Food storage tips: how to keep spices fresh (and when to replace them)

Sweet and savory dishes all benefit from a flavor boost when you use the right spices. But like a lot of food items, spices won’t last forever in your pantry. If you have a lot of spices in your kitchen and you want to know how to make them last longer, check out the tips below.

Use the right containers

It’s best to use airtight containers for your spices so they retain their flavor. This will also help keep contaminants like bacteria and bugs away. Use a different container if you buy a new spice and the container isn’t too sturdy.

You should also keep spice containers out of direct heat and light. Since some spices contain volatile compounds, keeping them out of direct sunlight can “protect those volatile compounds from interacting with environmental elements” and preserve the potency of the spice.

Heat can affect the quality of spices, so don’t store them in the cupboard right above the stove. You should also avoid seasoning food over a hot pot because the heat and steam will also affect the quality of spices.

When you shake a spice container directly over a cooking pot, heat and steam can get inside the bottle, potentially compromising the quality of the spice. To avoid this, shake the spice into one hand or let the jar air out before sealing it back up.

Remember that properly stored spices retain their scent and taste longer.

Do spices expire like other kinds of food?

Spices do expire, but unlike spoiled meat, using expired spices won’t cause food poisoning.

Note that you should replace spices if they don’t smell like they’re supposed to. Since old containers of spices and herbs become “bland” instead of going “bad,” they can still be used. The downside is, spices and herbs tend to lose their flavor over time.

The color of leafy herbs like oregano or parsley flakes will change the longer you keep them in your pantry. But you can still use these spices in a pot of chili, soup, or other dishes where the flavors blend together.

If the recipe needs one tablespoon of dried oregano, add more. When using old spices in a dish that will be cooked, the cooking process should be enough to get rid of any bad stuff.

If you’ve bought a new spice, write the month and year on the label. This makes it easier to keep track of how fresh each spice is, especially since some spices will last longer compared to other items in your spice rack. For example, nutmeg, which you often use in small quantities and probably only during fall and winter, will last up to four or five years.

If you constantly open a spice container, its content will be exposed to air more frequently. You’d need to replace it sooner.

When to replace spices

While you can still use spices even if they’re past the expiration date, it’s best to use them all up at least one year after purchase.

The type of spice and how it’s stored also determines how long it will last in your pantry:

  • Whole spices – Spices like allspice, cloves and peppercorn last for about three to four years.
  • Pre-ground spices – Pre-ground spices should last for about two to three years.
  • Leafy herbs – Leafy herbs often last for a year or so.

When stored for long periods, many herbs and spices may start to lose their medicinal or nutritional benefits, along with their smell and flavor. If you’re using herbs and spices for their health benefits, it’s best to use them fresh since their health benefits will diminish over time.

To get the most out of spices, grind whole spices into small batches and use them for up to six months. Using ground spices makes for vibrant and flavorful ingredients in all your dishes.

When making your own ground spice, they should be good for at least six months when stored in an airtight container and away from heat and light.

Store spices properly and use them within six months if using your own ground spices or at least three to four years if you have whole spices.

For full references please use source link below.


By Rose Lidell
(Source:; November 13, 2021;
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