Keeping the Freshest Herbs & Spices


Spice Trainer
Savory Spice Shop

Tags: mortar and pestle storage

“How do I keep my spices fresh?” is a question that we frequently get in our stores. Keeping the freshest spices is essential to preparing a wonderfully flavorful meal. If your spices aren’t fresh, you won’t be able to taste the symphony of flavors that are hidden in your food when you pair ingredients with freshly ground herbs and spices. With spring right in front of us, there is no better time to go through your spice rack and see what needs replacing. To determine what you should keep and what should be tossed, check out our “tricks of the trade” on keeping your spices fresh!


Keep your spices cool.
Storing spices above the hot oven is a no-no.

Prolonged exposure to heat will lead spices to lose their flavor and potency. While quickly toasting spices brings out their flavor, extended exposure to warm temperatures while you aren’t cooking does irreversible damage. If you’re like us, you’ve seen spices stored near the oven or just above the stove. Keeping your spices near these direct heat sources is a HUGE no-no when it comes to keeping your spices fresh. While it can be convenient to have your spices at an arms-reach, we’re sure having better tasting spices will make up for it.

Keep your spices in a dark place.
Spices stay fresher when stored in a cool, dark cabinet.

When herbs or spices are exposed to light, be it sunlight or lights in your kitchen, your seasonings will suffer. Light will cause the color and vibrancy of your spices to fade, turning your spices from gorgeous and eye-appealing to tan and dull. Using spices that have become light damaged can result in discolored dishes which will lead to a less than stellar dining experience.

Keep your spices sealed.
Transfer your fresh ground spices to a sealable glass bottle to help the flavor last longer.

If spices and herbs are exposed to air for long periods of time, especially if the air is moving, their flavor will rapidly disappear. This is due to the essential oils (which give spices their flavor) drying out or dissipating. When it comes to containers it is best to use a glass jar with a secure lid. In most cases, keeping your seasonings in a sealed plastic bag works well. However if you notice that your spices are losing their color or if you start to smell them through the bag, it might be time to switch to a jar. If you believe that your spice container might not have been completely sealed and you’re afraid your spice has gone bad, take a smell and taste. Remember: If it doesn’t have a good smell and color, it won’t have a good flavor.

Buy in small quantities.
We grind our spices on a weekly basis to give you the freshest flavor possible.

When you buy spices in small quantities, you can make sure the ingredients you’re using are as fresh as possible. That’s exactly why we sell our spices in bulk! A good practice to get in the habit of is to determine what spices you will use within a few months. As a general rule, ground spices will keep their best flavor profile for about 6-12 months, depending on the spice. Whole spices last roughly twice as long, so use them within 1 to 2 years. There’s nothing worse than purchasing herbs and spices that you think you’ll use, only to let them go unused and turn stale.

Use whole spices (grind your own), where possible.
A mortar and pestle is one of our favorite tools to hand grind whole spices at home.

On average, whole spices have twice the life of ground spices. Once a spice is ground, the essential oils in the spice (which give it its flavor) start to dissipate. Grinding your own spices is the best way to ensure the best flavor and to extend the life of your spices. The simplest grinding method is to use a mortar and pestle. Mortars and pestles have been used since ancient times to pulverize and crush substances into a paste or powder. Requiring some elbow grease, the ingredients are placed into the bowl (mortar) and are ground using the club-shaped pestle. If you’re looking for a more user-friendly way to grind whole spices, using a small spice grinder is quick and easy. A coffee grinder works well too but we advise you to dedicate different grinders to spices and coffee. Between spices, grind a few grains of rice to clean out remaining spice dust or residue. If grinding your own spices isn’t for you, just remember that we grind our spices in small batches to ensure freshness…it’s the next best thing to grinding them yourself!

If you’re trying to use up some of your spices, take a peek at the recipes section of our website. We have hundreds of recipes that use our herbs and spices, and we are always adding more!

Comments on this Article

(guest), on April 01, 2015

Thanks for the advice! It's 'Spice for Thought'

(guest), on April 01, 2015

Great info! Was just having this conversation with a friend today!

(guest), on April 04, 2015

Been wondering. Home grinding is a great idea.

(guest), on March 29, 2017

thanks for the Spring Cleaning remnder!

(guest), on March 29, 2017

Very useful -- great article!

(guest), on March 29, 2017

The problem for many of us is that even the glass bottles spices and herbs are sold in are too large! I can use my ground garlic powder and my aleppo pepper in 6-12 months, but my ginger? Turmeric? Italian herbs? Curry powder? No. I WISH I could find these ingredients in bottles half-- or 1/3 the size but alas, even specialty spice stores don't do that. I CAN however get them in smaller plastic resealable packets but I find plastic packets seem to alter the taste. Maybe that's simply my mind over matter, but I still wish small size glass jars were available fir sale AT COMPARABLY LOWERED prices commensurate with the smaller amounts of product. I understand the glass costs more than plastic, but it's also better for the environment.

sbullen (registered user) on March 29, 2017

Hi Arline - Here at Savory, we do carry 'Small Glass Bottles' that are about half the size of what you can buy in a grocery store - and yes, these are a lower price than the 'standard' medium jar size. We also encourage our customers to keep the spice jar when it's empty and put the contents of the smaller plastic bags into the empty jar. Personally, that's exactly what I do! Hope those tips help to keep your spices fresher.

(guest), on March 29, 2017

Great tips. Love this store and the relevant emails received. Hope to share a few recipes (uses) I & family/friends have discovered with Savory Spice products!

(guest), on March 29, 2017

Would'ya consider stocking the Japanese mortar & pestle? known as 'surabachi' with inscribed grooves on the bowl whereby the contents are both abraded and crushed as well. This texture gives better traction than a smooth mortar.

sbullen (registered user) on March 30, 2017

Hi David - We are always looking to keep our merchandise fresh and appealing, sounds like a great idea. I'll pass this request to our purchaser!

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