Wondering how to store spices long term? Here’s your answer!
The world of spices is wide and incredible! There are so many spices out there – cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, star anise, the list goes on and on. Spices are an inexpensive ingredient that adds a ton of flavor and aroma to our dishes in the kitchen.
Growing up in an Indian household, there is no cooking without spices! Virtually every dish starts off with tempering spices in hot oil, allowing them to impart flavor to the dish right from the get-go.
Yes, spices add wonderful flavor to food, granted they’re still fresh and not stale. When we think of perishable foods, vegetables and fruits come to mind. And while spices have a long shelf life, they don’t last forever.
They, too, have an expiration date, beyond which they begin to lose their taste and aroma, thus, lending little flavor to the dishes you add them into. Spices do expire but if kept properly, they can last you a long time.
Here’s the best way to store spices long term.
How To Store Spices Long Term
1. Opt for whole spices whenever possible
Whole spices tend to last longer than ground spices. Ground spices typically last for around 1 year, whereas whole spices tend to last twice as long.
Instead of buying ground spices, you can buy whole spices and use a spice or coffee grinder to make ground spices as and when needed.
Alternatively, tempering whole spices in hot oil before adding aromatics like onions, garlic and chili is a great way to infuse flavor into your dishes.
If you don’t feel confident making ground spice mixes such as curry powder or garam masala at home, buy them in small batches, especially if you don’t use them often.
After the expiry date stated on the packaging, the ground spices may start to lose their taste and fragrance. Even if they look fine, they may not add much flavor to your dishes.
So depending on how frequently you use the spices, buy the right amount you need accordingly.
2. Keep your spices in an airtight container
Exposure to air can reduce the shelf life of your spices. Storing your spices in airtight jars or containers help to keep them fresh and flavorful for as long as possible.
Whether you use glass jars or metal containers for your spices, be sure to keep the lids tightly closed.
Personally, I like storing my spices in the traditional Indian anjarai petti or stainless steel spice box. It can store multiple spices (usually up to seven different spices), allowing for easy access when cooking.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to travel to India to get your hands on this traditional spice storage box. You can even find it on Amazon.
3. Keep your spices away from light and heat
When storing spices long term, it’s important to keep them away from direct sunlight and heat, as they can quicken the loss of flavor from your spices.
Avoid keeping your spice jars on windowsills or kitchen countertops, where they could be exposed to sunlight. Instead, store them in a drawer or cupboard, away from light.
Likewise, avoid storing your spices close to hot appliances such as your kitchen stove or oven. The dishwasher is another source of heat that people often overlook, so avoid keeping your spices close to the dishwasher as well.
A cupboard away from light and heat is the ideal place to store your spices to keep them fresh long term.
If you do want to store spices on the countertop for aesthetic reasons or near the stove for convenience, here’s what you can do.
Transfer small quantities of your spices into small jars and keep these jars at your preferred location. Refill these jars as and when they run out. This way, you don’t run the risk of a big batch of spices losing their flavor and aroma.
4. Keep moisture away from your spices
To keep your spices in good condition for a long time, you must keep moisture away from them. If you allow moisture to get into your spice jars, this can lead to the growth of mold, and you’ll have no choice but to throw them out.
To keep your spice jars moisture-free, always make sure to use a dry spoon for scooping out spices. If you’re using your hands, wipe them dry before putting them into your spice jars.
Also, avoid adding spices directly from jars or containers into pots over the stove. Doing this can cause steam from the hot pot to get trapped inside your spice jars. Instead, keep your jars at a distance and use a dry spoon to transfer the spices into the pot.
5. Keep track of expiry dates
When you buy spices, the packaging often specifies an expiry date. This date roughly tells us how long the spices stay fresh and aromatic. If you’re keeping your spices in the original packaging, be sure to keep an eye on this date.
A good way to organize your spices would be by expiry date. Keep the ones with the earliest expiry dates at the front, as a reminder to use them up soon.
If you transfer your spices to a different jar or container, use adhesive labels to jot down the expiry date, so you don’t forget.
If you have spices in your cupboard with no expiry date and you’re wondering whether you can still use them, check their appearance and smell. If the color or smell is off, it’s probably time to throw them out.
Other useful tips & tricks
Does Cinnamon Go Bad?
This appears to be a popular query on the Internet. Cinnamon is a warm, versatile spice that provides flavor to both sweet and savory dishes.
If you’ve used cinnamon for a recipe in the past and have a jar of it sitting in your cupboard, you may Google this question at some point.
So, does cinnamon go bad?
Well, spices don’t exactly go bad if stored properly. If kept away from light, heat, and moisture, and there are no bugs or mold on them, technically, you could still use them in your dishes.
However, after some time, spices lose their flavor, so although you could use them, you may not want to because they won’t enhance your dish.
For ground cinnamon, like other ground spices, the shelf life is around 1 year, if kept away from light, heat, and moisture. Before the one-year mark, if you notice clumps or mold growth due to trapped moisture, toss it out.
Cinnamon sticks tend to have a longer shelf life, over 2 years if stored properly. Instead of getting ground cinnamon, you could get cinnamon sticks and grate them into your dishes as needed.
The same principle applies to cinnamon sticks – keep away from the elements and take note of their expiry date. They may not go bad, but after a few years, they won’t be flavorful anymore.
More helpful how-to guides
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it better to store spices in glass or plastic?
Glass. Plastic containers can be porous and may allow small amounts of air inside, which will damage your spices. Using glass containers can extend the shelf life of your spices, so long as they are properly stored.
Can you store spices in Ziploc bags?
This is not recommended, as Ziploc bags are not completely airtight. Small amounts of air can seep into the bags, which will slowly damage your spices. Instead, store them in airtight glass containers.
Can spices be stored in metal containers?
Metal, usually stainless steel, containers (known as anjarai petti or Indian spice box) are traditionally used in Indian kitchens to organize and store various spices.
While they’re a good option for spice storage, keep in mind that metal conducts heat and exposure to heat can damage your spices, so you’ll want to keep this container far away from any heat sources.
What is the best container to store herbs and spices?
Glass containers are arguably the best containers to store spices. They are not porous, so air does not seep inside and damage your spices. Glass containers are also transparent, making it easy for you to identify the contents inside.
When stored properly, spices kept in glass containers can stay fresh and aromatic for up to 2 years.
How long can spices be stored?
Ground spices typically don’t last past 6 months. The best way to tell whether they’re still fresh or not is to give them a whiff. If the spices are no longer aromatic, then it’s probably time to toss them out.
Whole spices, meanwhile, can last for up to 2 years when stored properly away from heat, light, and moisture.
Is it good to keep spices in the freezer?
If you have purchased spices in bulk or on sale, you can preserve them for a longer time by storing them in the freezer. Store them in a freezer-safe airtight container to prevent air and moisture, which can reduce the potency of your spices, from entering.
How do you store spices in bulk?
Store your spices in glass airtight containers in the cupboard or drawer, away from heat and light. Use a dry spoon when handling the spices, as exposure to moisture will cause lumpiness and damage your spices.
You can also store your spices in the freezer to preserve them for a longer time.
What is the best way to organize spices?
If you use multiple spices when cooking, a good way to organize them for easy use is using an anjarai petti or an Indian spice box, which has compartments for multiple spices. You can also store your spices in glass containers on a rotating spice rack, away from heat and light.
How do you keep bugs out of spices?
Before buying spices, check the best by date and examine the packaging. Look out for any possible tears or rips in the packaging that can let bugs inside. Once you bring them home, store the spices in airtight containers, so the bugs can’t gain entry.
Where is the best place to keep your spices?
It’s best to keep your spices in a cool dark area away from light and heat to prolong their shelf life. You can store them in your cabinet, drawer, or pantry. Avoid keeping them on the kitchen counter or close to the stove.
When stored properly, spices can last a long time and can be a very affordable way to add flavor to your dishes.
Just remember the golden rule – no light, heat, or moisture. Follow this rule and your spices will remain flavorful, and your dishes will sing!
If you’re new to Indian cooking and would like to learn more, check out the basics of Indian cooking for beginners, which walks you through the different spice combinations that you can use for various dishes. Have fun exploring the beautiful and aromatic world of spices!