During kitchen spring cleaning it’s common practice to discard old food that has passed its expiry. Dried spices are often left untouched as people think they last forever. For some spices this is partially true – they don’t go off in the sense that you’ll get sick. But left too long, spices lose their flavor, aroma, and color. Without those benefits, you may as well toss them out. In this article, we’ve pulled together a list of common spices and how long they last.
- On average, you can expect whole spices to last 1-3 years stored correctly.
- Ground spices and herbs will last for up to one year.
- Most fresh spices should be consumed in 1-2 weeks.
The expected life of 62 spices
|Allspice||Up to 3 years|
|Amchur||Under 12 months|
|Angelica seed||Up to 2 years|
|Anise seed||Up to 3 years|
|Annatto seed||Up to 3 years|
|Asafetida||Up to 1 year|
|Barberry||Up to 1 year|
|Bay leaf||Up to 3 years|
|Calamus||Up to 3 years|
|Candlenut||Up to 6 months|
|Caraway||Up to 3 years|
|Cardamom - Brown||Up to 3 years|
|Cardamom - Green||Up to 1 year|
|Celery seed||Up to 1 year|
|Chili||Up to 2 years|
|Cloves||Up to 3 years|
|Coriander seed||Up to 2 years|
|Cumin||Up to 3 years|
|Curry leaf||Up to 1 year|
|Dill seeds||Up to 3 years|
|Elderberry||Up to 3 years|
|Fennel seeds||Up to 3 years|
|Fenugreek||Up to 3 years|
|File powder||1-2 years|
|Garlic powder||Up to 3 years|
|Ginger||Up to 1 year|
|Grains of paradise||Up to 1 year|
|Horseradish powder||1-2 years|
|Licorice root||Up to 3 years|
|Mace||Up to 3 years|
|Mahlab||Up to 1 year|
|Mastic||More than 3 years|
|Mustard seeds||More than 3 years|
|Nigella||Up to 3 years|
|Nutmeg||More than 3 years|
|Nutmeg||More than 3 years|
|Pepper||Up to 3 years|
|Poppy seed||Under 1 year|
|Salt||More than 3 years|
|Sesame||Under 1 year|
|Spikenard||More than 3 years|
|Star anise||More than 3 years|
|Tonka bean||More than 3 years|
|Zedoary||More than 3 years|
Factors affecting a spice’s life expectancy
A spice will only stay fresh when stored correctly. For most spices, the best option is keeping them in a cool, dry location in an airtight container. Be sure to check out our in-depth article on how to store spices to get lots more tips and advice.
Even if they’re stored properly, remember that moisture can easily find its way into your spices when you’re using them. The biggest reasons are usually steam from pots and moisture from a spoon during scooping. So remember to shake spices into food away from the steaming pots and pans, and always use a dry utensil to scoop out spices.
How can you tell if a spice has expired?
Color is often a giveaway of your spice’s age. If they are supposed to be a vibrant red or orange and they’re a dull brown, its time to replace them. Also, rub some spice in your hand and take a sniff; if there is no fragrance then it’s time to let them go.
How to revive an old spice
Before you toss out spices that have gone bad, consider these tips.
- Try blooming the spice, which involves frying it in hot oil just before cooking. In some cases, the fragrance and flavor will be released by the heat.
- Another option for powders is to toast the spice in a pan on a medium-low heat without any oil. Stir continuously until you smell an aroma, then remove from the heat and return to the jar until needed. This is a good option for curry powder and spice blends.
There are many factors that affect the life of a spice such as air, temperature, packaging, and how they’re used during cooking. As a general rule, expect 1-3 years of life from whole spices, and up to one year for ground spices. Some ingredients that are high in oil may go rancid well before a year, such as sesame seeds. A simple smell test will let you know how they’re keeping.
When it comes time to toss out under-performing spices in the cabinet, the question is do you need to replace it? Some spices we simply don’t enjoy the taste of; maybe our most-used recipes don’t include it? If there is an ingredient that you aren’t using in your cooking, then why replace it? You are better to use the pantry space for something useful.