Shelf Life of Common Spices and Herbs

What is the shelf life of common spices and herbs? My herb and spice cabinet was a disaster and desperately needed a makeover.

While going through my spices and herbs I realized that there were some jars in there that were only used for one recipe..and that was years ago! Some of those jars were probably older than my kids. So how many of us are guilty of this one?

shelf life of common spices and herbs

Shelf Life of Common Spices and Herbs

To help avoid this problem and reduce waste, here are some ideas regarding the shelf life of common spices and herbs.

1. Herbs versus Spices

It is important to go over the difference between herbs and spices first. They are very different from one another and thus have different shelf lives. Spices are usually derived from a dried seed or fruit, such as nutmeg, black pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, coriander, and allspice. Occasionally a root, like ginger, may be considered a spice.

Herbs are usually stems, flowers, or leaves. Some popular herbs are parsley, chives, sage, rosemary, thyme, and basil.

2. Whole Spices Keep Better

Spices that can be purchased whole traditionally have a longer shelf life than ones that are already ground. This is due to the fact that their inner part is not exposed to air, which keeps their essential oils held within the spice. For instance, you can purchase pepper corns, cinnamon sticks, ginger root and whole nutmeg then grind them when you need them. I love using my microplane on things like ginger! For the most part, spices are fine to use as long as they have flavor.

3. Dried Herbs

Herbs tend to lose their flavor and potency much more quickly than spices. You can check on your herbs by giving it the sniff test. If they are older, they will not have retained their scent. If you are in a pinch, you  can simply increase the amount of herb called for in the recipe, since herbs do not spoil. However, usually within two years herbs will lose just about all of their flavor and will need to be discarded.

4. Herbs That Don’t Dry Well

There are some herbs that do not retain their flavor when dried. Basil is one herb that does not retain it’s flavor. For herbs like this, freezing is a better option. However, they should still be used within 6 months of freezing since the freezer is not an ideal place for herb storage.

shelf life of common spices and herbs

5. Prolonging the Life of Herbs and Spices

It is important to store your dried herbs and spices properly in order to prolong their shelf life. Here are some tips below to help out.

* Storing herbs and spices near the stove is common because of convenience, but not recommended. The heat from the stove will decrease their flavor rapidly, as will steam from simmering pots. Also, humidity from a dishwasher will do the same. Herbs and spices should be stored in a cool, dry place. I like putting my herbs in little glass jars with a screw on lid. This allows me to open it easily and measure out what is needed.

* Use a measuring spoon or your fingers when adding an herb or spice to a dish you are making, particularly if it is a hot. Putting a herb or spice container directly over the hot food or stove may allow steam to get into the container, which will then cause moisture in your herb or spice.

Unfortunately herbs and spices do not last forever, but there are ways to increase their shelf life.

About the Author

A Mommy blogger who loves working from home while raising her 9-year-old daughter and 5-year-old boy/girl twins with her husband. I have a passion for learning and enjoy anything having to do with the technical side of blogging. I am also always working on self-improvement and being the best mom I can to my children. I am also a bit of a coffee addict! ❤


  1. Thanks for the great information. I go through so many herbs and spices I don’t think they have time to get out of date. Heh
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  2. Jenna Wood says

    I didn’t know herbs lose potency quicker than spices!

  3. I have been bad about keeping a jar of spices for YEARS……this is making me think I need to clean out my spice cabinet!
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  4. I had a jar of dill wee for 10 years! I have no idea why I let it survive that long but I finally threw it away. I recently discovered that Mariano’s has these little packets of spices that cost 59 cents. They are perfect for those spices you rarely use.
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  5. I used to hold onto my herbs forever until I was watching a cooking show one day and they said there was an expiration day.

  6. Georgia Beckman says

    GUILTY! And probably worst offender. Thank you so much for the helpful info. And yep, mine are in the cabinet RIGHT next to the stove, approximately 2 feet from the burner I always cook big pots of steaming food on.

  7. We literally just cleaned our spice shelves yesterday. I will double check dates. Thanks!
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  8. What a wonderfully well written article. Don’t you wish you could buy just the spices you need? Not a big ole bottle that you only use once and throw away. That’s annoying. This is problem that if the food industry would solve it, a lot more spices would be used.
    SHELLEY R ZUREK recently posted..Baked Asiago Chicken RecipeMy Profile

  9. Joann Alvarado says

    Omgoodness! I am completely guilty. On all counts. Enough said. ha! Thanks for the teerrific blog! ♥
    Joann A.

  10. I feel like such a nab – I had no idea there was the difference between the two
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  11. I am guilty! I need to give my spice rack a makeover too!

  12. Oh geez, I’ve never done this! My spices/ herbs are probably very old and yucky and my cabinet is a disaster

  13. these are some great tips!!

    Sandy a la Mode
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  14. Great tips! I had heard some of this before, but not all of it. Now I feel compelled to go home and sniff all my herbs and go thru and discard old spices!
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  15. Grace Hodgin says

    I enjoyed reading this and found it very informative. Thanks for all the great info.

  16. Wow, I cook all the time and depend on spices and herbs so much, yet I learned so much from your post! THank you! This is pinned and bookmarked! So helpful! Especially as I”m working on my emergency food supply with herbs the next few months, I will know better how to store them!
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  17. Fantastic post….and I thought that I knew all that I needed to know about spices. Goes to show you, there is always something new to be learned!
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  18. this is great information to know! we actually go through our spices so fast that we dont worry about the shelf life. we buy new herbs and spices every month or two

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