by The Culinistas

Here at The Culinistas we live and breathe our spices. From allspice to za’atar, we’ve proudly worked with renowned spice guru Lior Lev Sercarz from NYC’s La Boîte to hand-select the spices that make our dishes sing. We’ll have you sprinkling urfa on everything before you know it. 

If you don’t fly through a bottle of sumac like we do (ahem, yet), it’s easy to lose track of just how long it’s been hiding in the back of your pantry. Here are a few points for keeping your spice collection tip top. 

Do spices expire?

Unlike ingredients in your fridge that spoil, spices won’t expire on you, per se. They lose their luster & spunk after a while. Think of it like a tennis ball: Yes, you can still hit tennis balls long after a can’s been opened, but eventually they’ll go flat. You’ve got to hit harder, more deliberately & with a lot more spin. Even with all that, are you really playing your A-game? To stay on top of your spice game, keep your collection fresh. Use it or lose it!

The exception is salt, which is like a good cast iron pan: it can last forever if treated right. 

How long do spices last?

You’ll get 1-2 years out of dried herbs while most ground spices will last you 6 months to a year with peak potency. Whole spices and seeds will hang on a little longer at 1-2 years.

For optimal shelf life, store spices in a cool, dark and dry place, sealed tightly in their containers. It pays to invest in a user-friendly pantry set up so that you can easily see which spices you have on hand — otherwise, your cardamom could end up lost in the shuffle like that sweater hiding in the back of your closet. Consider keeping them in a drawer, labeled on their lids. The drawer shouldn’t be right next to the stove or oven. 

How to tell if spices are old

Because spices don’t spoil like meat or dairy, it’s not always easy to tell when spices are due for a refresh. Set yourself a reminder once a year to inventory your collection. Give your spices a taste! You may want to use a little yogurt as the vehicle — spoonful of yogurt, sprinkle of spice. How cayenne are you dusting on before nodding “ok that’s some heat!”? If you notice a spice has lost its aroma or flavor, it’s time to restock.

What to do if you need to use old spices in a pinch

If you’re knee-deep in a recipe before realizing your turmeric wouldn’t make Serena proud, there’s still hope. You can help bring a spice back to life by toasting it in a pan over medium-low heat until fragrant. You may need to increase the quantity in your recipe as well. Using old spices won’t make you ill, it just compromises flavor. 

Does your collection need, ahem, spicing up? Check out our e-comm shop