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May 8, 2007 03:05 PM

Expiration date for spices

I must have alot of time on my hands if I'm finally getting around to thinking about this! I mostly try to use the more common seasonings from my herb garden, but I have 20+ spices in my pantry that I've had anywhere from 5-10 years; curry, tumeric, paprika, allspice, creme of tartar, etc. I know McCormick's encourages you to replace every 2-3 years depending on whether it's ground, whole, etc., but I'm loathe to believe this at I assume it's smart marketing.

When I smell these spices they seem to have retained their aroma and I'm nervous to toss against the day when I'll have to run out mid-recipe to replace something.

If you suggest I replace, does anyone have an opinion as where best to buy. I've bought good sized bags of spices before at ethnic markets for a fraction of what I'd pay for McCormick. Thanks so much.

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  1. If you are really into spices, check San Francisco Herb and Spice Co.

    I freeze most of my herbs and spices, and they last for years. The best bet is to share your order with some friends. SF Herb has a minimum for orders, but I never have problems finding takers. Most herbs/spices come in one pound packages

    1. I think it depends a bit on the spice, but I have certainly noticed spices becoming less intense over time. For example, I made cookies with the last of one jar of powdered ginger (probably about a year and a half old) and then shortly after with the same amount of ginger (even from the same source as the first jar) and they were very noticably spicier. I would guess you would notice more intense flavors from your dishes if you replaced them. I get most of my spices from Penzeys ( You can get almost anything in 1/4c or bigger sizes (I like the small sizes since I have a tiny kitchen and do not have much room for extras either on the shelf or in the freezer). The prices are likely not as inexpensive as an ethnic market, but they are better than the grocery store and I think they are pretty good in quality.

      1. In my understanding, spices don't really 'go bad' as in spoiling, but over time just lose potency. Depending on the spice, you can simply use more or gently toast to revive.

        1. I think it depends on how much you want to get out of your spices. For example, last weekend I went to Penzeys to buy paprika. After smelling the spice in the store, I realized that it had been so long since I bought paprika that I had forgotten what it really smelled like. Will the spices in the cabinet gone bad in the sense that anyone will get sick? I doubt it. But will it make a difference in your food if you refresh your spices more often, I think so.

          3 Replies
          1. re: bonmann

            I go to a whole sale place in fresno to get my spices (smart-and-final) I know how
            you feel about the age thing. I recently moved and I went thorough my spices and I was
            shocked at some of the dates that were on them, I tosted them out. and I only replace
            the more common ones, then I will get a new one when I make a new recipe.

            1. re: bigjimbray

              Thanks for everyone's opinions. I think it's good advice to toss the antiques - many of which I bought for use once in a dish and haven't used since. And I'll look into more interesting sources than Von's for spices!

              1. re: mocro

                And another thing....I can't believe how inexpensive the SF Herb Co spices are. You could buy their larger sizes for the same price as the grocery and just give the rest away. Thanks for that suggestion.