Does Spice Expire? 62 Spices Tested

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

SpiceExpected Life
Ajowan2-3 years
Akudjura2-3 years
Alexanders1 year
AllspiceUp to 3 years
AmchurUnder 12 months
Angelica seedUp to 2 years
Anise seedUp to 3 years
Annatto seedUp to 3 years
AsafetidaUp to 1 year
BarberryUp to 1 year
Bay leafUp to 3 years
Bergamot12-18 months
CalamusUp to 3 years
CandlenutUp to 6 months
CarawayUp to 3 years
Cardamom - BrownUp to 3 years
Cardamom - GreenUp to 1 year
Celery seedUp to 1 year
ChiliUp to 2 years
Cinnamon2-3 years
Cassia2-3 years
ClovesUp to 3 years
Coriander seedUp to 2 years
CuminUp to 3 years
Curry leafUp to 1 year
Dill seedsUp to 3 years
ElderberryUp to 3 years
Fennel seedsUp to 3 years
FenugreekUp to 3 years
File powder1-2 years
Galangal2-3 years
Garlic powderUp to 3 years
GingerUp to 1 year
Grains of paradiseUp to 1 year
Horseradish powder1-2 years
Juniper2-3 years
Kokam2-3 years
Licorice rootUp to 3 years
MaceUp to 3 years
MahlabUp to 1 year
Marjoram1-2 years
MasticMore than 3 years
Mustard seedsMore than 3 years
NigellaUp to 3 years
NutmegMore than 3 years
NutmegMore than 3 years
Oregano1-2 years
Paprika2-3 years
PepperUp to 3 years
Poppy seedUnder 1 year
Safflower1-2 years
Saffron2-3 years
SaltMore than 3 years
SesameUnder 1 year
SpikenardMore than 3 years
Star aniseMore than 3 years
Sumac1-2 years
Tonka beanMore than 3 years
Turmeric1-2 years
Vanilla1-2 years
Wattleseed2-3 years
ZedoaryMore 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.

Colorful spice piles on a bench.
Be wary of spices that have lost their vibrant color.

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.

Interesting reading:
How much spice to use in cooking
How to use spices in your next recipe

Summing up

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.

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