How Long Do Spices Last?

Plus, the trick to figuring out when your spices are too old.

Jars of Spices
Photo: jonathan_steven/Getty Images

It's something we're all guilty of: buying a certain spice for one specific recipe and then leaving the nearly full bottle to wither away, forgotten and unused.

Now, before you start beating yourself up imagining what Marie Kondo would say if she came across your outdated spice cabinet, relax. It's OK. Your ancient garlic powder won't kill anybody.

Spices lose their kick when they get old, but they won't make you sick. What will make you sick, however, is all the pantry space you wasted holding on to spices that were well past their prime.

To find out how long spices really do last, Food52 recently spoke with Lior Lev Sercarz, owner of spice shop La Boîte in New York. His motto? If you have to ask it's too old.

WATCH: Too Salty? Too Spicy? These Quick and Easy Fixes Will Save Over-Seasoned Dishes

In all seriousness, pre-ground spices usually pass their prime after a year or so, while whole spices are good for two to three.

Sercarz explained to Food52 that as spices age and come into contact with oxygen, their essential oils evaporate they dry out, causing them to become "less vibrant." Humidity can also sneak in and spoil the flavor profile.

The solution? "Every once in a while, open a jar, take a whiff, and take a little taste," Sercarz advised. "If the spice has no smell or taste, get rid of it."

Seems easy enough, right? Now go forth and conquer that spice cabinet!

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