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Spice Expiration Dates and Storage Tips

Updated on July 3, 2011
Spices photo credit: turbotoddi @flickr
Spices photo credit: turbotoddi @flickr

When Do Spices Expire?

When do spices expire? Assuming you have no expiration date on the package and you are uncertain when you bought the spice, here are some suggestions to determine whether the seasonings are old or still good to use:

  • Consider the color. Do you find tha it is still vibrant, or has it faded? Outdated herbs and spices may lose their bright color as time passes. When it appears aged and faded, it almost certainly will be too stale to use.
  • Is the spice clumpy or has it become cake together? Odds are humidity got in the package and the quality is probably diminished. It is possible to separate the clumps and then use it anyway when the flavor remains fine (or you have no other choice).
  • Grind or rub the seasonings in between your fingertips. Is the scent robust as it ought to be? Is it weaker or moldy smelling? When the aroma has lost its punch, the herb or spice is probably too outdated to cook with. When it still smells okay (simply not as strong as it ought to) and you are in a pinch, just use more than the recipe normally requires`(it's important to taste to know how much).
  • Taste a little bit of the spice. You may be able to detect the staleness easily.

If you buy Durkee or McCormick brand spices, they have online sites that will help you determine if your spice has expired. McCormick usually has an expiration date on the actual spice bottle. Below are the links.

Spice Expiration Dates - How Long Can I Keep Spices?

How Long Do Herbs and Spices Last?

Seasonings don't normally ruin, however, they do lose potency. Here is a broad guide on how long to save herbs and spices:

Whole Spices: Whole herbs and spices will last much longer than ground spices. Whole spices that have a tough shell, like nutmeg, black peppercorns, and allspice will last even longer than other whole spices.

  • Whole seeds: 2-3 years
  • Whole leaves: 1-2 years
  • Roots: Up to 3 years

Ground Seasonings: Ground spices and herbs are more easily exposed to air, so they lose their taste quicker than whole spices.

  • Leaves or seeds: 1 year
  • Roots: 2 years

Spice and Herb Mixes: 1 or 2 years

Storage of Spices - How Do I Store Spices Correctly?

It really is popular to place spice shelves over the cooking area. However, the temperature has an adverse effect on the level of quality of the seasonings. This is not a good location to store spices and herbs.

Keep your spices and herbs in a cool, dry, dimly lit area. Keep spices away from sunlight, humidity, and heat. The heat will erode the flavor of spices. Moisture can encourage mold growth or cause clumping. This includes locations that are not only close to the stove, but also near a dishwasher or on top of the refrigerator.

Keep spices stored in airtight containers to keep their quality the longest. Close spice containers or jars tightly after use. Amber colored jars are perfect for storing spices. They keep out both the light and air.

The ideal storage temperature for spices is right at 70 degrees Fahrenheit, with no extreme temperature changes. If you store spices in the refrigerator, put them immediately back into the refrigerator after you use them. The abrupt change in temperature will cause mold to grow. Putting them back into the fridge quickly prevents mold from forming. It's actually recommended to refrigerate red spices or herbs, like paprika, cayenne pepper and chili powder to prevent color loss and taste.

Miscellaneous Spice Storage Tips

Always keep your seasonings dry. Never use a damp measuring scoop to dip straight into the container.

Also never keep the container close to vapors, like from a boiling pot, coffeemaker, or dishwasher.

When you purchase seasonings, mark each spice with the purchase date. This will allow you to figure out whether the seasonings remain all right to use or if they have become too old.

Cooking With Spices Tips

Dried spices tend to be more robust compared to fresh. When a recipe requires fresh herbs but you just have dried seasonings available, a broad guideline is to use 1/3 the total amount called for in the actual recipe.

To release the flavor when using dried herbs, rub them between your fingers before adding them to the recipe. Add them toward the middle of the cooking process. This keeps the flavors vibrant. Some spices, such as pepper, tend to get bitter if they are added too soon.

Add whole spices to a recipe during cooking to let the flavor meld with the rest of the ingredients. Tie them in a cheesecloth before adding. Or you can grind them when you need to use them.

Remember with spices, less is more! In other words, always add less than you think you may need. It is easy to add more seasoning later to a recipe if it needs more flavor. But it's impossible to remove a spice flavor if you've gone overboard and overpowered a recipe with a seasoning.

Spice Expiration Dates and Storage Tips Comments

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    • eventsyoudesign profile image


      8 years ago from Nashville, Tennessee

      I love to cook with fresh herbs they tend to be more powerful. You need less of the fresh herbs than dried in your recipe. I also add them at the end of my cooking time which enables them to retain their color and flavor better. Great tips in this article. I enjoyed reading it. Thanks for sharing. Teresa

    • Miss Paula profile image

      Miss Paula 

      8 years ago

      These where good tips,some of mine need to be tossed out now. Thanks for tips now i know which ones are bad.

    • crystolite profile image


      8 years ago from Houston TX

      Useful and educative hub,I've always ask myself how to really know the expiry dates of spices since most of them don't have their expiry date attached to it.But now I've come to the end of my question immediately am through with this article.

    • John B Badd profile image

      John B Badd 

      9 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      Good tips Angela, I know i have some old spices in my cabinent you have motivated me to clean them out.

    • GojiJuiceGoodness profile image


      9 years ago from Roanoke, Virginia

      Great info. We grow a lot of our spices/herbs, dry them & save them--sometimes for years. We usually keep them in the freezer. :)


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