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01.04.2021

Do Spices Go Bad?

Do Spices Go Bad?

Fresh spices make for incredible food, so it’s important to make sure your spices are adding their best flavors to your cooking. Dried herbs and spices don’t spoil necessarily, but they do lose flavor and aroma over time. Since spices don’t expire like a gallon of milk, it can be difficult to gauge when to replace them. We gathered our best tips for determining spice freshness so you can cook more delicious food using the most flavorful spices. If you have any questions about spices and freshness, email us at spices@thespicehouse.com, or leave us a comment below.

How Can I Tell if My Spices Are Still Fresh?

Sight: You eat with your eyes first. Color and appearance don’t always define a spice’s quality, but they can be an indicator of freshness. As spices and dried herbs age, so do their color. If you find your cinnamon, parsley flakes, or paprika looking a little sun-faded, odds are their aroma has faded too.

Smell & Taste: Your spices should be flavorful and full of aroma. Shake your jar of ground cinnamon, open the cap, and gently waft the smell to your nose. Even better, take a pinch of the spice and place it in the center of your palm. Using your other thumb, smush the spices around to coax out the essential oils. (This is extra important for dried herbs, as they should be crushed before using them anyways.) If you’re not impressed with the flavor or aroma of the spice in your palm, it’s time to replace them.

Sound: Okay, we’re just joking about this one, but if you’re considering listening to your spices, you should consider refreshing your supply.

How Long Do Ground Spices Last?

Ground spices and whole spices being checked for flavor and freshness.

Ground spices lose their flavor the fastest, which is why we grind our spices and blend our seasonings in the smallest batch size possible. We carry this 63-year-old tradition to ensure your food is remarkably flavorful whenever you cook with our fresh spices.

Generally speaking, ground spices will hold their best flavor for up to one year. However, you will notice their flavor beginning to change after six months. Some spices lose their flavor faster than others, like a potent ground cardamom or subtle ground Ceylon cinnamon.

Whenever you purchase fresh spices, we encourage you to sample their flavors and aroma as soon as you bring them home and before each time you cook. Being familiar with how a freshly ground spice or dried herb should smell and taste will help you understand when their flavors are no longer at their peak.

How Long Do Whole Spices Last?

Cinnamon sticks and ground cinnamon being checked for freshness and flavor.

Whole spices like cinnamon sticks, black peppercorns, and cardamom pods keep their flavor for the longest time. When you pulverize these spices, it breaks their cellular walls, and releases their aromatic chemical compounds. A nutmeg can last in your cupboard for more than a decade, although we’d hope you use it sooner! Whole spices keep their best flavor for up to three years, but you may notice a drop in potency after 18 months. If you’re obsessed with spice freshness like we are, we recommend grinding whole spices yourself in the amount needed for a recipe. A dedicated coffee grinder or mortar and pestle are great for this. We also like using a Microplane grater for grinding fresh spices a la minute.

How Long Do Dried Herbs Last?

Dried herbs stored in Flatpacks for freshness and free shipping

Since most dried herbs are sold in a coarse consistency, their flavor has a lifespan between ground and whole spices. Greek oregano, parsley flakes, and broken leaf thyme are good examples of coarsely cut herbs. Remember to crush these herbs in your palm before using them to release more flavor. Most dried herbs will keep their peak flavors for up to 18 months. Ground herbs like ground rosemary or ground Mexican oregano should be used sooner after purchase and will keep their freshest flavors for up to a year.

How Should Spices Be Stored?

Storing spices in airtight Flatpacks for freshness and free shipping

Heat, light, and humidity are the enemies of freshness in the spice world. While it may be convenient, storing your spices on that cute rack over the stove is robbing them of their flavor and freshness. (You should also avoid pouring spices directly from their container into a steaming pot or pan. The steam will cause the spices to clump up and accelerate their loss of freshness.) We recommend storing your spices in an airtight container and keeping them in a cool, dry cupboard. We also recommend making a note of when you purchase your spices so you can keep track of their freshness.

A glass jar is the best container for storing spices long term. We also love our convenient Flatpacks. They have an airtight seal to lock in freshness and stand upright for easy storage in cramped kitchen drawers and cupboards. Flatpacks are great for refreshing your supply of fresh spices too. Each Flatpack will refill any ½ cup jar of spices, so you can purchase fresh spices more frequently. Plus, every one of our Flatpacks ship for free, allowing you to reorder fresh, individual spices whenever you need them.

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Comments

Nic on March 11th, 2021

Great tips

Spice House on March 11th, 2021

Hi Marilyn,

Preserved lemons should keep in the fridge for up to a year after opening.

Cass Weghorst on March 11th, 2021

Great article thanks for the information. You guys are the best!

Marilyn Wright on March 11th, 2021

I bought a jar of Preserved Lemon Paste and would like to know how long I can use it once it’s opened. I store it in the refrigerator. Thanks.

Spice House on January 6th, 2021

Hi Eva Matte,

We do carry a container for Flatpacks!

https://www.thespicehouse.com/products/flatpack-holder

Spice House on January 6th, 2021

Hi Patricia Nemeth,

None of our spices or spice blends contain gluten, but we carry a small number of products that contain gluten:

Asafoetida
Classic French Demi Glace
Redi-Base Beef Stock
Redi-Base Chicken Stock

Each of these products comes to us prepackaged so there is no risk of cross-contact.

eva matte on January 6th, 2021

could you create a container for the flat pack spices

Patricia Nemeth on January 6th, 2021

Are your all your spices gluten free? What spice mixes if any are also gluten free?
Thank you,

Tina c on January 6th, 2021

I’ve noticed such a difference in the freshness of the spices I purchase here vs at the grocery store. It’s made a world of difference in my cooking and has made me excited to cook again!

Sam Gorlla on January 5th, 2021

Thanks for the information on how to check freshness of spices.
It was honest and helpful information.
Spice that is sitting in your spice cabinet for a long time definitely need to be replaced with fresh spice.
A spice that lost flavour and freshness used in cooking will
mar the deliciousness of the dish.

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