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Proper Storage of Spices for Prolonging Shelf Life

When you order herbs, spices and chiles from The Chile Guy, you know you’re getting top-quality spices at the peak of their potency and flavor. But how do you preserve that flavor once the spices are in your kitchen? The flavor compounds in chiles and spices are volatile, and without appropriate care and storage, they will quickly lose their potency. Preserving your spices correctly is the key to keeping your dishes flavorful.

Why Spices Lose their Potency

The unique flavor and piquancy you associate with favorite herbs and spices – from oregano to chile powder – is caused mostly by the chemical compounds present in the plant’s volatile oil, also called “aromatic compounds.”  And as the name suggests, volatile oils are prone to damage from heat, light and moisture. Therefore, to preserve flavor in your spices, you need to protect these oils through proper storage.

Tips for Prolonging the Flavor of Your Herbs, Spices and Chiles

You’ve probably heard the rule that spices only last for 6 months. In reality, it’s a bit more complicated than that. With proper storage, they might last quite a bit longer – but not all spices have the same level of essential oil, so some will inevitably lose flavor before others. Nevertheless, here are a few general tips:

  • Protect them from moisture. Humidity can affect the texture and flavor of dried herbs and spices.
  • Keep them in the dark. Light can have a bleaching effect on many spices. Additionally, since light and heat often go hand-in-hand, light sources can cause double damage.
  • Keep them cool. Heat speeds up the breakdown of volatile oils, leading to an overall loss in complexity and piquancy of flavor.
  • Protect them from the air. Just as oxygen can wear down iron over time, oxidation can damage the chemical compounds in many herbs and spices.

So with all of that in mind, the best choice for protecting the longevity of your spices is to keep them stored in a dark, airtight container in a cool, dry place. Definitely keep your spices away from the heat of burners, the back of refrigerators, lights and other heat sources in the kitchen.

One other tip: Spices release a jolt of aromatic compounds immediately after being ground, so freshly ground spices have the most complex flavors. If you need maximum flavor and longevity and don’t mind a bit more prep work, buy whole spices like while chile pods or whole cinnamon sticks, then grind them yourself as necessary for your recipes. Just remember the same storage rules apply: Keep your whole chiles and spices away from moisture, heat and light to prolong their lifespans.


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