Do Spices Go Bad – What Aspiring Home Chefs Need to Know

Your cupboard is probably full of spices. So, the big question is: do spices go bad? Of course, the answer to every home chef’s big spice question is: yes and no. Ha! Were you expecting a straight answer? There is a serious answer, though. And certainly, you’ve guessed correctly. It’s complicated.

Do Spices Go Bad?

No, your spices aren’t going to go bad. They don’t spoil like a bowl of potato salad in the hot sun at a backyard budget wedding. But they do weaken over time, so you need to replace them periodically. So, in that sense of the phrase “going bad” you do need to toss them in the trash.

You’ll need to replace all of your spices and herbs every year, if you’re going to take this to the level of a high powered chef. Most home “chefs” don’t, however. For those who are cooking at home for family and friends, tossing the contents of your spice cabinet can be done a lot less often.

How Long Spices Last?

As a general guide, here is a time table for when to replace herbs and spices:

Whole spices and herbs: 4 years

Ground spices and herbs: 2 years

Leafy spices and herbs: 1 year

Whole spices are like the jar of whole cloves or peppercorns. Ground spices are like turmeric and other powdery spices. Leafy spices are like parsley, cilantro and bay leaves.

In order to have the longest life for your herbs and spices, you need to keep them in a cool, dark cabinet. Never store them next to the stove, above the refrigerator or on the counter in the sunshine. If you do, replace them every year. So, to answer the question: do spices go bad? Yes and no.

What's The Best Method For Storing Your Spices?

Spice begin to loose their vibrant color and fresh flavor when they are not stored properly.  Store your seasonings in a dry dark place with temperatures below 75º F.  

People often store seasonings, herbs and spices near the stove.  Though this makes it easy to use as you're cooking, that area in the kitchen tends to get pretty hot and can speed up the loss of flavor and potency of your spices.  Sunlight can damage your spice blends too so it's best to keep them away from the windows.