Spice Mix Storage and Cooking Tips

Light, moisture, and heat are enemies of herbs and spices


Gillian van Niekerk / Stocksy United

Unless you use a particular spice blend a lot or intend to split up a batch to give as gifts, do not plan on making a huge batch at once. It is best to make smaller batches that can be used within a month. Spices lose potency and flavor over time.

Light, moisture, and heat are the worst enemies of spices, so keep them in a tightly-sealed container in a cool, dark place. Although it may be more convenient, you should not store your spices near your stove or in open racks on the counter.

Spice Mix Tips and Hints

Homemade spice blends tend to have a much brighter flavor. As always, feel free to adjust them to your own personal tastes. Here are some tips and hints to help you make successful spice mixes:

  • Spice blends make excellent gifts for all occasions. Be sure to include usage suggestions on the gift tag.
  • Curry powders and spice blends, especially those containing cayenne, chili powder, paprika, and red pepper, will retain their potency longer if you refrigerate them.
  • For more intense flavor, many spice blend recipes will recommend toasting whole spices over high heat in a dry, heavy skillet before grinding them into a powder. This helps to release more flavor from the spices. Heat, while stirring until you can smell them. Let cool before grinding.
  • Crush dried herbs between your palms before adding to spice mixes. This will release the oils and hence produce more flavor.
  • If at all possible, buy whole spices and grind your own as you need them. The flavor will be more potent. Purchase an inexpensive coffee grinder and keep it strictly for grinding spices. A good cleaning after each grind is a must.
  • Mark spice bottles with the date purchased so you know when to replace them.
  • To get the fullest flavor experience, dried whole herbs and spices should be replaced yearly and ground or powdered ones replaced every six months.
  • If at all possible, purchase herbs and spices packed in tins or bottles. Cellophane and plastic packaging is not completely airtight and lets light in. The herbs could be beyond their prime before you even open them.
  • Buying at bulk stores may not always be smart. Sometimes the bins are refilled, mixing old with new. Purchase bulk herbs and spices at a reputable store that enjoys high traffic. With greater turnover, the spices are likely to be fresher.

More About Spice Mixes:

Herb and Spice Chart

Here's a quick reference chart to help you choose herbs and spices for specific dishes.

Beans (dried) cumin, cayenne, chili, parsley, pepper, sage, savory, thyme
Beef basil, bay, chili, cilantro, curry, cumin, garlic, marjoram, mustard, oregano, parsley, pepper, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme
Breads anise, basil, caraway, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, dill, garlic, lemon peel, orange peel, oregano, poppy seeds, rosemary, saffron, sage, thyme
Cheese basil, caraway, celery seed, chervil, chili, chives, coriander, cumin, dill, garlic, horseradish, lemon peel, marjoram, mint, mustard, nutmeg, paprika, parsley, pepper, sage, tarragon, thyme
Chicken allspice, basil, bay, cinnamon, curry, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger lemongrass, mustard, paprika, rosemary, saffron, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme
Corn chili, curry, dill, marjoram, parsley, savory, thyme
Eggs basil, chervil, chili, chives, curry, dill, fennel, ginger, lemon peel, marjoram, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, sage, tarragon, thyme
Fish anise, basil, bay, cayenne, celery seed, chives, curry, dill fennel, garlic, ginger, lemon peel, mustard, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme, saffron, sage, savory, tarragon, marjoram
Fruits allspice, anise, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, ginger, mint
Lamb basil, bay, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, curry, dill, garlic, marjoram, mint, mustard, oregano, parsley, rosemary, savory, tarragon, thyme
Potatoes basil, caraway, celery seed, chervil, chives, coriander, dill, marjoram, oregano, paprika, parsley, poppy seed, rosemary, tarragon, thyme
Salad Dressings basil, celery seed, chives, dill, fennel, garlic, horseradish, marjoram, mustard, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, rosemary, saffron, tarragon, thyme
Salads basil, caraway, chives, dill, garlic, lemon peel, lovage, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme
Soups basil, bay, chervil, chili, chives, cumin, dill, fennel, garlic, marjoram, parsley, pepper, rosemary, sage, savory, thyme
Sweets allspice, angelica, anise, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, ginger, lemon peel, mace, nutmeg, mint, orange peel, rosemary
Tomatoes basil, bay , celery seed, cinnamon, chili, curry, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, gumbo file, lemongrass, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary, savory, tarragon, thyme