Save yourself an extra trip to the grocery store with this easy hack for bringing your spices back to life.

Lauren Wicks
April 02, 2020
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There are few things worse than dreaming about a favorite dish all day only to find one (or more) of your ingredients are missing, expired or stale when you go to make it. While I can't make eggs appear in your fridge or change the expiration date on your milk, I do have an expert tip for reviving your stale spices.

Raghavan Iyer is a best-selling cookbook author, culinary consultant, chef and TV host who knows a thing or two about spices. The James Beard award winner shared his tips for knowing if your spices are still fresh—and how to bring them back to life.

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How Long Do Spices Stay Fresh?

Iyer says that while whole spices can stay fresh for years at a time, ground spices stay at their peak for only six to eight months. This is because whole spices are able to retain their essential oils until you grind them, while the essential oils in ground spices have already started dissipating before they make it into your kitchen.

"You can still buy whole spices even if a recipe calls for ground," Iyer says. "The beauty is in extracting the flavors, and it will give you a better result."

How Can You Tell When It's Time to Throw Out Spices?

Iyer says he has some whole spices that have been in his cupboard for five years running, but you can just conduct a smell test for your ground spices every few months.

"It's easy to tell with your ground spices because you won't get much of an aroma at all," Iyer says. "It will become weaker and weaker over time."

How to Revive Stale Spices

"Ground spices bloom better when you add them early in your cooking," Iyer says. "Mask them with aromatics like garlic and ginger, and roast them to coax them out."

Just like you add your spices in with onions and garlic at the beginning of your stir-fry or curry, applying this to other recipes can help make sad, stale spices more aromatic. He also says you can try adding in more of a spice than your recipe calls for to help achieve the right flavor. (Just add a little at a time!)