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How Long to Keep Spices and Other Pantry Items

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It’s hard to tell when pantry basics like dried pasta, herbs and spices, rice, honey, sugar and flour expire because they seem to live in our kitchens forever. While some foods keep indefinitely, others have a shorter shelf life than you may think.  Here’s an expiration guideline to help you along:

Most Dried Ground Spices

  • Unopened or opened: 2 to 3 years.
  • When it comes to spices, fresh is best, but they should remain flavorful for up to three years. While spices do not spoil, anything older than three years will most likely be lacking in flavor, aroma and health benefits. Store in a cool, dark place away from direct heat or sunlight, closed tightly when not in use. To test when an herb or spice is still potent, rub or crush a small amount in your hand then taste and smell it. If the aroma and flavor is weak, it should be discarded.

Olive Oil

  • Unopened: 2 years in the pantry or refrigerator.
  • Opened: 18 to 24 months in the pantry or refrigerator.
  • Store olive oil in a cool, dark place. Keeping it in the refrigerator will extend its shelf life but may cause cloudiness — this will not affect the quality.  Once it is brought back to room temperature it will retain its normal color and texture.

Brown Rice

  • Unopened or opened
  • Pantry: 3 to 6 months.
  • Refrigerator: 6 to 12 months.
  • Freezer: 12 to 18 months.
  • Due to its high oil content, pantry storage can cause brown rice to spoil quickly. Once the package is opened, store brown rice in the freezer in a heavy-duty freezer bag.

Wild, White, Jasmine and Basmati Rice

  • Unopened or opened: keeps indefinitely.
  • Store uncooked rice in a cool, dry place.  Once opened, transfer to an airtight container and store in the pantry, freezer or refrigerator.

Honey

  • Opened or unopened: Keeps indefinitely.
  • Honey never goes bad.  Be sure to store it in a cool, dry place like the pantry because refrigeration will accelerate the crystallization process.  Over time, honey may change color or become cloudy, but it is still safe to eat if stored properly.

Vinegar

  • Unopened or opened: 2 years best quality, keeps indefinitely.
  • Vinegar doesn’t expire, right? Yes and no.  It’s fine to use indefinitely, but after two years it declines in quality.  Store vinegar in a cool, dark place.  Over time, it may become cloudy or change color but it is still safe to consume.

Natural Peanut Butter

  • Unopened or Opened: 6 months.
  • Refrigerating natural peanut butter will slow down the rate at which it turns rancid.  If it develops an off color, odor or appearance it should be discarded.

Conventional Peanut Butter

  • Unopened: 2 years .
  • Opened: 3 months in the pantry, or 3 to 4 months in the refrigerator.
  • Conventional peanut butter has a longer shelf life than unprocessed, natural peanut butter.  If you open a jar of peanut butter that has been stored in the pantry, refrigeration is recommended to retain flavor and prevent oil separation.  If it develops an off color, odor or appearance it should be discarded.

Shortening

  • Unopened: 2 years in the pantry.
  • Opened: 1 year in the pantry.
  • Whether you are using shortening from a stick or a can, be sure to keep it tightly closed.  If it develops an off color, smell or appearance, discard it.

Most Unshelled Nuts

  • Unopened or Opened:
  • Pantry: 2 to 4 weeks.
  • Refrigerator: 9 months.
  • Freezer: 1 year.
  • Because of their natural oils, nuts are best stored in the freezer, not the pantry.  When opened, be sure to transfer them to an airtight container to preserve their flavor and texture.

Vanilla Extract and Whole Beans

  • Unopened or opened extract: 4 years.
  • Dried vanilla beans: 3 to 4 years
  • Good-quality vanilla extract and beans might be pricey, but they have a pretty long shelf life.  Store both in a cool, dark place.

Canned Beans

  • Unopened: 2 to 5 years.
  • Opened: 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator, 1 to 2 months in the freezer.
  • Canned beans have a long shelf life in the pantry.  When opened, transfer any leftover beans from the metal can to a glass or plastic storage container to retain their flavor and appearance.  And of course, discard any food from cans that are rusted, dented, leaking or bulging.

Most Dried Herbs

  • Unopened or opened: 1 to 3 years.
  • For sauces and stews, dried herbs can’t be beat. For the most flavor and nutritional benefits, toss out any herbs older than three years.  Store dried herbs in a cool, dark place away from direct heat or sunlight, closed tightly when not in use. To test whether an herb or spice is still potent, rub or crush a small amount in your hand, then taste and smell it.  If the aroma and flavor is weak, it should be discarded.

Dried Pasta

  • Unopened or opened: 3 years in the pantry
  • Dried pasta, a pantry must-have, has a very long shelf life.  Store it a cool, dry place. Once opened, transfer to an airtight container.

Worcestershire Sauce

  • Unopened: 3 years in the pantry.
  • Opened: 2 years in the pantry.
  • Store Worcestershire sauce in a cool, dry place.

Sea Salt

  • Unopened or opened: Keeps indefinitely.
  • Salt never expires; store it in a cool, dry place.

Sesame Seeds

  • Unopened or opened: 3 to 4 years.
  • Sesame seeds might seem like they have a short shelf life because of their natural oils, but in fact, they are fine to use for up to four years.  Store sesame seeds in a cool, dark place away from direct heat or sunlight, closed tightly when not in use.

White, Brown and Confectioner’s Sugar.

  • Unopened or opened: Keeps indefinitely.
  • Sugar never expires; simply store it in a cool, dry place.  To prevent sugar from hardening, store it in an airtight container.

Dry Cereal, All Types

  • Unopened: 1 year.
  • Opened: 2 to 3 months.
  • After one year, dried cereal’s texture, color or flavor may change but it is still safe to consume if stored properly.

Uncooked Oats, All Types

  • Unopened or opened: 1 year in the pantry or freezer.
  • Store in a cool, dry place.  Once opened, transfer to an airtight container to keep the oats fresh and prevent contamination of mealworms or other pests.

Whole Wheat Flour

  • Unopened or opened: 6 to 8 months in the refrigerator or 2 years in the freezer.
  • Whole wheat flour has a slightly shorter shelf life than white all-purpose.  Once the package is opened, store flour in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.

All-Purpose Flour

  • Unopened or opened: 1 year in the pantry, 2 years in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Once the package is opened, store flour in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.

Canola or Vegetable Oil

  • Unopened or Opened: 2 years in the pantry.
  • Store canola or vegetable oil in a cool, dark place.  If it develops an off color, smell or appearance, discard it.

Sesame Oil

  • Unopened: 18 months.
  • Opened: 1 year.
  • Store in a cool, dark place.  Refrigeration will help extend sesame oil’s shelf life.  If it develops an off color, smell or appearance, discard it.

Soy Sauce

  • Unopened: 3 years in the pantry.
  • Opened: 2 years in the refrigerator.
  • It’s fine to store opened soy sauce in a cool, dark place like the pantry, but refrigeration will help extend its shelf life.  If it develops an off color, smell or appearance, discard it.

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