Food Expiration Dates 101: How Long to Keep Spices, Peanut Butter and Other Pantry Items

Food Expiration Dates 101: How Long to Keep Spices, Peanut Butter and Other Pantry Items
Food Expiration Dates 101: How Long to Keep Spices, Peanut Butter and Other Pantry Items

By Lisa Cericola

It's hard to tell when pantry basics like dried pasta, herbs and spices, rice, honey, sugar and flour expire - they often live in our kitchens forever! While some foods keep indefinitely, others have a shorter shelf life than you may think. Read on for expiration guidelines from StillTasty.com.



1. 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.

2. 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 effect the quality. Once it is brought back to room temperature it will retain its normal color and texture.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. 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.

13. 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.

14. Dried Pasta

Unopened or opened: 3 years in the pantry Dried pasta, a pantry must-have, never expires.
Store it a cool, dry place. Once opened, transfer to an airtight container.

15. Worcestershire Sauce

Unopened: 3 years in the pantry
Opened: 2 years in the pantry

Store Worcestershire sauce in a cool, dry place.

Click here for 17 more expiration guidelines from StillTasty.com.

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