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Keeping Spices and Dried Herbs Fresher Longer

By Cook's Illustrated Published March 2009

Here's how to prolong the life of spices and dried herbs.

Shelf Life

Whole Spices: 2 years Ground Spices and Dried Herbs: 1 year

Do buy spices whole, versus ground, whenever possible and grind them just before using. Grinding releases the volatile compounds that give a spice its flavor and aroma. The longer the spice sits around (or is stored), the more compounds disappear.

Don't store spices and herbs on the counter close to the stove. Heat, light, and moisture shorten their shelf life.

Checking for Freshness

Crumble a small amount of the dried herb between your fingers and take a whiff. If it releases a lively aroma, it's still good to go. If the aroma and color of the spice have faded, it's time to restock.

Buying whole spices, and keeping them out of light and heat, will extend the shelf life.

Check for freshness by observing the aroma and color of your spices.