Does Margarine Go Bad?

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Margarine is a butter substitute that was first invented in France in 1869 as an alternative to feed the poor. Margarine is made from animal fat, but now more commonly with vegetable oil, and is usually found in the form of a spread. Now, margarine comes in sticks and even in cans. 

Margarine is popularly used in cooking and baking and when made with vegetable oil is a common vegan alternative to butter.

But can margarine go bad? How long does it last? Is there a way to freeze it? Before we get into the nitty-gritties of margarine, remember that all food can and will go bad. How soon and how fast all depends on how well you store it. Margarine has a relatively short shelf life despite the additives and emulsifiers used in it. 

Different brands have their own formula for margarine, but it is mainly water and fats or vegetable oil. Margarine contains unsaturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats. Some types of margarine, like sticks of margarine, also have trans fats, which are unhealthy and lead to cholesterol. But trans fat gives the margarine a longer shelf life and makes it harder. If you use margarine rarely or buy it infrequently, then go with the stick of margarine as it has a longer shelf life. But if you are a seasoned margarine user, then go with the tub of margarine that is softer and more liquid in form. It might not last as long, but at least it is not as bad.

If a tub of margarine or soft margarine is left out, it goes bad real fast. This is because the fats oxidize and spoil. 

How Long Does Margarine Last?

Margarine needs to always be in the refrigerator. As soon as you get your margarine from the store, stick it in the fridge, be it stick or tub. 

  • Depending on proper storage, your tub of unopened margarine will be good in the fridge for 4-6 months after its best-by or sell-by date. The sell-by date usually refers to the date when the product reaches peak quality, it does not indicate spoilage. 
  • But once you open your margarine, the clock starts ticking. An open box of margarine will last for about 1-2 months after the best-by date. 
  • Homemade margarine will last for about 5 days in the fridge under proper storage conditions
  • Another option is to freeze the margarine, it will be good for 6-12 months.
Types of MargarinePantryFridgeFreezer
Unopened box of margarineSell-by date + 4-6 months6-12 months
Opened box of margarineSell-by date + 1-2 months6-8 months
Homemade margarine5 days6-12 months

The above is just an estimate of how long margarine will last. Obviously, the numbers will change depending on the type of margarine, quality of ingredients used, storage conditions, and so on. 

Margarine when left outside will start to turn rancid real soon. The soft margarine will start to turn liquid, and even sticks of margarine will eventually start to soften. When exposed to the air the margarine will start to oxidize and eventually spoil.

So, if you have ever left your margarine out by accident or forgotten to refrigerate it, you might want to think twice about using it. The margarine would not have spoiled, but the quality would have been greatly reduced.  

How To Properly Store Margarine?

The critical thing about storing margarine is that it has to always be refrigerated. Although it has a pretty good shelf life, margarine will begin to spoil if left outside. If you live in a colder climate, the margarine will be okay if left outside for a couple of hours. Just remember to get it back in the fridge as soon as possible.

  • The first thing to keep in mind is that margarine should not be exposed to moisture, heat, or air. All three accelerate spoilage in margarine. 
  • Keep your unopened box of margarine in the fridge where it will last comfortably for 4-6 months after its sell-by date.
  • So, when storing margarine, make sure that the lid is on tight in the tub or the can it has come in. There is no reason to change the margarine container but if you choose to do so, first make sure it is dry.
  • Secondly, after transferring close the lid tightly. Margarine should not be exposed to air, it will start deteriorating. 
  • When storing sticks of margarine in the fridge, you can leave it in the wrapping it comes in. If for some reason you want to take it out of the original wrapping, then wrap it in either foil or plastic wrap. Your margarine will last for 1-2 months after the best-by date.
  • Homemade margarine has the shortest life span, as there are no additives or preservatives used. Transfer your margarine into an airtight container and store it in the fridge. The homemade margarine will be fine for about 5 days. 
  • The margarine will go bad quickly after that, so it is best to make small batches of margarine.
  • Similarly, when freezing the margarine, double wrap it in aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or parchment paper. Then keep it in an airtight bag or container. The margarine will last for 6-12 months. 

How To Freeze Margarine?

  • The easiest way to freeze margarine is to transfer it into a freezer-friendly container and freeze it. You can freeze it in small batches so that you can thaw only what you need to use. 
  • Keep in mind that the margarine will change texture after freezing and thawing. So you cannot refreeze the margarine.
  • The thawed margarine will be usable for 3-5 days.

How To Tell If Margarine Has Spoiled?

  1. The smell is the first thing you will notice. Spoiled margarine will stink, and you must throw it out. Sometimes spoiled margarine will have a chemical smell.
  2. Another indicator is any impurities or growth on it. Mold, spores, and green or black spots on the margarine mean it has turned rancid and cannot be consumed.
  3. The texture is another thing to watch out for. If the margarine, which is already soft, has turned liquid or is slimy then the margarine has to be avoided.
  4. The discoloration is another sign of decay. If your margarine has turned yellow, then it has spoiled. If you notice any other change in color like graying or blackening on top of the margarine, it has become rancid.

Finally, the taste. Margarine has the taste and texture of butter. If it looks and smells fine and you want to taste it to ensure that it is still safe to consume then there will be no discernible change in taste. But if it has spoiled it will be sour or have a soapy taste. Throw it out, do not eat spoiled margarine.

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