Tampico Spice Company

How to Store and Use Spices

Do spices spoil?

No. Spices do not “spoil,” although they do lose flavor and color.

How long do unopened dried spices last?

Unopened dried spices have a shelf life of up to two or three years, depending on the specific spice and whether it is a whole spice or a ground spice. A rule of thumb is that whole spices (such as peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, and cloves) have the longest life. Ground herbs and spices are generally more fragile.

Why do unopened dried spices last so long?

There are two reasons why unopened cooking spices last so long. First, they are packed and sealed immediately after processing, before there is any appreciable loss of their volatile flavors and aroma. Second, their containers are specially designed to be very protective while still sealed.

How long do dried spices last once the container has been opened?

Whole spices last twice as long as ground spices. In general, whole spices will last for two years while ground spices should be used within six to nine months for maximum flavor.

What is the best way to store cooking herbs and spices?

Dried spices should be kept as far as possible from the range or any other source of intense heat, yet convenient to your food preparation area. Heat will speed flavor loss in dried spices, while the steam from cooking can cause ground spices, blends, and dehydrated vegetable powders to cake.

You should also keep your herb and spice shelf away from strong, direct light, especially if your cooking spices are stored in clear glass. Paprika, parsley flakes, freeze-dried chives, and many other herbs are light sensitive. While slight color fading is not too serious for flavor, if you intend to use the spice as a garnish it’s obviously undesirable. Substantial color loss (such as in “straw”-colored herbs) is also a sign of substantial flavor loss. Refrigeration will increase the life of the light-sensitive spices.

What can I do to preserve the flavor of my herbs and spices longer?

In addition to storing your herbs and spices properly (see above), you should also:

  • Keep your cooking spices closed: Close the container tightly as soon as you finish using it.
  • Use dry measuring spoons: Avoid dipping even a slightly wet spoon into the container.
  • Give your herbs and spices an annual check-up: We recommend that once a year you open each of your containers of cooking spices and herbs. Check for a fresh appearance (even in the softer colored herbs and spices there is an unmistakable freshness in the color when the item is new). Bring the container up to your nose; the aroma should rise up to greet you. If you have to “get to the container” to detect the aroma of a ground spice it’s a sign that the spice is past its prime. Note, however, that many whole spices (peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, etc.) have such a protective cell structure that they don’t reveal their full fragrance until broken or crushed.

How do I tell if the flavor is too weak?

Most spices will retain some degree of flavor and aroma for a very long time, often for years. But weak-scented spices are a waste of your cooking time and the other good ingredients in the dish. The judgment of what is too weak really has to be a personal experience. The best way to learn is to save the remainder of an almost empty container of cooking spices and compare it with the new stock that you buy. Once you’ve done this you’ll be so impressed by the difference between the old and new spices that you won’t soon forget!

Can I freeze cooking spices?

From a scientific standpoint, freezing is the best known way to retain flavor in spices. No measurable flavor changes take place and storage life is excellent. However, because cooking spices have such a respectable storage life at room temperature, freezer space is often best used for foods rather than other ingredients. Plus, if cooking spices that have been frozen are removed from the freezer during preparation of a recipe, there is a real possibility that enough condensation will form on the containers to cause caking of the contents when they are returned to the freezer.

How much dried herb do I use to substitute for a fresh herb?

The rule of thumb is that you use 1/3 the amount of dried as you would fresh. For example, if your recipe calls for 3 teaspoons of fresh herb you would only need to use 1 teaspoon of dried. The main exception is basil. For basil you should use half as much dried basil as fresh basil.

What’s the difference between herbs and spices?

Spices are aromatic seasonings that come from the roots, seeds, bark, buds, or fruit of certain plants. Herbs are the flavorful leafy parts of certain plants. While herbs can be used either fresh or dried, most spices are only available in dried form.

Are Tampico Spice’s products gluten-free?

All of Tampico's single ingredient spices are considered naturally gluten-free, although some seasoning blends may contain gluten. It is advised to read the ingredient statement for any possible allergens; it would be clearly listed if there is an allergen. Tampico Spice follows good manufacturing practices at our plant and takes extra precaution to eliminate the possibility of mislabeling or cross-contamination. 

Do any of Tampico Spice’s products contain peanuts or other food allergens?

Tampico Spice has a comprehensive Allergen Control Program in place to prevent unlabeled allergens from reaching our consumers. This program focuses on FDA's eight major food allergens: peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, soy, wheat, fish, and crustaceans (shell fish).


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