To guarantee that you are using fresh spices, buy them in small quantities and date them. Replace old spices once a year. For suggestions on how to substitute spices, use the Spice Alternative Guide.

Spice Alternative Guide

Whether you're making an emergency substitution or experimenting with a new flavor, follow these suggestions for spice alternatives. As a general rule, start with half of the amount the recipe calls for (unless directed otherwise), and add the spice till it suits your taste.

Allspice: cinnamon; dash nutmeg; or dash cloves

Aniseed: fennel seed or a few drops anise extract

Cardamom: ginger

Chili Powder: dash bottled hot pepper sauce plus a combination of oregano and cumin

Cinnamon: nutmeg or allspice (use only 1/4 of the amount)

Cloves: allspice; cinnamon; or nutmeg

Cumin: chili powder

Ginger: allspice; cinnamon; mace; or nutmeg

Mace: allspice; cinnamon; ginger; or nutmeg

Nutmeg: cinnamon; ginger; or mace

Saffron: dash turmeric (for color)

Q: How can you tell if a spice is fresh?

A: Judge the freshness by the color and aroma. When fresh, most spices have a bright, rich color and a strong aroma when you open the container. If either the color or the aroma seems weak, replace the spice.


Spices will keep their flavor longer if they're stored in a cool, dry place. Keep them tightly covered because exposure to the air accelerates flavor loss. Whole spices stay fresh up to 2 years and ground spices about 6 months.

Your Comment: