5 Ingredients That Won’t Expire, and Your Spice Rack’s Shelf Life

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Almost everyone has experienced it: You’re reaching for the nutmeg to put into your cookies and you realize you have no idea when you purchased the little spice container. Or you go to throw a bit of paprika on your chicken and you have no idea if it is past its prime, and what will happen to the food if it has indeed expired.

The first bit of good news from Eat by Date is that since the expiration date is generally a “best by” date, spices lose their potency but do not necessarily become a health liability. The taste of whatever you are preparing will suffer, though, since spices are meant to alter a food, and expired spices aren’t much help in that department. Since a dinner or dessert bursting with flavor is on everyone’s agenda, here are the dates you need to keep in mind for your spices, as well as five ingredients that don’t expire.

Spice rack

Some companies, like McCormick, put a “best by” date on products, and the company advises that you pitch any spices from it that do not have this date. It also provides some general guidelines so you know how long you can expect various spices and seasonings to last. For ground spices, expect them to last between three and four years; leafy herbs, on the other hand, can last for anywhere from one to three years. Whole spices can stick around for four years, and the same is true for all extracts except vanilla (more on this later) and food dyes.

A bottled seasoning blend is OK for one to two years, and the same goes for marinades and sauces. Recipe mixes aren’t bad until two years later, about the same as seafood mixes, which last for 18 to 24 months. Fresh spices will only be good for about a week, unless it is garlic. Fresh garlic can be kept for four to six months before it is time to get a new batch.

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