How to store spices and reuse expired spices
Do you have a stock of old or expired spices and herbs that you are not sure whether to throw away or can still use? This post shares everything you need to know about stale spices, how to store spices properly and different possibilities to reuse spices if they go bad.
I am almost certain that there is no kitchen, that has at least one or two stale or expired spices lying in the drawers!
A common question asked during my cooking classes is ‘Do Spices Expire?’
Is it a common practice to go on a buying spree after reading a yummy easy recipe and buy packs or bottles of spices and herbs for making that one dish!!
After the initial few attempts of using those spices, they land in the back of your kitchen cabinets losing their flavour and freshness!!
Spices, especially if you have too many tend to take a back seat as you may have used them to follow a recipe step by step but are now unsure about how to reuse them to make other dishes or may have just forgotten about them.
So do spices expire if you do not use them ? If yes, how do you tell if spices have gone bad, should you throw expired spices or is there anyway to reuse them without wasting?
We will discuss each of these in the sections below.
How Long Does Spices Last For?
The question is ‘do spices, herbs and seasonings go bad and do they have an expiry date?‘
In an ideal culinary world the answer is a straightforward YES, spices do have an expiry date and if unused for a long time they do go bad.
You will have seen an expiry date on seasoning packs. They are there for a reason and the reason is to tell you by when should you be using your dried spices.
However, in the real world spices theoretically do not go bad as other food products such as fresh veges, fruits or milk.
You are unlikely to see a mold grow on spices even if left for years.
But what happens over time is that spices start to loose their potency, freshness and oomph factor the longer you keep hold. By around 3 years you will need to replace them.
This comprehensive chart lists the optimum shelf life of spices for you to refer to.
Dried spices and seasoning do expire, but not in a visually clear way, rather more from the flavour aspect.
This means that if you add old spices or seasonings to your dishes to add flavour, it is not going to help you much.
Spices are not everlasting, they tend to get old and tired.
How To Make Spices Last Longer ?
Although, spices tend to loose their flavour and potency overtime, there are ways on how to retain the freshness of out-of-date spices.
These tips are simple solutions to avoid keeping them for long and how to store spices in the kitchen cabinets.
- Whenever possible buy whole spices
Whole spices exposes less surface area which means that they tend to retain the natural oils for a longer time as compared to ground spices.
If you intend to grind the spices into powder, you will need a good quality spice grinder. I recommend this 2 in 1 coffee and spice grinder from Wghz.
You can buy whole cumin seeds, whole coriander seeds, whole cardamoms etc and grind them into small batches of powder and use them when needed.
- Buy small packs
If grinding whole spices is not your thing then I highly suggest buying small packs or jars that you are almost certain that you will get around finishing.
Larger packs tend to be more cost effective but would you rather buy small and finish or buy more and waste?!
- Store spices properly
If you have been buying packs and keeping them on an open shelf or counter top you are already reducing their lifetime.
Spices have volatile oils that escapes each time you open a pack or jar or if not properly stored.
Transfer spices that come in plastic packs to an airtight container. Or tightly close the mouth of the plastic bag with a rubber band or food clips to minimize exposure to air.
All spices must be stored in an airtight container and kept away from direct light in a relatively cool dark dry place for longer freshness.
If you stay in a humid country then pack them tightly and keep spices in the fridge away from other foods. The fridge door panel may be a good idea.
I personally love the fancy decorative spice racks but sadly they do little good to the content itself as most spice racks are kept in the open surface.
Check the best place to keep the rack in your kitchen, before you buy.
How To Reuse Old Spices
I am assuming that the above tips to make spices last for long are for your future buys.
So what do you do with the old spices that you already have?
Here are few tips on how to revive stale spices, before you are sure that they have reached the end of their culinary journey and it may be a good idea to toss them or re-purpose them for other use.
- Revive Stale Spices
If you have old whole or ground spices, then check if you can bring some life back into them.
Heat a flat pan and gently warm up the spices stirring continuously to that the spices get evenly heated for a maximum of 3 minutes. Remove and cool to check if the aroma is heightened. Once cooled transfer to an airtight container and store and use as soon as possible.
- Introduce Heat
You can also layer the spices on a sheet pan tray and warm it up on a low heated ( 50 degrees F) oven. Stir once or twice mid way through heating. Do not heat it more than 8 minutes.
- Mix With Other Spices
If the spices have a certain degree of aroma, you can mix them with other fresher or new spices and herbs and make your own homemade spice blend.
In doing so, you will benefit from the freshness of the new spices while the less aromatic stale spices will lend some taste.
- Use in Broths, Soups, Stews or Casseroles
Throw in old spices when boiling plain liquid such as while making veg, chicken or fish broth. This will make the broth more interesting as well as use your stale spices.
You can also do the same if making casseroles, soups or stews that do not require any specific flavour or is a mish mash of assorted vegetables.
- Repurpose Very Old And Expired Spices
If the spices are very old, beyond revival or has passed the expiry date for more than a year, then is it best to find an alternative use of them before you decide to toss old spices.
The use of spices and herbs is to add flavour to your food. But if left for too long they will gradually start to loose their potency and freshness.
Even though it seems like they should last forever, spices do expire and can turn rancid.
A test conducted by the Food and Drug Administration researchers found that about 7% of spices were contaminated with salmonella, this means that you should be using spices ideally within a year from the date of purchase.
There are simple tips to refresh and revive stale spices and reuse them after the expiry date.
However buying whole spices and grinding them to make fresh powder is one of the best ways to make spices last longer.
Go through your spice drawer once in a while and have a clear out so that the spices do what that are supposed to, that is Spice UPP your meals.
This shelf life of spices chart will help in knowing how long to spices last.