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.
|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
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.
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.
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.