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How to Tell If Your Spices Have Gone Bad

Spices are arranged in a white pantry.
faithie/Shutterstock.com

You check your refrigerator drawers for old produce and toss those leftovers just in time to go grocery shopping. While you might be good at cleaning things out, your spices might be a bit of a mystery.

How do you know if your spices have gone bad? It all comes down to your senses.

First, there’s one simple way to declutter your spices: remember when you purchased them. If you have an idea of when spices or herbs were bought, you’ll have a better idea of when to toss them. Gound herbs and spices last between three and six months. Their whole counterparts can be good for eight to 10 months.

We don’t all keep up with our purchase dates, and that’s fine. Instead, you can rely on your sense of sight and smell for both ground and whole spices and herbs. First, you’ll want to ensure that their color hasn’t altered significantly. For example, oregano should be green, not gray, and no spice should look dusty.

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Then, you can use the smell test. Your herbs and seasonings should smell potent. If your garlic smells like you might need to dump half the canister into your recipe, it has probably gone bad. When in true doubt, you can always pinch a bit and taste.

Now, the good news is that it’s unlikely that your spices and herbs will grow mold or bacteria. Instead, they’ll simply lose potency over time. You should still, however, store them in a dark, cool place to preserve them for as long as possible.

While you’re testing your herbs and spices for potency, you might want to consider grinding your own to add even more flavor to your meals.

Shea Simmons Shea Simmons
Shea Simmons is an Atlanta-based writer who has written about everything from whether Crisco is a good moisturizer to how to KonMari your space. Her work has appeared in Bustle, My First Apartment, and Make It Grateful. Read Full Bio »
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