How Long Do Spices Last?

How long do spices last? Most spices are plants that have been dried. Drying is a process to extract water in order to preserve foods (because no form of life can exist without water), thus thwarting the growth of bacteria. The shelf life of spices depends on the best before date and how the spices are stored. Spices alter the taste of foods and in different combinations recipes can be altered to brand new dishes.

So, how long do spices last? When properly stored, the shelf life of spices past their sell by date is ...

How Long Does Spices Last?

Spices Expiration Date

Spice Fresh Ground Dried Whole Extract
Past Date Past Date Past Date Past Date Past Date
Allspice lasts for -- 2-3 Years 2-3 Years -- --
Apple Pie Spice lasts -- 2-3 Years 2-3 Years -- --
Anise lasts for -- 2-3 Years 2-3 Years 3-4 Years 4-5 Years
Basil lasts for 5-7 Days 2-3 Years 2-3 Years 3-4 Years --
Bay Leaves last for 5-7 Days 2-3 Years 2-3 Years 3-4 Years --
Black Pepper lasts -- 2-3 Years 2-3 Years 5-6 Years --
Caraway Seeds last for -- 2-3 Years 2-3 Years -- --
Cardaman lasts for 5-7 Days 2-3 Years -- 2-3 Years --
Cayenne Pepper lasts for 5-7 Days 2-3 Years -- 2-3 Years --
Celery Seed lasts for 5-7 Days 2-3 Years 1-2 Years 2-3 Years --
Chevil lasts for 5-7 Days 2-3 Years -- 2-3 Years --
Chili Powder lasts for 2-3 Years -- 2-3 Years --
Chives last for 7-10 Days 2-3 Years -- 2-3 Years --
Cilantro lasts for 5-7 Days 2-3 Years 2-3 Years 4-5 Years --
Cinnamon lasts for -- 2-3 Years 2-3 years 4-5 Years --
Cloves last for 5-7 Days 2-3 Years 2-3 Years 4-5 Years --
Coriander lasts for 5-7 Days 2-3 Years -- 2-3 Years --
Cream of Tartar lasts for 5-7 Days 2-3 Years 2-3 Years -- --
Cumin lasts for -- 2-3 Years -- -- --
Curry lasts for 5-7 Days 2-3 Years 2-3 Years -- --
Dill lasts for 5-7 Days 2-3 Years -- 4-5 Years --
Fennel lasts for -- 2-3 Years 2-3 Years -- --
Garlic lasts for 4-6 Months 2-3 Years 2-3 Years -- --
Italian Seasoning lasts for -- 2-3 Years 2-3 Years -- --
Jalapenos last for 5-7 Days 2-3 Years 2-3 Years -- --
Jerk Seasoning lasts for 5-7 Days 2-3 Years 2-3 Years -- --
Lavender lasts for -- 2-3 Years 2-3 Years -- --
Lemon lasts for 4-5 Months 2-3 Years 2-3 Years -- 4-5 Years
Lemon Grass lasts for 5-7 Days 2-3 Years 2-3 Years -- --
Liquid Smoke lasts for -- -- -- -- 4-5 Years
Mace lasts for 5-7 Days 2-3 Years -- 2-3 Years --
Maple lasts for 5-7 Days 2-3 Years -- -- 3-4 Years
Marjoram lasts for 2-3 Years -- -- --
Mint lasts for 7-10 Days 1-3 Years 1-3 Years 2-4 Years 4-5 Years
Mustard lasts for 5-7 Days 2-3 Years 2-3 Years 4-5 Years --
Nutmeg lasts for -- 2-3 Years 2-3 years 4-5 Years --
Onions last for 5-7 Days 2-3 Years 2-3 Years -- --
Oranges last for 2-3 Months 1-3 Years 2-3 Years -- 4-5 Years
Oregano lasts for 5-7 Days 2-3 Years 2-3 Years -- --
Paprika lasts for -- 2-3 Years 2-3 Years 4-5 Years --
Parsley lasts for 5-7 Days 2-3 Years 2-3 Years -- --
Peppercorns last for -- 2-3 Years 2-3 Years 4-5 Years --
Pickling Spice lasts for -- 2-3 Years 2-3 Years -- --
Poppy Seeds last for -- 2-3 Years 2-3 Years 2-3 Years --
Poultry Seasoning lasts for -- 2-3 Years 2-3 Years -- --
Pumpkin Pie Spice lasts for -- 2-3 Years 2-3 Years -- --

Spices last the longest time if they are kept whole and then shaved when needed. Spices last for a longer period of time if they are stored in a dry environment. A cupboard near the stove is not a good idea since moisture from boiling water can find it's way into a container that is not completely air tight.

Although Martha Stewart (and probably most professional chefs) recommend using ground spices within 6 months, most home cooks do not use enough of most spices to warrant purchasing new ones every 6 months. If your spices are older (but not expired) you can use a little bit more to make up for the loss of potency.

But remember, spices, like a lot of other baking products, usually have a best before date and not an expiration date. Because of this distinction, you may safely use spices after the best before date has lapsed.

How to tell if Spices are bad, rotten or spoiled?

Practicing proper hygiene and food safety techniques will help prevent foodborne illness.

It is the texture and/or color of the spice that will change. A vibrant color generally means a vibrant taste, so if your spice has lost its vibrant color (or changed colors) then it has most likely also lost its flavor. If your spice started out green, chances are it will turn yellow or brown as the essential oils in the spice evaporate. If it started out bright red, it will most likely turn to a dark maroon when it is losing its flavor.

All spices manufactured with a "Schilling" label are at least 7 years old. All Schilling spices purchased in a tin (with the exception of black pepper) are at least 15 years old. Some people collect these tins, but the spices inside are not worth keeping! Likewise, if they were manufactured in Baltimore they are at least 15 years old.

The McCormick spice company started putting a best before date on their spices near the end of 2006. Prior to that they stamped a code on their product, such as the 8519CY code found on my parsley bottle. To find out what year the spice was produced you would add 5 to the first digit of the code, which in this case 8 + 5 = 13 and since we have not yet reached 2013, the spice was bottled in the year 2003 - explaining why the leaves of parsley are now a yellowish brown color!

Another factor effecting the shelf life of spices is if moisture has entered the container, the spice will become sticky or clump together and not be too good to use. For this reason, it is not good to shake your spice over your pot of steaming stew - instead shake it into a cup or use a dry spoon to retrieve your spice from the jar.

Another test to see if your spices have gone bad is to rub a bit of the spice into the palm of your hand. Take a sniff - nice spices have a nice aroma, so if you don't smell anything you won't get much flavor from using the spice.

If you have run out of the spice you need in a recipe, check our substitution page.

If you're debating between using fresh or dried herbs, check our fresh vs dried post.

Practicing proper hygiene and food safety discipline will help prevent food borne illness.

There are, of course, certain health risks associated with spoiled foods so always remember to practice food safety and enjoy your foods before their shelf life has expired!

How to store Spices to extend their shelf life?

The best way to store spices is in their original container or a similar airtight container in the pantry. For the shelf life of spices it makes little difference whether spices are opened or unopened, what is important is that they are tightly re-sealed immediately after each use. Spices that belong in the red pepper family (including paprika) will enjoy an extended shelf life (remain fresher and retain their red color longer) if stored in the refrigerator.

Freezing is not recommended for spices, but fresh herbs can be frozen.

A handy storage tip for fresh herbs: Wash the herbs and then cut them and place them into ice cube trays, then add a little bit of water (or broth or coffee, whichever you prefer). Once they are frozen, place them in labeled ziploc bags and put back in the freezer. Then just pop them into your favorite recipe whenever needed!

Some benefits of proper food storage include eating healthier, cutting food costs and helping the environment by avoiding waste.

How long are Spices good for when prepared in a dish?

How long do spices last? That depends. How long do eggs last? In general, spices will be the last expiring ingredients in any dish, but still only last as long as the quickest expiring ingredient when combined in a dish.

What are our shelf life resources?

In determining how long Spices lasts, our content incorporates research from multiple resources, including the United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Food & Drug Administration. In addition, we scoured the web for informative articles and reports related to food safety, food storage and the shelf life of Spices.

*An important note about expiration dates...

Although the Spices shelf life information on Eat By Date is generally reliable, please remember that individual cases will vary and that our advice should only be taken as an opinion and not a replacement for your health care professional. Please eat responsibly!

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