeze Margarine

Freezing is a great option to keep margarine fresh for longer. If you have an oversupply, you can store the spread in the freezer at  0oF for 6-12 months.

Keep in mind that the longer you freeze margarine, the likely it is to lose its natural flavor and texture. In fact, some manufacturers do not recommend freezing their brand of margarine. Check the label to be sure that you can safely freeze your spread.

There are several easy ways to freeze your favorite spread. Here are some ideas to try:

  • Seal in a freezer bag: If you have an unopened tub, simply chuck it into a sealable freezer bag and freeze. Be sure to remove any air bubbles from the bag.
  • Chop it up: Cutting up your block of margarine allows you to use only what you need at a time. First, you would need to freeze the margarine for a couple of hours for it to harden. Then, use a sharp knife to divide the block into smaller chunks for one time use so you won’t have to thaw the whole block next time you need margarine.
  • Use aluminum foil: Aluminum foil comes in handy for proofing food items against moisture and air, which as we have seen create the perfect environment for mold growth. This method works really well with margarine sticks. Simply wrap in aluminum foil and place in the fridge until you are ready to use.
  • Grate it: Finally, you could grate your block of margarine and store it in small portions. We love this idea because grated margarine doesn’t take long to thaw and you only need to take out from the freezer the portions you need at a time.


Margarine seems like such a hardy food item but the truth is, it is very vulnerable to moisture, oxygen, and heat. The good news is that with proper storage, your favorite spread can stay fresh for several months, which is enough time to finish the stuff in most households. Just be sure to stay on the safe side and discard magarine that is old or has signs of spoilage.

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