Do Spices Expire?

Whether you’re a novice home cook or seasoned chef, you surely know that having a well-stocked spice closet is one of the secrets to lifting up the flavor of your food.

What you may not realize is that spices do more than just season your food – they may also aid avoid spoilage and offer a boost of color and health-promoting plant chemicals to your recipes.

Many common spices and herbs, such as cloves, turmeric, rosemary, sage, and cinnamon, have exhibited powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities.

What’s more, early research suggests that often consuming foods containing spices and herbs may lessen your risk of difficulties related with heart and respiratory disorders.

If you’ve been gathering spices and herbs for a long, you may be wondering whether they expire and when they should be replenished. This article discusses the shelf life of common dried herbs and spices, including how to detect when they’re ready to be trashed.

Life Span of Basic Spices and Herbs

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) describes spices as “aromatic vegetable compounds, in the whole, fragmented, or dried seeds, whose significant role in food is seasoning rather than nourishment."

In the culinary industry, spices are seasonings produced from a plant’s dry roots, bark, or stems, while herbs are the plant’s fresh or dried leaves.

When calculating the shelf life of dry spices and herbs, elements to consider include their nature, processing, and storage. For instance, dry spices tend to remain longer than dried herbs, and more whole — or less treated — seasoning is, the greater its life span.

Dried herbs typically survive 1–3 years. Examples include:

  • Basil/Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Bay Leaves
  • Dill/Parsley
  • Cilantro/Mint
  • Marjoram
  • Sage

Ground or powdered spices usually have a life span of 2–3 years. Typical examples include:

  • Powdered Ginger/Garlic Powder
  • Ground Cinnamon/Chili Powder
  • Ground Turmeric/Ground Allspice
  • Ground Cardamom
  • Ground Paprika
  • Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • Seasoning Blends

Whole, or unground, spices have the greatest life span, as less of their surface is exposed to light, sun, and water. This permits them to keep their aromatic oils and flavor ingredients longer than their ground cousins.

If stored properly, entire spices can survive up to 4 years. These include:

  • Entire Peppercorns
  • Coriander/Mustard Seeds
  • Fennel Seeds
  • Caraway Seeds
  • Cumin Seeds
  • Entire Nutmeg Cloves
  • Cinnamon Sticks
  • Entire Fried Chili Peppers
  • Lemongrass

Salt is the exception to the norm, as it may be used endlessly regardless of its size or shape without spoiling or changing flavor. That said, if you’re using a seasoned salts, any supplementary seasonings may lose their strength over time.


Dried herbs and spices survive 1–4 years, based on the type, degree of preparation, and storage.

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