Do Spices Expire? Shelf Life and When to Toss Them (2024)

Dried herbs and spices may last 1–4 years, but it depends on the type of spice and how it’s processed and stored. Generally, spices will lose their aroma and flavor potency over time.

Do Spices Expire? Shelf Life and When to Toss Them (1)Share on Pinterest

Many common spices and herbs, such as cloves, turmeric, rosemary, sage, and cinnamon, have demonstrated potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (2).

Whether you’re an amateur home cook or seasoned chef, you probably know that keeping a well-stocked spice cabinet is one of the secrets to leveling up the flavor of your dishes.

What you may not realize is that spices do more than just season your food — they can also help prevent spoilage and add a boost of color and health-promoting plant compounds to your dishes (1).

What’s more, early evidence suggests that frequently eating foods with spices and herbs may reduce your risk of complications associated with heart and respiratory diseases (2).

If you’ve been collecting herbs and spices for a while, you may be wondering whether they expire and when they should be replaced.

This article explores the shelf life of common dried herbs and spices, including how to tell when they’re ready to be tossed.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines spices as “aromatic vegetable substances, in the whole, broken, or ground form, whose significant function in food is seasoning rather than nutrition (3).”

In the culinary world, spices are seasonings made from a plant’s dried roots, bark, or stem, whereas herbs are the plant’s dried or fresh leaves.

When determining the shelf life of dried herbs and spices, variables to consider include their type, processing, and storage. For example, dried spices tend to last longer than dried herbs, and the more whole or less processed — seasoning is, the longer its shelf life.

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

  • basil
  • oregano
  • thyme
  • rosemary
  • bay leaves
  • dill
  • parsley
  • cilantro
  • mint
  • marjoram
  • sage

Ground, or powdered, spices typically have a shelf life of 2–3 years. Common 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 longest shelf life, as less of their surface area is exposed to air, light, and moisture. This allows them to retain their aromatic oils and flavor compounds longer than their ground counterparts.

If stored properly, whole spices can last up to 4 years. Examples include:

  • whole peppercorns
  • coriander
  • mustard seeds
  • fennel seeds
  • caraway seeds
  • cumin seeds
  • whole nutmeg
  • cloves
  • cinnamon sticks
  • whole dried chili peppers
  • lemongrass

Salt is the exception to the rule, as it can be used indefinitely regardless of its size and shape without spoiling or losing flavor. That said, if you’re using a seasoned salt, any accessory seasonings may lose their potency over time.


Dried herbs and spices last 1–4 years, depending on the type, level of processing, and storage.

Dried herbs and spices don’t truly expire or “go bad” in the traditional sense.

When a spice is said to have gone bad, it simply means that it has lost most of its flavor, potency, and color. Fortunately, consuming a spice that has gone bad is unlikely to make you sick.

Many store-bought spices list best-by dates, which indicate the time frame over which they’ll retain the most potent flavor and quality (4).

It’s still generally safe to consume dried herbs and spices that are past their prime, although they won’t add nearly as much flavor as their fresh counterparts.

If you’re unsure how long you’ve had your spices, you can tell whether they’re ready for a refresh by inspecting their scent and flavor. Crush or rub a small amount in the palm of your hand. If the scent is weak and the flavor is lackluster, it’s probably a good time to replace them.


Expired dried spices likely won’t make you sick, but they will lose most of their aroma and flavor over time.

Minimizing their exposure to air, heat, light, and moisture is key to maximizing the shelf life of your herbs and spices, which can help you reduce waste and save money on buying new products.

Although storing spices in clear containers next to your stove may be convenient and aesthetically pleasing, it’s not a great way to preserve their potency.

Instead, a cool, dry, and dark environment like a pantry, drawer, or cupboard positioned away from the stove or oven is a great spot to house your spice collection.

You’ll also want to ensure your spices are stored in tightly sealed, non-porous containers. Glass or ceramic containers are among the best options, as they’re easy to clean and do a great job of keeping air and moisture out.

Plastic containers are also a popular choice, but they aren’t typically as airtight and can absorb the colors and odors of different spices. This can make them more difficult to clean if you want to reuse them.

Stainless steel or tin containers are other viable options, but because metal is heat conductive, it’s even more important that they’re stored away from heat sources like your stovetop.

Although refrigeration isn’t required, red spices like paprika and cayenne pepper will retain their pigment longer if kept refrigerated. Similarly, storing seasonings that contain oil, such as sesame and poppy seeds, in the fridge can prevent them from becoming rancid.

Also, keep in mind that moisture can quickly degrade the flavor and texture of your spices, potentially causing them to cake or mold. If you notice mold in any of your spice containers, discard the product in question.

You can keep your spices dry by using a spoon to get them out of the container before adding them to steaming hot food rather than sprinkling them straight from their containers.


Dried herbs and spices will last the longest when stored away from air, light, heat, and moisture.

Herbs and spices play important roles in flavoring and preserving food.

Dried herbs and spices have relatively long shelf lives that range from 1–4 years, although the exact length of time varies depending on the type of spice and how it’s processed and stored.

Generally, spices that are past their prime aren’t dangerous to consume, but they will lose their aroma and flavor potency over time.

Always store your spices away from heat, light, air, and moisture to maximize their shelf life, reduce waste, and stretch your food budget further.

Do Spices Expire? Shelf Life and When to Toss Them (2024)


Do Spices Expire? Shelf Life and When to Toss Them? ›

Ground spices lose their freshness the quickest and typically don't last past six months. The best freshness test for ground spices is to give them a whiff — if they smell like nothing, then it's time to say goodbye. Whole spices, on the other hand, can be fine for up to five years.

Can you use spices 2 years out of date? ›

A: Spices and dried herbs do not spoil, but eventually they do lose some of their flavor. Stored as recommended, you can usually count on seeds and whole spices (such as cumin and dill seeds, whole cloves, cinnamon sticks and peppercorns) staying fresh for three or four years.

Should I throw out expired spices? ›

It's still generally safe to consume dried herbs and spices that are past their prime, although they won't add nearly as much flavor as their fresh counterparts. If you're unsure how long you've had your spices, you can tell whether they're ready for a refresh by inspecting their scent and flavor.

Are spices still good after 10 years? ›

Ground spices (like chili powder and paprika) typically last anywhere from six months to two years, while whole herb leaves (like parsley, oregano, and dill) will last you one to three years. If you have jars of whole spices (like allspice or peppercorns), they'll have a little longer of a lifespan.

How long is too long to keep spices? ›

Once you purchase spices, they will lose flavor (whether or not they're ground). You shouldn't keep ground spices for more than three months and whole spices for more than eight to ten.

What spices do not expire? ›

Salt is the only seasoning to retain its peak flavor indefinitely.

Can you use spices that are 5 years old? ›

Whole spices, on the other hand, can be fine for up to five years. To liven them up, toast them in a dry skillet and then grind them before using. You'll notice the flavor will be more pronounced than their untoasted counterparts. But if the whole spice looks faded, it may have seen its final days.

Can you get sick from out of date spices? ›

Good news: Cooking with expired seasonings won't make you sick — but it will leave your food tasting bland. Exposure to direct light, humidity and/or oxygen eventually causes dried spices to lose their essential oils, which means they'll also lose their vibrant flavor and color.

Do McCormick spices expire? ›

As with any other food, spices, herbs, seeds, and extracts will not last forever. Although older spices are not harmful, they will not add the flavor that you desire to your recipes. Regardless of the date on the bottle, once opened, the quality and flavor depend on how the seasoning is stored.

Does cinnamon expire? ›

The good news about spices is that they virtually last forever. It's rare, if not impossible, for a spice to go "bad." The biggest threat of time is that it causes spices to lose potency and flavor. Ground cinnamon that's three years old will not carry as much flavor as cinnamon that's only three months old.

How to tell if spices are still good? ›

The spice itself should be bright and fragrant. If it doesn't have any smell, it likely isn't strong enough to flavor your food. If stored in a cool, dark place, a spice should be OK to use as long as it holds its vibrant color, too.

Can you revive old spices? ›

You can revive them in just a few minutes to, if not their full former glory, something a lot closer. All you need to do to revive your spices is to toast them. This works particularly well with whole spices, like black pepper cloves and cumin seeds, but it'll help ground spices, too.

Does garlic powder expire? ›

Because garlic powder is incredibly versatile, you'll–of course–want to keep plenty on hand. Nonetheless, checking the expiration dates on these is critical. When stored properly, garlic powder should last for three to four years.

Does turmeric expire? ›

To store, keep in a cool dry place, and you can expect turmeric to keep for 18 months or even two or three years with little deterioration. Oh, and if you find yourself with turmeric stains on your hands, just rub them with some oil or salt.

Do ground cloves expire? ›

Clove. This potent spice has an impressive shelf life. Whole cloves will remain flavorful for up to five years, while ground cloves keep their potency for two to three years.

Do salt and pepper expire? ›

Salt can be kept indefinitely when properly stored. It doesn't matter whether it's pink Himalayan, Mediterranean Sea salt, or old school iodized. Keep it dry, cool and away from moisture because salt absorbs moisture. Peppercorns are good for 4-5 years but once they are ground that changes to 2-3 years.

What is the shelf life of old spice? ›

How long will Old Spice products last? When stored correctly, Old Spice products have a three-year shelf life. The product won't deteriorate for 36 months after being made.

How long can you keep McCormick spices? ›

While McCormick suggests replacing their ground spices every two to three years and whole spices every three to four, a jar of cinnamon from the '90s is well past its prime and should be tossed out immediately. Another easy way to tell your McCormick spices are several decades old?

Can spices be stored long term? ›

Ground spices and herbs leaves have a storage life of 2 to 3 years. Dried whole spices and herbs have a slightly longer storage life of 3 to 5 years with proper storage. By storing your spices in a cool, dark place, you will extend the life of the spices and herbs, maintaining their freshness for a longer period.

How long is paprika good for after the expiration date? ›

Although paprika does technically expire after two to four years, it is still completely safe for you to use it past the expiration date, per Prevention. When spices go bad, they simply lose their color, taste, and smell.

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