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Sep 30, 2012 10:06 AM

Spice Shelf Life

In your opinion, what is the shelf life of varous items you may have on your spice shelf life.
Just moved back into our 2nd house. Have not been here for 8 months....and I'm going to guesstimate our last shopping trip was X months more....

What's your take on spice shelf life - just short of a lesser flavor.
Salt is forever ...
Whole spices - peppercorns, etc sould be okay.

Ground spices...2 years+.

What are immediates that you would chuck.

We don't really keep the fridge on when I'm away for such a long stint.
Not sure but the crushed peppers / paprika smell a bit rancid.....not planning to do a taste test.

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  1. Your nose is a good start.Put a tiny amount in the palm of your hand,rub to warm it up,then sniff.
    The faded too far shouldn't be hard to discern.

    1. I keep ours in the door of the freezer and they seem to stay fresh for much longer.

      1. Did I understand correctly that your ground spices are 2+ years old? If so, they're dust by now. That's why I buy mostly whole spices, but if I have to buy ground, get the smallest quantity available (often from the bulk bin, truly maybe a spoonful at a time) and if it goes flat, I'm not out much dinero.

        1. Let's make a distinction here between spices and herbs.
          If your whole spices are stored in air tight containers (and in a cool, dry, dark place) they can last several years. The palm rub/sniff test already mentioned is a good one. Let your nose guide your decision. The aroma should be strong but not necessarily overpowering. A very weak aroma means it's time to replace. Same test for herbs, but they'll last about half as long (perhaps 2 years) as whole spices. Under ideal conditions, you could push whole spices to four years and herbs to 3 years; again the palm rub/sniff test should be your guide.
          You can expect whole peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cumin, cardamon and nutmeg to last longer (I usually figure five years if they're sealed in air tight containers).
          Herbs and spices don't "go bad" but their flavors are a product of the oils they contain.
          I would advise avoiding the freezer for storing herbs and spices because every time you remove them from the freezer some amount of condensation occurs in the container .
          Remember, herbs and spices need to be kept dry. Even steam in the area of the stove can cause condensation inside an open herb/spice container; not a good thing.

          1. I usually stick to the "best before" date on the container (it's usually a couple of years)