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Spice Jars

I'm hoping others can offer some inspiration when it comes to organizing my spices. Not the most fascinating topic, I know, but a practical one that needs to be addressed in my home. I live in a space limited condo, but need a system to organize the many spices I have. I've been looking for pretty air-tight containers (3 oz would be ideal) to store my spices in but to no avail. Has anyone seen any they can recommend? Does anyone have a great system of organizing the abundancde of spices in their homes?

Any tips and suggestions would be much appreciated!

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  1. hi! Penzy's sells jars that might work for you.

    I am looking to organize as well. Alphabetizing works for me. I tried separating sweet and savory, or grouping by type of cuisine, etc. but that never seemed to work.

    My husband takes the "taller jars in the back, short ones up front" approach. I have seen rotating spindle-type holders, and some other designs, but they always come with jars that are loaded with spices of questionable provenance that I don't need or want.
    Good luck. I am looking forward to seeing some good ideas in response to your question.

    1. Second alphabetizing. I have one of those vertical elfa racks with modular clip-on baskets that hold spices, and it's the best spice rack type solution I've seen.

      Most of my spices are in similar sized jars already, but you can buy pretty good containers at stores like the Container Store if there's one near you.

      1. I agree on the Penzey's jars. I have tons and tons of spices, and their jars come in all sizes and widths, including shaker tops. I prefer larger containers for frequently used spices and keep them together.

        I have attached six shallow shelves to the back of my pantry closet for spices. Elfa basket types that attach with a discrete over-the-door hook. I can add more if needed. All found at the Container Store.

        1. How space limited? You could borrow an idea from Alton Brown (who I'm sure wasn't the first) and use magnetic jars. You could put them up either decoratively (http://www.myaimistrue.com/archives/2...) or by putting the magnetic strips inside cabinet doors like Mr. Brown does.

          In my own kitchen, I purchased a stainless steel bar and two hanging spice racks from Ikea that I mounted to a wall.

          1. How much do those empty jars cost at Penzy's or Container Store and/or similar places? When I had this same issue I refused to spend ridiculous amounts to get a bunch of empty jars and wound up buying a case of water in small wide-mouth bottles and using those. But I'm cheap.

            Look around your grocery or other places--you might find something you can use sold in jars that are the right size, so buy that and save yourself some money. OTOH, if you plan to keep them out, and as you say they need to look pretty, you might have to spring for something more costly.

            2 Replies
            1. re: johnb

              I was on a POM Tea kick for a while and collected their glasses. (A market in my area sells them for $2.48 each, but I have seen them priced at $3.99.)

              The jars/glasses are tall and do not have a wide footprint. For me, they make a good, inexpensive storage container for larger amounts of spices, small portions of dried pasta or dried beans.

              1. re: johnb

                $1.19 to $1.59 for most, $2.29 for a 32 oz. size. Black plastic lid is utilitarian, but it does come with several labels and in shaker and wide-mouth varieties. They are really not expensive and you have the flexiblity to choose different sizes. There are tons of other options out there, as other posters have pointed out, but you can always find these and they all look similar, so if looks are somewhat important, this may be one possible answer. I just happen to be ordering on line anyway, so I buy jars while I am at it.

                I just hope you air dried those water bottles for a long time :) Novel idea though -- good for travel to the beach house, I suppose.

              2. World Market. You can get a pretty nice one for $1. I got the ones with various shaker hole sizes, $4 for a package (4 bottles). Works very well for me. You can get fairly sturdy air-tight ones there as well.

                1. Personally, I believe in keeping spices away from light and heat, as those are their enemies in terms of longevity. But as a longtime sufferer of space-challenged kitchens, I empathize. If pretty and airtight are your concerns, Ikea sells four-packs of nicely shaped spice jars with silver lids in just the size you want that I quite like. Penzey's jars are excellent, but their black plastic lids don't have quite the same panache...

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                    Most of my spices are from bins, at Whole Foods, Rainbow, etc..so I have some store bought jars mixed with some old commercial jars, Shilling, etc.. I have a wall spice cabinet with three shelves (Target years ago) and an additional shelf with a dish towel hanger, on the wall below that. I still need more room as the little jars seem to multiply. I tried alphabetizing them when I got the cabinet and the shelf - need I tell you how long that lasted - until the first or second time I pulled a jar out to use. I have way too many jars for the cabinet and the shelf, so everything is just sort of there with no way of knowing what is where at a glance. IF I had the wall space, I would try to get another cabinet just like it.

                    Collect or save your old commercial little jars and ask friends or co-workers not to throw them out. You can remove the old labels and put your own labels on them. They work well and are free.

                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                      I just checked and Target has in their stores, my unit for $48.39 (?), Classic Wall Cabinet. There are two glass doors covering the two shelves, one open shelf on the bottom and two nice sized little drawers. They also have one for $32 something that is exactly the same without the doors.

                    2. I have two and a half drawers allocated to spices, and I do have a small kitchen. This way they are out of heat and light. I have saved commercial jars over the years and just reuse them. I might buy the spices in a plastic baggie or oversized jug, but I transfer them into my jars and find a convenient place to store the extra. For some spices I store the extra in the freezer. Since my jars are fairly uniform, I am able to lay them on their backs with the labels facing up in rows in the drawer. I have them by types/uses. The Indian is together and runs into the aromatic things like cloves which run into the herb and French stuff. My garlic sits on top of the spices and I just shove it aside as needed. My most used stuff is in the first row. I have the things like cayenne, red pepper flakes, guajillo, ancho, paprika, etc. all in the same place. Also, I keep ground separate from whole/seeds. So fennel and sesame seeds and mustard and caraway are all together because I keep those in whole form.

                      My spice life just got more complicated because I now have whole nutmeg instead of ground. I'm not sure where I'll put that. Probably where I used to have nutmeg, with all those aromatic things like cloves and cinnamon.

                      The drawers are right under my only main counter space, so they are right at hand when I make marinades and mix stuff up. It is outrageously convenient. My dedicated spice grinder is on that counter, of course.

                      Oh, I just realized that I also have a lower drawer with whole chiles and shitakes and the like, each in their own package. I also have a few infrequently used spices down there, like whole cardamom. If I store a spare kitchen towel there, it comes out of the drawer smelling like heaven.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: saltwater

                        I have a whole bunch of spices, too, but not nearly enough drawer space. I bought a couple of those ledge shelves (they kinda look like inverted crown moulding) from Pottery Barn, I think. They're wide enough to hold three rows of 3-oz tall spice jars, labeled on top w/china marker written on the metal lids. I mounted them on the wall near the stove.

                        1. re: saltwater

                          I keep my whole nutmeg in one of the little metal graters, in the bottom compartment. They are inexpensive and handy and I hang it on a nail in the door of my dish cupboard. Great on hot chocolate.

                          1. re: Canthespam

                            A grater with a compartment. I don't know what that is. Do you have a picture? I don't think you mean a rotary cheese grater...

                            1. re: saltwater

                              For a picture, check the below Amazon link below. The Norpro is the one like mine - it is a very common design - I've had mine for over 20 years. Mine has a hole in on the top that I use to hang it on a nail. Try to find one with a hole, it is easier and much more convenient top use and to find - than if it is just thrown in a drawer. They are only a few dollars and can be bought in any kitchenware store - Bed, Bath etc.. I made a mistake, the little compartment is on the top of the grater - a little door flaps up and there is space to store the whole nutmeg. You should have no trouble finding one.


                            2. re: Canthespam

                              I've been using the William Bounds nutmeg mill for about thirty years now. Has room under the plastic dome to store about six whole nutmegs. It shaves, as opposed to grates, and works great! You can see it here: http://tinyurl.com/2hb6wb

                              1. re: Caroline1

                                Caroline1, how do the shavings work in recipes that call for ground/grated nutmeg? Do you do a direct substitution or something else? Say, if I were to make Swedish meatballs, would I need to further mince it after shaving?

                                1. re: saltwater

                                  Not at all. The base of the mill has a blade that "shaves" the whole nutmeg. It is the nature of nutmeg to crumble when it is shaved off. I used to have a nutmeg grater years ago, but bought this when I got tired of grating my knuckles. Can't say that I've ever noticed any difference in the shaved nutmeg as opposed to the grated nutmeg. Well, other than healthier knuckles. '-)

                          2. I saw a long thread on GardenWeb on this recently: http://ths.gardenweb.com/forums/load/... . You might find some of the solutions there helpful.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: razkolnikov

                              Terrific, thanks for passing this along razkolnikov! I've picked up some great ideas.

                              And thanks to everyone for their comments/suggestions!

                            2. I have many glass jars from Penzeys as I tend to now buy all my spices in the smallest bag, but I also use RX medicine bottles from the pharmacy for spices that I grind at home. They are air-tight and the the colored plastic helps diffuse sunlight.

                              Baby food jars also work well to store large whole spices.

                              1. For spice jars, I just use Schilling's, McCormick, and Spice Island jars that spices come in then refill them with bulk spices from good suppliers. The jars are a good size. I did try store-bought cylendrical jars once but didn't like them. For me, the critical thing was where to store them all. I've talked about it before, and I'm in the process of replacing it (if the carpenter ever shows up when promised!), but years ago I built a spice rack out of 1"x4"s. Through the years it has hung on wall, on the back of doors, anyplace I could work it in. Here's a picture. I'll be replacing it with one that holds about four times as many spices and such. It will be nice to get them all in one place again! Oh, and I alphabetize.

                                1. I bit the bullet and replaced all my spices (many that were years old) with new ones from Dean and DeLuca... mostly because I liked the tins they came in. I now refill with local purchases. I keep them all on a 2-level lazy susan.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: firecooked

                                    If you live in an older home and don't use you built in ironing board - remove the ironing board and put in small shelves. This cabinet makes a great spice rack and hold lots of little jars. Unfortunately I do use the ironing board, in fact I hunted one down at a salvage yard and had it installed when I remodeled my kitchen years ago, but I would love to use it for spices, but I don't want to part with the ironing board. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

                                    1. re: Canthespam

                                      I've seen new built in ironing boards on the web. Williams Sonoma maybe? If you can install a new one somewhere else, you've got a GREAT spice rack!

                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                        I'm sure that I could find another old (or new) ironing built in ironing board, but I have absolutely no available wall space in my kitchen to install it.

                                  2. I finally broke down and bought enough spice jars for almost everything at World Market. Transferred all spices into them (exceptions follow), made uniform labels with one of those labeling machines from an office supply, and organized alphabetically. I used a couple of those stair step shelves (Wal-Mart has them) to keep everything visible. Yes, I had to clean out the bottom of a wide cabinet to accomodate the jars, but it's been well worth it. My exceptions to the small jars are onion powder, garlic powder, and seasoned salt. I use tall glass shakers for those.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: rexsreine

                                      I cook a lot. And I store my spices in the bottles that Starbucks coffe has come in. Someday I might get around to painting the tops...
                                      I have a Brother's Label maker and use it on the spice jars, different cannisters for different flours,etc.
                                      My baking spices sit on lazy susan's above the baking area. My cooking spices fit on a hanging rack to the right of the cook top. And the few spices I use often both places ...I have duplicates.

                                    2. Lately, I've been using Ball canning jars in various sizes for pantry storage for items such as rice, spices, beans, dried chiles, etc. Their "Quilted Crystal Jelly Jars" come in a 4-ounce size and you can get a box of 12 jars for under $10 in many supermarkets. Also, if you don't like the two-piece canning lids that come with the jars, you can purchase plastic lids separately.

                                      1. I bought these wonderful square-sided spice jars with a pretty metallic green top from Frontier (http://www.frontiercoop.com/prdDisp.p...). I store all of my spices in plastic shoeboxes, so these jars are great because they nestle right up against each other and use all of the space in the shoebox effectively. I write the name of the spice on the lid with a Sharpie and several years later the names haven't worn off. I have three or four spice boxes and the spices are somewhat grouped--one for the 'baking' spices, two for every day spices (those never stay sorted in any kind of order), and one for little-used spices. It's great to be able to take the whole shoebox out and put it on the counter when making a recipe that calls for lots of different things--keeps everything neat and tidy.

                                        1. I'm reopening this old thread so we can all weep with jealousy together. Here's the "spice and herb rack" at El Bulli restaurant in Spain.


                                          You may have to click "Continue Gallery," depending on how the link opens. anyway, wouldn't it be nice?

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                            Lovely, except that the lighting troubles me: aren't you supposed to store most spices out of direct light for best flavors? Even El Bulli can't be using ALL of those items every day, so some of that stuff is going to be exposed to light repeatedly. Unless it's just decor, and it's not really functional.

                                            1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                              There are ways you can limit, if not totally block, any damage light may cause the spices, but... it ain't cheap! Thing like UV shields and lcd lighing, and filter panels. You just need a really knowledgeable lighting expert to set up the system for you.


                                              On closer looke, those shelves aren't open all the time. They fold up from the bottom, and I'm sure the lights go off when the cabinet is closed. Pretty spiffy!