Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >
Apr 13, 2014 08:37 AM

Freshest spices in TO

After tiring of reading the golden rule of dry spices, I have finally taken that big step and put an alarm in my calendar to replace all of my dry spices once a year. I confess that I haven't done it as often as I should in the past, but the reason is I never know where to get the freshest spices. How do I know they're fresh, even though they're sealed? Many spices are packaged in that clear cello - I'm sure that doesn't keep the air out. I know there are several spice shops in Kensington. I just want some credible assurance which place is best and why. Thanking you in advance.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. House of Spice has always seemed a little iffy to me, and some others (eg Spice Trader) seem a little too over the top (and pricey).

    The best way to ensure freshness for the majority of herbs & spices is to take matters into your own hands.

    Buy and use fresh when in season of course, then buy herbs/spices later in their season to dry yourself. Pretty easy, very satisfying, and your dried herbs/spices will never be more than 6-7 months old !

    If you want to go rustic, leave some of your favorites (like oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage) hanging in the kitchen. Easy to access and they make things smell nice too.

    If you have a little space, sun, and dirt, you can even grow some yourself.

    Keep your old spice bottles to refill.

    BTW my little potted bay plant has done great this winter !

    6 Replies
    1. re: PoppiYYZ

      That's a great solution for herbs, but what about spices like cumin, cinnamon, paprika, etc.?

      1. re: Yongeman

        True. Somethings one must buy, especially good black pepper. For that, I have resorted to Kalustyan’s in NYC and Penzeys in Buffalo when visiting, plus Epices de Cru in Montreal for mail order. All top quality. Kalustyans is a shrine...

        I have had good success with drying fennel seed, coriander seed, and chili pepper however.

        If the OP has specific spices / mixes of particular interest (like Garam Marsala), there are specialty shops that would be the best option.

        1. re: PoppiYYZ

          Wow, Epices de Cru has a great website (, nice find PoppiYYZ!

          1. re: JonasBrand

            Don't thank me, I'm just passing forward the hard work of other CHers ! seeldee is the one to thank.

            More here :

            Their crazy good pepper is available through spicetrekkers. BTW, the Madagascar and Malabar are both far superior to the Tellicherry and Tellicherry Bold IMHO.

            DON'T get me going on pepper....

          2. re: PoppiYYZ

            I should have been more specific. I do grow my own herbs in the summer (basil, tarragon, chives, parsley, coriander, rosemary, thyme, sage, etc....). I was thinking more like Yongeman... the dry spices like cumin, paprika, chile, bay leaf, and even mixes like Garam Marsala... I've made my own blends in the past, but I'd rather focus my cooking energy elsewhere than custom blending spices. For my Middle Eastern spices I would go to Arz Bakery on Lawrence East... I'd prefer not to go different places for every type of cuisine... Was hoping for a one stop shop for most, and the bottles at Loblaws are not under consideration, but I figure everyone here understands that.

        2. re: PoppiYYZ

          I've always been happy with the spices from House of Spice in Kensington. They get their spices in bulk and repackage in the store. I like that they sell spices in various sized packages so you can buy a quantity that you will use. Nothing iffy about them - ive been shopping there since the late 1970's.

        3. I've always been very happy with everything I've gotten at BJ's Supermarket in Little India, at Gerrard and Coxwell (or close).

          You might not find certain specialty items, but for stuff within the culinary horizons of the Indian subcontinent, it's great, cheap, and always in stock.

          2 Replies
          1. re: trombasteve

            I've been to BJ's many times. They re-package many of their dry goods like nuts, dried beans, larger quantities of spices. I don't know why, but I've personally found grain beetles in a few re-packaged dry goods I've purchased at BJ's. I'm not sure how that works, and maybe they were isolated incidents, but I hesitate when something is re-packaged. When you're referring to BJ's, are you talking about their own brands (again, re-packaged) or the products they purchase directly? I've also been to a couple of other spice shops on Gerrard, but how can I tell if the spices (not herbs) are fresh??

            1. re: Moimoi

              Where BJ's spices are concerned, yes, I'm referring to the repacked spices in the centre aisle of the store, not the smaller and more commercially packaged stuff in the back left corner. I can't give you any answer on how to know whether or not they're fresh beyond that they certainly have a reasonable turnover, and all the spices I've bought there have been a clear step up from most ordinary sources.

          2. I don't think there's a way to know if the dry spices in cello packs are fresh until you open them at home. You could some always try to return them if you believe the spices you bought are stale.

            Are you grinding your spices at home, when possible (with cumin, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander seed, turmeric, etc)? I find that makes a big difference.

            I like the spices from Spice Trader. They're pricey, but I find they keep well in the metal tins, which can be refilled. I haven't been disappointed with any purchases. Compared to what I spend on other groceries, quality spices are a splurge that is relatively affordable. I wasn't impressed by the spices I've bought in Kensington.

            Some shops sell The Epicentre spices and blends. I bought some Aleppo pepper at a gift shop on Roncy near Hopgoods last month.

            I've kept some of my less-used spices well past the 3 year mark. There's no way for me to tell when most dry spices were harvested or dried, and I have no idea how long they've been stored before I bought them, so I'm not going to toss them automatically after they've been in my kitchen for one year. I toss spices when they're no longer fragrant, and I'll buy fresh spices when they star in a special dish, but I use up less fresh, year+ old spices in everyday cooking. And I sprinkle old cayenne on tulip shoots to keep the deer and other critters away.

            1. I would recommend Trupti Spices located in the Iqbal Foods plaza in East York.

              They grind everything fresh in the back and seem to be a wholesaler for many of the different Indian stores around the GTA.

              Highly recommended!


              2 Replies
              1. re: pakmode

                I love that Iqbal strip mall... Didn't know there was a spice shop there... The spices in the grocery store, while expansive, seem to look old... Again, not that I know how to judge, but the colours don't seem very vibrant... maybe it's just the lighting. I went to the site and they only showed 8 spices. Do they sell other spices than Indian? Does anyone have any preference for purchasing... e.g. cello or plastic bottle? I would say plastic, but just curious if anyone has any views on that.

                1. re: Moimoi

                  I should have mentioned that website design is not their specialty lol.

                  The last time I went there, they had plenty of fresh spices, and were grinding/milling stuff in the back too.