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Question: How long can you keep spices in your kitchen shelves? Do they ever go bad?

Answer: It’s not so much that the spices might “go bad” and make you sick in some way. It’s more likely that old spices just lose their flavor and potency. Although I will say that seeds can go rancid, so you definitely want to pay attention to how long you keep those sesame and poppy seeds.

First of all, spices need to be stored in a cool, dry, dark place – away from the heat of the stove or any moisture. Heat and light will actually rapidly affect the shelf life of spices. And don’t store them in the refrigerator either; the humidity can harm them as well.

So if you store your spices correctly:

  • Most ground herbs and spices keep their flavor about a year.
  • Whole spices, such as nutmeg and cinnamon sticks, are good up to three years if you keep them tightly closed.

What I’ve started doing is keeping a Sharpie pen in my spice drawer. When I buy a spice, I just write the date of my purchase on the jar. Otherwise, I tend to forget when I’ve bought them, and years fly by.

And in the end, if you have any question as to if they might have “gone bad,” toss them!

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Posted in: Cooking

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