Open Accessibility Menu

Are Your Spices Expired? Here’s How to Tell

Are Your Spices Expired? Here’s How to Tell

It’s your turn to host a dinner party for your friends, and you decide to prepare a delicious Indian feast. But when you sit down to eat, the food tastes bland. Did the recipe let you down? Did you forget some key ingredients?

Quite possibly, your spices have expired. Spice is what gives food its characteristic flavor, and if it’s been a while since you last prepared a dish, the spices may have lost their zest.

Knowing When to Replace Spices

The simplest way to know when to replace a spice is by smelling it. The odor should be sharp and fresh. If it’s muted, the spice has probably been sitting around too long, and its flavor has degraded. That doesn’t mean it’s dangerous to eat, just that it won’t do its job effectively.

Sometimes you can achieve the same flavor effect by adding more than the recipe calls for. But if the spice has completely lost its characteristic odor, it’s definitely time to buy a replacement.

How Long Do Herbs and Spices Last?

If you’ve done the sniff test and are still not sure, here is how long you can generally expect different spices to stay potent:

  • Leafy herbs, like oregano and marjoram, last up to one year.
  • Ground spices — for instance, cloves and garum masala — last two or three years.
  • Whole spices, like peppercorns and nutmeg, can last up to four years.

It’s important to note that some herbs and spices have medicinal benefits as well as an offer flavor enhancement. The fresher these ingredients are, the more potent they will be. For that reason, you may want to write the date of purchase on the bottom of the spice jar as soon as you bring it home.

Are You Storing Your Spices in the Best Place?

Herbs and spices are sensitive to both heat and light, so if your spice rack sits in the full sun or is right above your stove, you’ll need to replace your spices more often.

The best place to store spices is in a dark place, away from the oven’s heat.

Storing spices in a rack that fits inside a kitchen drawer is a great way not only to keep them fresh but to be able to see all your spices at a glance.

Where to Find Affordable Spices When It’s Time to Restock

Sometimes spices from the store have been sitting there so long they’ve already lost some of their punch. On top of that, jarred spices can be quite expensive. If you don’t cook from scratch that often, this can really be a waste of money.

One solution to this problem is to shop for spices in bulk. Not only can you smell the spices yourself before bagging them; it’s often many times cheaper than purchasing a ready prepared container.

Another great way to purchase fresh herbs and spices for less is to seek out ethical food stores in your area. You can usually find a much better selection of spices at a price significantly cheaper than the big chain grocery stores.