I was just about to go for a delicious peanut butter sandwich when I noticed something odd.
My peanut butter looked watery and not like the usual thick, creamy texture that I know and love.
Why is my peanut butter watery?
The reason why your peanut butter looks this way is that it has been stored at too high of a temperature or it’s old or past its expiration date.
If you don’t want to throw out your jar of natural goodness, there are things you can do.
Why Is Peanut Butter Watery?
Peanut Butter is watery because peanuts contain a high amount of natural oils and the oil will leak out when the peanuts are crushed. A jar of peanut butter will not have oil puddled at the top when it’s produced, but after sitting, the oil naturally separates from the other ingredients.
That Water is Peanut Oil
Originally, peanut butter was runny. It consisted mostly of peanuts and salt, but not water.
Crushing the peanuts to make them into a spreadable paste releases the oil from the peanuts.
This oil separates from the rest of the peanut butter over time.
It used to be that you always had to stir peanut butter to get the oil back into the butter before you could use it.
Consumers wanted an easier to use product, so the peanut butter we are now used to seeing came to be invented.
Stabilizers were added to peanut butter to make it less runny and to eliminate the need to stir it before use.
These stabilizers include molasses, hydrogenated vegetable oil, rapeseed oil, palm oil, soybean oil, and cottonseed oil.
We can all thank Joseph Rosenfield for inventing this kind of peanut butter back in 1921.
He would go on to start the Skippy brand of peanut butter.
Even after all of these years, the exact same mixture of ingredients cannot be found in each and every jar of peanut butter.
All peanut butter has at least 90% peanuts and 10% of other ingredients, including stabilizers.
However, some jars will have more peanuts and fewer stabilizers.
This causes the peanut oil to separate from the rest of the butter.
That this happens so infrequently would probably make Joseph Rosenfield proud.
About Natural Peanut Butter
Natural peanut butter, sometimes sold as organic peanut butter, is the original peanut butter.
Since it does not have the stabilizers that conventional peanut butter has, it always has pools of watery peanut oil.
This needs to be stirred back into the butter.
Natural peanut butter is much thinner than conventional peanut butter, so the stirring is easier.
Be sure to use a clean knife to do the stirring, so you are not putting anything that could easily rot into the peanut butter, like jam or jelly.
This can cause the peanut butter to go off faster.
If you want to thicken your natural peanut butter without stirring, try storing an unopened jar upside down for four days.
Shake for 20 seconds, then open.
The peanut oil should have soaked back into the butter.
What to Do About Oily Peanut Butter
Let’s assume that you have oil on the top of your conventional peanut butter, maybe even a jar of Skippy. What to do?
- Stir the oil into the butter with a clean knife. This may be difficult for people lacking hand strength, so try stirring only one part of the butter into the oil instead of trying to mix the whole jar.
- Refrigerate the jar, which helps to thicken up the peanut butter.
- Store the jar upside down. The oil should rise to the top, which is now the bottom of your jar of peanut butter.
Whatever you do, do not drain the oil. The oil is needed to keep the peanut butter from going rock hard.
Signs That Your Peanut Butter Has Gone Bad
One of the reasons conventional peanut butter is so popular is because it has a much longer shelf life than many other kinds of foods.
It can last up to two years if unopened. However, nothing lasts forever, not even peanut butter.
You can extend its life even further by refrigerating the jar when it has been opened.
Oil on the top of your peanut butter is not a sign that it has gone off.
Natural peanut butter goes off much quicker than conventional pre-mixed peanut butter.
It has to be refrigerated when it is opened or it will soon spoil.
How long it lasts depends on what brand you buy, but in general, it will only last a month once the jar is opened, even if refrigerated.
- Peanut butter that has gone dry and hard, making it impossible to spread.
- Peanut butter that has gone noticeably darker.
- Peanut butter that has lost all aroma.
- Peanut butter that smells like something other than peanut butter or peanuts.
- Peanut butter that tastes strange, bitter, soapy or sour.
What’s Happening When Peanut Butter Becomes Watery?
When peanut butter manufacturers are producing jars they use specific preservatives that help the nut butter keep its consistency.
But over time when the peanut butter is stored at room temperature, the oils naturally rise above the other ingredients.
The weight of oil is very light so it tends to float on other ingredients as it does with water.
If you buy organic peanut butter you’ll notice the separation is even more drastic and you could have runny peanut butter in some cases.
As you crush peanuts into a paste to make peanut butter, the high amount of fats contained inside allows the other components to float around.
This is when the heavier peanut particles float to the bottom and the lighter oils will remain on top.
The more your peanut butter becomes runny the less of a shelf life it will have.
You can mix up your peanut butter every time you open it to help mix the oils and particles back together.
But, there are other things you can do to help keep the peanut butter from separating at all.
What You Can Do to Prevent Watery Peanut Butter
The best method is to refrigerate your peanut butter if you want to keep it the same consistency.
When peanut butter is at room temperature it causes the particles inside to heat up and that’s what causes the separation.
By lowering the overall temperature, the consistency will remain the same and it won’t be as watery.
You can also store it in the freezer but that causes other problems like the peanut butter becoming too hard to spread or eat.
Organic peanut butter might still have a separation even if put into a fridge because of the lack of preservatives.
The fridge slows down how fast the particles inside the peanut butter move, which means the consistency remains pretty solid but it also means it will be harder to spread.
Your best method to make peanut butter easier to spread out of the fridge is taking smaller pieces of it out of the jar.
It will seem like it’s taking more effort but it’s a lot easier than trying to make it work with a big glob.
How Can You Tell If Peanut Butter Is Bad?
It will take peanut butter a while to go bad because of the preservatives that are added and also because of the high oil content that helps keep it from spoiling.
You’ll notice a bad jar of peanut butter right away just by the smell alone. It will have a rancid smell and you’ll know it’s time to throw the jar away.
The peanut butter will also be a lot drier because it will become dehydrated when it’s old.
It will also be a lot harder too and you won’t be able to get your knife through it or be able to spread it.
If the peanut butter doesn’t look too bad and you try a bite you’ll know it isn’t good anymore because of the bitter and sour taste you’ll experience instead of the sweet taste you’re used to.
Which Kind of Peanut Butter Is Less Watery?
Commercial peanut butter that is being produced for a large number of people needs to have a longer shelf life so it can stay good in stores before being bought.
Any of these kinds of peanut butters will have more preservatives and will contain less, if any oil, puddled at the top.
Peanut butter becomes less stable when you purchase organic ingredients because the jar won’t contain nearly as many preservatives that help it remain together.
If you were to make your own jar of peanut butter at home you’d notice a lot of oils puddling at the top of your jar over time.
Frequently Asked Questions About Why is My Peanut Butter Watery
Can you do anything with peanut butter oil?
The oil that puddles at the top of your peanut butter can be stirred back into the peanut butter or it can be poured out and used in specific meals. Peanut oil burns at higher temperatures, making it ideal for Asian-style foods that use the peanut flavor in dishes like stir-fry.
Do all peanut butter jars become watery?
Every jar of peanut butter will eventually separate if left at higher temps. The fat contained in peanuts allows the actual peanut particles to float to the bottom while the lighter oils float to the top.
How Do You Fix Runny Peanut Butter?
If there is a lot of liquid oil in your peanut butter, stir the peanut butter. You can also thicken the peanut butter by refrigerating it and storing the jar upside down. Keep the oil in the peanut butter because if you drain it out, it will cause the peanut butter to become too dry over time.
Why Is There a Pool of Oil on the Top of My Peanut Butter?
The oil in that pool is peanut oil, and a sign that your jar’s batch was made with fewer oils of other kinds than peanut oil. Crushing the peanuts releases the oil. Each jar can have more peanuts in it than another jar, so jars that are mostly made of peanuts will be more likely to create a pool of peanut oil.
How Can You Tell If Peanut Butter Has Gone Bad?
Oily peanut butter is not a sign that it has gone off. Signs of bad peanut butter include the peanut butter going hard, loss of a peanut smell, or a drastic change of smell. If you ever eat peanut butter and it tastes sour or strange in any way, throw it out.
Dealing With Watery Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is not made with water. The stuff that looks like water is actually oil.
It’s normal for oil to sometimes separate from the rest of the ingredients in pre-mixed peanut butter.
Natural peanut butter will always have separated oil and a thinner consistency than conventional peanut butter.
Just stir the oil into the peanut butter and you’re good to go.
Just because your peanut butter becomes watery doesn’t mean you can’t use it for your next sandwich or recipe.
You can simply mix it back into your peanut butter and you can store it in the fridge to slow down the process of separation.
Daniel Iseli (Head Chef)
Hi, my name is Daniel and I am passionate about cooking. I have been cooking for the past 20 years and am happy to share my best recipes and cooking-related knowledge with you.