Does Spice Expire? 62 Spices Tested

During kitchen spring cleaning, it’s common practice to discard old food that has passed its expiry. This ritual may reveal unused spices buried in the back of the pantry, long forgotten.

The question then arises – do spices expire? In this article, we’ll explore the expiration of spices, how to store them correctly, and how to determine if they’re still usable.

Do spices expire?

Most expired spices don’t go bad, so you’re unlikely to get sick eating them. However, they will lose their flavor, aroma, and potency over time. The end result is bland tasting food, so it’s usually best to replace expired spice with fresh replacements.

  • 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

So how long do spices last? We’ve compiled a list of common spices to give you an indication of whether that old turmeric is ready for the bin.

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

Spices only stay fresh when stored correctly. It’s best to keep 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 more tips and advice.

Even if they’re stored properly, moisture can find its way into spices when you’re cooking. The biggest reasons are usually steam from pots and liquid from a spoon during scooping. Always shake spices into food away from steaming pots and pans and use a dry utensil to scoop.

How can you tell if a spice has expired?

Color is often a giveaway of your spice’s age. Vibrant red or orange powder that has turned dull brown should be replaced. You can also rub some seasoning in your hand and smell it; if there is no fragrance, then toss it out.

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

How to revive an old spice

Before you discard spices that have gone bad, consider these tips.

  • Try blooming the spice by frying it in hot oil just before cooking. In some cases, heat will release the fragrance and flavor.
  • Toast spice powders 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 hack 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

Spices lose their potency over time, but they are often safe to consume for several years past their expiration date. Many factors affect a spice’s life, like humidity, temperature, packaging, light, and treatment during cooking.

Generally, expect 1-3 years of life from commercially packaged whole spices and up to one year for ground spices. Proper storage and handling can help extend their shelf life.

Some ingredients 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.


Hot Topics

Related Articles