Do Spices Expire?
Purchasing spices can be one of the most expensive parts of cooking, so you want to be sure that you get your money’s worth out of every last spice container before it expires.
Do spices expire? When do you throw them out? Here’s what you need to know about the shelf life of spices and how to get the most use out of each purchase!
How long do spices last?
Do spices expire? One thing that may surprise you is that there is no hard and fast answer to how long spices last. In general, once a spice has been ground or opened, it begins to lose flavor over time.
It’s recommended that you keep them in an airtight container in a cool, dark place like your pantry for best results. If stored properly, many spices can last for up to one year or longer.
However, if your spices do begin to lose their flavor before they’ve reached their use by date on the package, you can always re-infuse them with life by adding a little bit of heat and moisture back into them—by adding oil and tossing them in a pan on medium heat until they smell aromatic again.
How can you tell if a spice is bad?
Some spices are more delicate than others, but all spices go bad eventually. Some lose their flavors and colors when they’re exposed to heat or light, while others will grow mold or even rot.
So how can you tell if a spice is bad? The smell test is your best bet! To prevent spoilage, store your spices in airtight containers away from heat and light.
If you notice any changes in color, flavor, or texture (like clumping), it’s time to toss them out. You may also want to check for an expiration date on your spices—most have one printed right on the packaging.
What are the best practices for storing spices?
There are a few easy ways to tell if your spices have gone bad. First, they’ll be lighter in color than they were when you bought them; that’s because moisture is evaporating out of them.
Second, you might notice a change in their texture—they’ll feel softer or powdery on your fingertips. Lastly, you can use your nose to sniff out any foul play; as spices age, their scents fade away.
We recommend buying whole spices and grinding just what you need for each recipe. This will keep things fresh longer.
If you do buy pre-ground spices, transfer them into an airtight container right away and use within six months. Once opened, it’s best to store them in an opaque container in a cool place like your pantry (not fridge). The fridge actually makes herbs go stale faster!
When should you throw out old spices?
Do spices expire? Don’t be tempted to use old spices that have been hanging around for a long time. Your nose will probably tell you something is wrong, but it can be tricky to determine whether spices are still good.
If you aren’t sure about your spices’ shelf life, follow these steps for safe handling and storage: When you open a new spice package, write down when it was purchased on a sticker.
Place stickers on all your spice packages to help keep track of their freshness (unless they come with a use by date already printed on them).
Check your spices every few months and throw out any food product that has an off-odor or color change, or if some clumps have formed in the package.
Should you vacuum pack your spice jars or bottles?
You might be able to fit more spices in a drawer or cabinet if you vacuum-pack them. However, that doesn’t mean you should toss your spice jar into your handy dandy FoodSaver (do people still use those?) just yet. Remember, once a spice is opened, it starts to go stale—and when spices are old and stale, they don’t taste good.
Keeping spices fresh for longer requires storing them properly and not keeping them for too long after opening (or buying larger quantities so you only have to open what you need). Here are some tips for keeping your spices fresher longer
Why does this matter anyway? Why are my spices not lasting longer than they used to?
There are two main reasons why spices (and anything, really) don’t last as long as they used to. One is that food manufacturers have changed their manufacturing processes and use different types of preservatives to preserve food for longer. This means that your old spices will just not be able to stand up against all these new chemical additives.
The second reason, however, is much more concerning – it involves the common practice among spice companies of adding filler materials like sawdust and wood shavings during manufacturing, because it results in a lot less product being used. This is done without proper labeling so consumers don’t even know it’s happening!