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 email@example.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 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?
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?
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?
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.
As far as the age of spices, have you ever considered putting a date stamp on the spices I purchase from you?
I always write the year I buy a spice, on the back label of packet, or jar. That way I know how long I’ve had it. Spice House is my go to for spices, I have recommended them to alot of friends over the years.
Hi Mary Fleming,
Light, heat, and humidity have the greatest effect on a spice’s shelf life.
We recommend storing spices within glass jars in a cool, dark place. Kitchen cabinets are often the best place to store your spices.
Freezing spices may prolong their shelf life, but only if the containers are completely sealed. Freezing can alter a spice’s moisture content and damage its flavor.
I date spice containers using a felt-tip pen: P: MM/DD/YY for Purchase date, and O: MM/DD/YY for Open date. No guessing how old they are.
What about freezing herbs and spices, in zip lock freezer bags, in their original container/bag?
Preserved lemons should keep in the fridge for up to a year after opening.
Great article thanks for the information. You guys are the best!
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.
Hi Eva Matte,
We do carry a container for Flatpacks!