How Long Do Spices Last?

How long do spices last? They don’t go bad in the usual sense of the word, but they do become less potent over time. How long they’ll work wonderfully in seasoning your spectacular cooking depends on where you bought them and how you store them.

How Long Do Spices Last?

As you’re digging through the cupboard looking for the one spice you hardly ever use, you might be wondering, “How long do spices last? Do they spoil, get stale or go rancid? It's past the expiration date so will I get sick?". You’re sure you can’t even remember when it was you bought this jar, yet it looks just fine. Or, maybe when you find the it, the color is not as vibrant as when you first purchased it.

This question is asked so much that it is #1 on our FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) page. While no question is a dumb question, this one is certainly one of the most important things to ask. Okay. Maybe it should be second to "How To Use".

Herbs and Spices Don't Spoil

Because they don’t spoil, we think spices will last for eternity. Sure, your oldest spices are just fine to use but they have probably lost some strength over the months of sitting in the cabinet or spice rack. If the expiration date is close or has past, smell the spices before you use them. If the fragrance of the spice is faint, it's best not to use it so you don't risk messing up what should have been a savory dish.

The real question isn't necessarily how long will herbs and spices last but whether or not they’ll spice up your food anymore. Just like potpourri, they fade over time and need replacing but there are some things we can do to keep their flavor.

Store Herbs, Spices and Seasonings in a Cool Place

It isn’t just age that affects a spice or herb’s potency. How they are stored can seriously shorten the life of herbs and spices. Storing spices on the counter in the sunshine is a problem for them. They will degrade very quickly. 

The best place for your spice rack is inside a cool cupboard. So, the cupboard above the stove or on top of the refrigerator probably isn’t the best place, as those are typically warm spots. Find a cupboard that stays dark and doesn’t share the wall with any appliance or furnace and those spices should stay very potent for several years. 

Some people like to store ground chili peppers (paprika, chili powder and cayenne pepper) in the refrigerator or freezer. This will preserve the color but does not preserve the flavor. It's also important to note that if you store these items in your refrigerator (or freezer), you must be careful to not allow moisture to accumulate on the container going from cold to heat or heat to cold.

Other Factors Affecting Shelf Life of Herbs and Spices

Whether or not it's a spice or an herb makes a difference too. Spices are usually the root of the plant and tend to last longer than herbs.  Herbs are usually from the leaves of the plant and are more delicate.  This is why they are typically added towards the end of cooking a dish.

Whole spices (not ground) such as cinnamon, cloves and turmeric retain their potency and flavor longer. Once spices are ground, the begin to lose they strength because the oils are released in the grinding and the spice is exposed to air.

Sometimes, recipes call for the spices or herbs to be ground.  You can preserve freshness by buying them dried whole and grinding them up yourself.

Freshest Herbs, Spices and Seasonings

Another thing to think about is where you purchase herbs and spices. Typically, the freshest herbs, spices and seasoning will not be found in a grocery store. By the time those bottles go through all the middlemen in the grocery industry chain, they are old and possibly sat in a very hot warehouse for a month or more. Buying from a company that specializes in spices is the very best place to get the freshest of herbs and spices.

How long spices last is a lot more complicated than a carton of milk. Taking the time to keep your herbs, spices and seasonings fresh will do wonders for the dishes you prepare at home. Since you're taking time to cook at home, buy smart and store them properly. This will guarantee your herbs and spices are very flavorful and potent for several years.

Here's a guideline that will help you determine if it's time to toss those old spices in the garbage can and order new herbs and spices. We’ve summed it up with salt, pepper, dried herbs, whole spices and seasoning blends.

  1. Salt can be kept indefinitely when properly stored. It doesn't matter whether it's pink Himalayan, Mediterranean Sea salt, or old school iodized. Keep it dry, cool and away from moisture because salt absorbs moisture.
  2. Peppercorns are good for 4-5 years but once they are ground that changes to 2-3 years. Avoid storing near heat, moisture and sunlight.
  3. Dried Herb Leaves like bay, basil, thyme and oregano can last from 4-5 years. Once they are ground, 2-3 years. Keep them cool and dry.
  4. Whole Spices like cinnamon, turmeric, and pepper are good for 4-5 years. Store in cool and dry place away from sunlight.
  5. Seasoning blends are a combination of herbs and spices, ground or whole. Their shelf life is 2-3 years. Please keep away from sunlight, heat and moisture when storing to maintain potency.

Seasonest's Seasoning Blends

Our products fall under seasoning blends because they are mixed with herbs, spices and usually salt or pepper. The expiration date included on our bottle is set for 24 months from the day we made the product. We manufacture all of our blends in-house using small batches. This done is to ensure we're providing the freshest flavor possible to our customers. 

Do spices go bad? No. Do spices lose their potency? Yes. So, if you haven't ordered in a while, it may be time for "out with the old" seasoning and "in with the new", fresher ones. 

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