Q: How long do jars of spices and dried herbs last?
A: Spices and dried herbs do not spoil, but eventually they do lose some of their flavor. Stored as recommended, you can usually count on seeds and whole spices (such as cumin and dill seeds, whole cloves, cinnamon sticks and peppercorns) staying fresh for three or four years. Ground spices (including cinnamon and ground pepper) stay flavorful for one to three years. Hold onto dried green herbs (such as basil and oregano) for six months to three years, watching for fading color and flavor to guide you.
Although these seasonings may look attractive displayed over the stove, exposure to heat and moisture can make them lose flavor faster. Instead, store them in airtight containers away from the heat, moisture and light that speed up their deterioration. If you have room in a cabinet or drawer, that is the ideal way to store them. Although research is growing on the potential of herbs and spices as sources of health-protective phytochemicals, it’s not clear how content changes during storage. For now, it looks like these shelf life recommendations are advisable to maintain potential health benefits as well as flavor.