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What Do Spices Expire?

Do Spices Expire Shelf Life and When to Toss Them

What Do Spices Expire?

Do spices expire? This question has been bugging me for a long time. It’s not so much about whether or not they will expire, but how long before they do. When to toss them and when to keep them is the question I pose to myself every time I go shopping for spices.

Spices do indeed expire. In fact, spices go bad much faster than foodstuffs that are not used often. When purchasing dried herbs or spices, the shelf life of the product is usually three to five years, depending on how it was stored when it was purchased. And spices do not always have to be bought fresh in order to have shelf life; many spices can be store bought and then just placed in a plastic airtight container, sealed and stored in the freezer for up to six months.

When purchasing spices, you may want to take into consideration the season in which the spices are purchased. Most spices will last from one to five years, but cumin may last up to ten years. The same holds true for cinnamon and cardamom. Anise oils may last for years if it is stored in an airing free area, like a cabinet. Lemon verbena is best stored in the refrigerator. Cilantro, coriander and tarragon are best left out at room temperature for as long as possible.

What does this all mean to us? First, we need to know how much use we are going to get out of the spices we purchase. If we are only going to use a few spices, they probably will not last very long. On the other hand, if we are looking to purchase a lot of spices, we should know the shelf life of each variety we purchase. This will help us to make educated decisions regarding purchases.

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Some spices do not have a shelf life of more than three years. Others, such as thyme, can have shelf lives of up to ten years. Knowing this information can help us to make better buying decisions when it comes to our future use.

Now that we have some understanding about what the answer to the question, “Do spices expire?” is, we can use that knowledge to our advantage. If we find a spice that we love, but it seems to be going bad before it actually does, we may want to hold on to it for an extra three years. On the other hand, if we find a spice that we know will go bad before it does, we can purchase it and use it up. Either way, we are ahead of the game and ahead of the grocery shopper!

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