What’s the shelf life of spices?

If you are like me, your spice cabinet/drawer overfloweth, the natural result of a large cookbook collection and an insatiable appetite to try new and different cuisines. You may have purchased a jar of spice for a particular recipe and the rest sits unused, patiently waiting until you find another recipe that calls for it. In this instance, patience is not a virtue: the longer the spice sits, the more its flavor begins to fade. How long is too long to wait? The McCormick company has the answer, letting us know when it’s time to replace your spices.

Naturally a spice company has a vested interest in getting us to buy more spices, but even if they have an ulterior motive, the advice they give is sound, and their rule of thumb guidelines are more generous than most. McCormick says ground spices like cumin and paprika can be good between 2 to 4 years if properly stored. Vanilla and salt last virtually forever, but everything else will lose a lot of flavor over time. Heat and light are the biggest problems your spices face – they will last longer in a cool drawer than on a sunny, hot shelf. Every time I get a new package of spices because I’m running out, I am amazed at how much more vibrant the new spice is, even if it’s only been few months since I purchased the older one.

In addition to providing these guidelines along with storage ideas, McCormick offers ways you can revive a spice that is less than fresh. Perhaps the best advice they provide is to give us encouragement to pitch that odd spice blend that we haven’t used in ages, noting that “all of us have a few jars that have been sitting in the pantry for over a decade. It’s okay to let these spices go.”

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One Comment

  • ktripson  on  August 17, 2021

    Trust your nose to tell you what’s still useful to flavor your food.

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