The Shelf Life of Spices | Reader's Digest

The Shelf Life of Spices

Follow these guidelines for proper dried-spice storage to ensure great tasting food.

By Cynthia Dermody from Reader's Digest | October 2004

Dried herbs and spices never go bad, so they won’t make you sick. But over time, their flavor fades.

Prolong the power of your seasonings by keeping them in a cool, dry, dark place away from heat. Red-colored spices like cayenne pepper and paprika are the exception. Pantry bugs such as meal moths and flour beetles like anything red, so store these spices in the fridge or freezer. When cooking, sprinkle the desired amount into a cup or spoon, not directly over the pot, which allows steam inside the bottle.

With proper storage, here’s how long you can expect spices to deliver flavor:

One to three years: Herbs like parsley, basil and oregano. (They lose flavor faster because more surface area is exposed, so flavorful oils dry up.)

Two to three years: Ground spices such as paprika, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Three to five years: Any whole spice, including peppercorns, cloves and cinnamon sticks.