If you’re like most cooks, your spice cabinet is a hodge-podge. You’re storing the spices you use most at the front, while spices you didn’t even know you had hide out way in the back. Some spices have probably been sitting on the shelf for years.
To get the most out of your spices and keep track of everything you’ve got, it’s time to tidy up the mess. These tips on how to organize spices in your kitchen, and how best to store spices and herbs for maximum freshness, will make a big impact the next time you whip up a meal.
How to Store Spices and Herbs
Most of us have a collection of dried spices (like cinnamon, paprika, cayenne, nutmeg, turmeric) and dried herbs (like oregano, basil, sage, cilantro) sitting in containers in our kitchen—and we’ve usually got bunches of fresh herbs we’ve acquired from the market or in a meal kit.
It’s important to take stock of all those spices and herbs, so you know what you’ve got and when it’s time to toss out the old stuff. Dried spices and herbs don’t necessarily “spoil,” but they do lose their flavor over time. To keep the flavor going as long as possible, store dried spices and herbs in a cool, dry place out of direct light—not over the stove, since all that heat will make them turn bland more quickly. Keep the containers closed when not in use.
Fresh herbs need to be stored properly too. You can keep them in the fridge in a jar filled with about an inch of water—or we make it easy for you with our GreenSaver Herb Keeper.
How to Organize Spices in Your Kitchen
One of the best ways to organize your dried spices and herbs is to ensure you can see everything you’ve got, not just the stuff you use all the time. After all, it’s a waste when a spice disappears into a corner and you forget you even have it—then you buy it all over again. (We all know how that goes!) Keeping your pantry organized will also help you enjoy cooking more, and save you tons of time. Clear containers with an airtight seal, like POP storage containers, will help keep your entire collection fresh, tidy and visible. Our containers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including the Mini Square Mini and Small Square Mini, which is ideal for dried spices and herbs.. The range of shapes also gives you flexibility in deciding where to store the containers: in a cabinet, in a drawer, on a turntable or anywhere you have room. The tight seal helps spices maintain their flavor by keeping out air and moisture, and using labels help you easily identify each item and write down the date when you bought it.
How to Know When Spices Are Past Their Prime
Wondering if your spices are too old to use? Generally, ground spices will last about six months, while whole spices can retain their flavor for up to five years. But before you throw out a spice, try sprinkling a little on your hand and smelling it. Fresh spices should be very fragrant, while old ones won’t have much scent at all. Generally, the older a spice is, the less flavor it’s going to add—so if your spices have a sell-by date on them, that will give you a quick idea too.
How to Revive the Flavor of Aging Spices
If you’re planning to use a spice that you suspect has been sitting there a little too long, try reviving the flavor by heating it up a little. Just warm up your skillet over medium heat, and toss in as much of the spice as you’re going to use that day. Toast the spice in the skillet for one to three minutes, shaking the pan now and then, until the spice gives off its signature aroma. Ground spices like cumin, cinnamon and cloves are the easiest to revive, but be sure not to burn them, since that will leave a bitter taste.
How to Make Your Own Simple DIY Spice Blends
Now that you know how to store and organize your spices and herbs in the kitchen, we’ve got some helpful tips on how to mix them to create your own blends to use in your cooking. Making your own DIY spice blends can be more economical than buying them premixed, and you can adjust the seasonings to your own taste. To make Italian seasoning: Mix 2-3 tablespoons each of dried herbs (oregano, thyme, basil, parsley, rosemary, marjoram, sage) with sea salt and ground black pepper to taste. To make Cajun seasoning: Mix 1-2 tablespoons each of dried oregano, paprika, cayenne pepper, ground black pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. To make zaatar: Mix 1 tablespoon each of ground thyme or oregano, sesame seeds and sumac with salt and ground black pepper to taste. Want more ideas for how to use your spices? Check out these hacks for perking up your coffee.