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Determining Whether Spices Are Still Good

Jars of common spices in the kitchen.

Almost every cook gets a full rack of prefilled spice jars at some point, but few use them all up. Here are tips for making sure that the herbs and spices you cook with are not too old to properly season your food. This is a guide about determining whether spices are still good.

     

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Tip: Shelf-Life Guidelines for Spices

Here are some general shelf-life guidelines for spices:

  • whole spices 3-4 years
  • ground spices 2-3 years
  • herbs 1-3 years
  • seasoning blends 1-2 years
  • extracts 4 years, except pure vanilla, which lasts indefinitely
Leaving your spices in their original containers will help, because you will have their expiration dates. If you prefer to transfer them to different containers, try putting the expiration date onto a small sticker that you can put on the new bottle. If there isn't an expiration date for some reason, make note of when you purchased the spice.

Tip: Determining if Spices are Still Good

If you find yourself debating on whether to use a spice that doesn't have an expiration date, try these methods to see if they are still good:

  • Look to see if the color is still vibrant. If the spice appears faded, there is a good chance the flavor has faded too.
  • Put a little of the spice in your hand and crush or rub it. If the aroma is no longer strong and the flavor is weak, it is time to buy a new one.
Here are a few tips to help keep your spices fresh and usable:
  • Always store herbs and spices in a tightly sealed container.
  • Keep them away from heat, moisture, and direct sunlight.
  • Remember to reseal the container immediately after use.
  • Use a dry measuring spoon and don't sprinkle spices over a steaming pot. This will help prevent caking, which is caused by moisture.

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