Where would we be without spices? They’re a crucial component in both savory and sweet recipes and are truly what bring dishes to life. Opening my spice cabinet feels like cracking open a world of possibilities. Whether it’s a basic spice like ground cinnamon or something more unique like Aleppo pepper, dried herbs and spices are the key to bringing bold flavors to your food.
That’s why it’s important to treat your dried herbs and spices right. If stored incorrectly, they’ll lose their punch and won’t really do their intended job of providing rich flavor to whatever you’re making.
Luckily, it’s easy to store spices the right way and keep them fresh. Here’s everything you need to know about how to store your dried herbs and spices.
The Best Places to Store Spices
The very best place to store dried herbs and spices is in an airtight container in a cool, dark, dry place, such as a pantry, drawer, or cabinet.
Air, light, moisture, and heat are the four elements that cause spices to lose their aroma and flavor quickly. If you keep these elements away from your spices as much as possible, you’ll preserve their freshness and give them a longer lifespan.
It’s also wise to purchase and store spices in small quantities. Unless you use a dried herb or spice heavily, buying it in a large jar or in bulk means you very well won’t use it up before it begins to taste dull.
The Worst Places to Store Spices
It might seem convenient to store your dried herbs and spices next to your stovetop or oven, since then they’d be within easy reach of just about anything you happen to be cooking.
Unfortunately, this is one of the worst places to store them.
As I mentioned above, exposure to heat causes spices to prematurely lose their aroma and flavor. So, it’s best to keep them away from your stovetop and oven. Don’t forget the inside of the drawers on either side of your oven can get warm when the oven is on, too, as can the inside of the drawers next to your dishwasher when it’s running.
Light also damages spices, so the countertops or window sills of a sunny kitchen are another bad spot to store your spices. That’s especially the case if they’re stored out on the counter in clear glass or plastic jars, which easily let light in.
Finally, it may seem like a smart idea to store your dried herbs and spices in the refrigerator or freezer to preserve them but both are too moist of an environment. Moisture can cause spices to deteriorate quickly, too, as well as clump, which is why keeping them in a dry environment is best.
The Average Shelf Life of Spices
If you can’t remember the last time you bought a new jar of chili powder or there’s dust collecting on the outside of your jar of Italian seasoning, it’s time to replace them.
Dried herbs and ground spices will stay fresh and flavorful for roughly up to six months from purchase dates, while whole spices are good for up to one or two years. That is, of course, as long as you’re storing them in airtight containers in a cool, dark, dry spot.
It’s also important to factor in where you purchased your spices. Spice shops are a great place to make a purchase because they tend to stock them at peak freshness and move through inventory quickly. Jars from the grocery store often have been sitting on the shelves much longer, so they just might not be as fresh when you take them home. That means they could lose their aroma and flavor even sooner.
Buying dried herbs and spices in small quantities rather than in large jars or in bulk is a great way to manage their short shelf life. Spice shops will often sell you products in as small as 1/2- or 1/4-cup portions. You’ll be able to use them up before they deteriorate and not have to worry about tossing stale spices in the trash.
Our Favorite Spice Storage Containers and Setup
There are lots of spice storage containers out there but we happen to think the simplest is also the best.
Gather up all your mismatched bottles and jars and invest in jars or tins that keep air out. Senior Editor Cambria loves these little round jars while I am a fan of these square tins. Their small size means I only buy in small quantities to stock just enough of a spice to fill the container.
Both do have clear glass or plastic elements that let light in but we store them in a dark drawer so there’s no need to worry about that. I have my tins organized in rows in their own designated spice drawer in my kitchen island, which is far enough from the stovetop and oven but right in my usual prep spot, so they’re close within reach. Label your jars or tins and you can quickly find what you need.