Padma Lakshmi Explains How You Should Store Your Spices

The right mixture of spices can really elevate the harmony of flavors in any dish. Whether you're adding a pinch of nutmeg to a traditional bolognese sauce to give it that extra layer of complexity, shaking some chili powder into your taco seasoning, or sprinkling rosemary atop a homemade pasta dinner, spices, like other foodstuffs, don't last forever. Home cooks may take this for granted, and often keep their spices within reach around the stove or on countertops so they can be easily accessible, or store them on an aesthetically-pleasing spice rack to make their kitchen look nicer.

However, spices do in fact have a shelf life. Dried herbs and ground spices, in particular, tend to last just one year. And while you may get a bit more life out of whole spices — about three years, to be specific — eventually the elemental conditions of heat, humidity, air, and even sunlight will cause your seasonings to lose their distinctive potent flavors and aromas. After enough time, these spices can go stale — and can even become rancid.

Being aware of this, organizing your spices in a way that keeps them accessible but also keeps them at optimal freshness for as long as possible will only benefit home cooks in the long run.

How to keep your spices fresh

Padma Lakshmi, who often shares her grandmother's cooking tips and tricks, took to Instagram to demonstrate how she dry-roasts whole peppercorns to wake up the oils and add some spice to a favorite salad of hers.

She highlighted in particular that sunlight can be detrimental to the inherent quality of spices. "Spices, like tea, if you take care of them, they can last," she explains, "but they have to remain sealed and they have to remain inside an opaque container like a tea tin. I keep my spices in a drawer to keep them away from sunlight." Lakshmi also recommends building a diverse spice collection, taking inspiration from flavors across the world.

Airtight containers that are vacuum sealed are going to ensure your spices stay fresh for longer and keep the humidity and moisture out. Once you've found the right vessel, identify the perfect real estate in your kitchen. Even if it's not dark, finding a space that avoids direct sunlight can be a good compromise.

Keeping this many spices organized to maintain peak freshness may seem a bit difficult at first, but dedicating a space like a drawer entirely to spices is an essential part of the home cook's repertoire these days, as recipes from around the world can trend at any given moment. If you have a wide range of properly-stored seasonings, you'll be prepared for anything.