How long do spices last? Do they expire? If you've ever asked yourself this question, you're not alone. We'll take a look at the shelf life of spices.
Most recipes out there have at least one spice listed as an ingredient, and many kitchens have spice racks or drawers full of them as a result.
It’s no secret that making the tastiest food starts with the best ingredients — and that means fresh. If your spices aren’t cutting it, don’t be afraid to replace them with fresh ones. If you go to bulk or package-free stores, you can purchase spices in the quantities that you need as opposed to always having to buy more than is necessary.
How Long Do Spices Last?
The good news is that spices don’t really expire, at least not in an “eat it and you’ll be sick” kind of way. Most of the time, when people talk about expired spices, they’re simply referring to ones that have lost their potency, flavor, and color. You can find out if your spices are still “good” by crushing or rubbing some in your hand and giving it a smell.
If you notice that the smell, color, or even flavor of your spices are off — it’s probably a good time to replace or repurpose them, even if the date on the bottom of the jar says otherwise.
You can use the following as a rough guide to the shelf life of spices:
- Whole spices like nutmeg, peppercorn, cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon (type Cassia and Ceylon): 3-4 years
- Ground spices like ginger, cumin, paprika, chili powder, and turmeric: 2-4 years
- Dried herbs, ground or whole: 1-3 years
Proper storage is important to make sure you get the most out of your herbs and spices. Here are a few storage tips:
- Write the date on top of the jar when you opened it — that’ll make it easier to tell when it should be replaced.
- Store your herbs and spices in a dark cabinet, away from heat and light. A dedicated spice drawer can also work well.
- Don’t store them – use them! Be inspired by different recipes that use the spices you have on hand.
Using Up Old Spices: Tips & Tricks
Just because spices aren’t as potent as they once were doesn’t mean you have to throw them away. Certain spices, especially ones for curry, can be toasted back to life in a pan on the stove. Whole spices can also be revived the same way – just be warned that this trick isn’t 100% successful. If you don’t know if your spices have expired, check out their color and smell – that will tell you if your spices are still worthy of being used in your cooking.
If you need to use up your spices and don’t want to waste them, consider the following ideas:
- Create a natural air freshener by brewing spices in a pot with water on the stove.
- Get creative with some spiced recipes for homemade soap.
- Turn them into potpourri sachets for musty areas like closets.
- Try making natural easter egg dyes or paints.
- Use them to get rid of cockroaches naturally or repel other insects.
- Draw yourself an aromatherapy bath.
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