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How to Store Spices

Guests used to ask me how to store spices when they come to my house for dinner. I love cooking with spices and often I do it in front of my guests. They see me using all kinds of different spices I have at home.

In this page I will show how to store spices - what the principles of spices storage are. After all, you want to keep your spices fresh.

Fresh spices will make your cooking taste better. It is also good to learn how to keep spices to last longer because you can buy the spices in larger packaging, which costs so much less than when you buy in small packets. Also, some of the plastic packs do not really prevent moisture from seeping in.

custom kitchen planner modular mates
My favorite custom kitchen planner. The Modular Mates by Tupperware.

It is especially true for spices in powder form like curry powder. Sometimes, the packet appears to be vacuum packed but in reality, the moisture has seeped in and has already hardened the curry powder inside the packaging. Thus, the powder is spoiled and does not taste good anymore when you make curry with it.

Spices namely have several forms:

  • Fresh
  • Whole, Dried
  • Powdered, dried
  • Coarsely Ground
  • Paste, in oil
  • Paste, with water or other spices, with onion, garlic or other herbs

Obviously, different dishes require different kinds of preparation of spices. Most of us do not have the luxury to hunt for fresh ingredients daily. We buy from wet market, grocery stores and supermarkets.

Sometimes when we visit an area famous for its special so and so spices or herbs, we tend to buy in bulk. Always forgetting that all produce have their own expiry dates. So, how to store spices to keep them fresh?

Spices get their aroma and taste mostly from the oil contained in them. Even dried, they still contain water making them susceptible to growth of fungus and mold.

So, to make spices last longer, the following general guidelines apply:

  • Keep in airtight containers
  • Keep them away from heat source and direct sunlight
  • Even better, refrigerate them in airtight containers.

I am not really partial to the original packaging most spices come in. In powdered form, e.g. curry powder, once the plastic packet is open, the freshness of the spice goes downhill very quickly. Even those bottled by Schwarz or Maggi still let humidity to get in quickly, especially in tropical climate.

My solution is simple, I place them all in small Tupperware containers and refrigerate them. Yes, some may argue, there is limited space in the refrigerator. However, these containers come in many sizes, and are mostly stackable and modular, my small fridge houses all of them easily. The trick is to find the most suitable food container. Consider the size, the shape and easy of dispensing.

Some useful tips on how to store spices:

  • To make your ground dried chilli paste last longer, mix with a tablespoon of cooking oil before storing in the fridge. It will take a while before it develops that white film of fungus on it. By that time, hopefully, your home-processed dried chilli paste is fully consumed. This is a healthier alternative than buying ready made chilli paste, usually loaded with preservatives. Ready made chilli paste (better known as cili boh) also tastes sour because of the addition of acid to make it last longer, even without refrigeration.
  • Fresh whole chilli also benefits from prior treatment with cooking oil. Soak the chillies in a bowl of oil for 20 minutes, dry them and store in refrigerator (ideally in special Tupperware containers for vegetables). They will keep for three weeks!
  • Whole spices last longer than powdered form. It is good to grind them just before using for added aroma and taste if the recipe calls for it. Otherwise, just use them whole. Some recipes will ask you to dry roast whole spices before grinding them. If you use this method, use the spices right after blending. The aroma of these spices truly comes out in your cooking.
  • More often than not, your food container, in this case, Tupperware container traps excess air. To get rid of the air (which also includes humidity), once the lid is sealed, open up a fraction of the lid, you can hear the hissing sound of trapped air escaping. Quickly reseal the lid again. Repeat two to three times. By this time, the Tupperware container is ALMOST vacuum sealed.

I hope your questions on how to store spices are answered. If you have further queries, please DO contact me.

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