It’s not hard to know when your milk, meat and produce have gone bad, but spices are hard items to tell. Do spices expire? Is that chili powder you bought 6 years ago just as good as the day you bought it? The short answer is — not really. While spices can’t really spoil or “go bad” they definitely lose their flavor and potency over the years, so it’s best to refresh your spice rack often so that your cooking doesn’t suffer for lack of delicious, essential spices.
How Can You Tell If a Spice is Bad?
Ground or powdered spices like powdered ginger, garlic powder, ground cinnamon and chili powder generally have a shelf life of around 2 to 3 years, while whole spices like whole peppercorns, coriander and mustard seeds can last up to 4 years if stored correctly. If you can’t remember when you purchased your spices, use your senses. Open up and smell your spices, do they still have a strong odor? Is the color faded a bit? Does it feel like it’s clumped up in some spaces? If you think a spice has gone bad, it probably has, and it's better to replace them than try and use them when they’ve lost all their flavor.
Can a Spice Be Saved?
If you absolutely can’t get to a store right away, you can revive some spicier spices like curry powder or 5 spice blend by dumping them onto a dry frying pan at a low heat and stirring until you can notice their smell increasing in pungency. Once the spices have cooled you can re-store and use a few more times until they’ve completely lost flavor. You can also fry spices like coriander or cumin in hot oil to release their flavors and maximize their lifespan. You can even turn your old spices into a fragrant potpourri adding in complementary spices and dried flowers in a loose bag or bowl.
Stay Spicy with These Techniques
Use your spices to their ultimate potential by thinking ahead. Buy spices in small quantities and use as needed so you don’t have to worry about them losing flavor. You can even make your own homemade spices like our homemade pumpkin spice recipe so you don’t feel like you’re wasting spices you might not often use. Most importantly, be sure you store your essential spices correctly in airtight containers away from light and moisture. It also helps to label your spices with the date you purchased them so you can know at a glance which need to be replaced.
Use Your New & Refreshed Spices in These Recipes