The exact answer to the question “How long do spices last?” depends on both the type of spice and the conditions under which they are stored. Spices, as seasoning makers like McCormick point out, do not actually spoil. But over time, spices will lose their potency and not flavor your food as intended.
So exactly how long do spices last? As a general rule, whole spices will stay fresh for about 4 years, ground spices for about 2 to 3 years and dried herbs for 1 to 3 years.
Here are some tips for maximizing the shelf life of spices:
• Store spices in a cool, dark cupboard, away from direct heat or sunlight; keep tightly closed when not in use.
• Spices and herbs bought in bulk will better retain flavor and potency if stored in containers with tight-fitting lids.
• How to tell if spices are still good? To test whether a spice or herb is still potent enough to be effective, rub or crush a small amount in your hand, then taste and smell it — if the aroma is weak and the flavor is not obvious, the herb or spice should be replaced.
Here, the shelf life of spices typically found in most kitchens:
• Ground Cinnamon: 3-4 years
• Ground Ginger: 3-4 years
• Bay Leaves, dried: 1-3 years
• Oregano Leaves, dried : 1-3 years
• Chili powder: 3-4 years
• Whole Nutmeg: 4 years
• Crushed Red Pepper: 2-3 years
• Black Peppercorns, whole: 4 years
• Salt: keeps indefinitely
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Our Keep It or Toss It database has shelf life information for dozens of additional spices and seasonings.