When I packed up my kitchen for our big move a few years ago, I was embarrassed to discover what I had accumulated in the spice drawer.
I’m pretty sure there were a couple bottles of something or other in there that were certified antiques, pre-dating the Nixon administration. And that ground allspice? I think the sell-by date was 50 A.D.
Do spices expire?
The useful life of spices and dried herbs vary but you don’t have to worry about them going bad like other foods. The problem, however, is that they can lose flavor, which is the reason we use them at all.
A bottle of curry powder you’ve had for an untold number of years won’t make you sick. But it won’t be as potent and flavorful as when it was fresh. Spices, especially once ground, degrade over time.
As I researched to get to the bottom of this question, I found a reference to an unsupported rule of thumb floating around out there that says we should use or toss herbs and spices after six-months. What?! That seems a bit short to me. I sure can’t afford to purge my spice drawer twice a year, which prompted me to check further with more reliable resources.