Ground Spices Vs. Whole Spices

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Both ground and whole spices have a place in every kitchen. Following appropriate storage and use procedures will ensure that you have fresh spices whenever they are called for in a recipe.

Ground Spices

Spices that are pre-ground are convenient but lose their pungency more quickly than whole spices. In particular, herbs such as oregano or basil lose their fragrance faster than spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg.

Whole Spices

The aroma of whole spice is not released until you grind it at home, so you are assured of fresh taste every time. Whole spices are generally less expensive than ground spices and can be ground with a mortar and pestle or a small hand grinder or grater.

Shelf Life

The shelf life of ground spices is two to three years, while whole spices last three to four years, according to the McCormick spice company.

How To Test For Freshness

The Penzeys Spices company recommends a simple smell test if you are in doubt about the freshness of a ground spice. If it smells strong and spicy, use it; if not, discard it.

Tips for Storage and Use

Penzey says heat, light, moisture and air can all affect the flavor and color of spices. Keeping spices inside a cupboard or drawer, away from sources of heat such as stoves and dishwashers will help maintain strong, fresh flavor. To avoid introducing moisture into a spice or herb container, don’t shake it directly over a pot on the stove.


McCormick recommends refrigerating those spices made from red pepper, such as paprika and chili powder, for maximum color and freshness retention.