How To Tidy Up Your Spice Cabinet

By Carolyn Stine February 15, 2019 

The life-changing magic of tidying up… your spice cabinet.

We’re not gonna lie. We watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix earlier this month and proceeded to tear our entire apartment apart. First there was the sock drawer. Then those not-so-little piles of loose paper all over the dining room table. And then, we arrived in the kitchen. After replacing all of our plastic Tupperware with glass (you’re welcome, environment!), we opened the cupboard where we keep our spices and promptly let out a little scream and shut it in horror. Are those the cinnamon sticks from when we made mulled wine at that holiday party six years ago? And please dear lord, don’t let those be the bay leaves from our first apartment…

It was in that moment that we decided that we needed to go all Marie Kondo on our spice cabinet’s ass. But after we pulled every single spice jar out of said cabinet, we were left sorting through the mess and not knowing what to keep and what to say goodbye to. Yes, that ground cinnamon brought us joy, but was there an expiration date? And how often do we need to replace those peppercorns for our beloved wedding registry pepper mill? So here it comes… we put together the Bashed guide to how to clean up your spice cabinet, once and for all. Read on for all of our tips, tricks, and insights into how to keep a tidy, well-edited selection of spices that brings joy to your kitchen every time you use it.

Spicy Words to Live By

Spices don’t “go bad,” but they do lose their potency and flavor power over time

Whole spices stay fresh for about 4 years (example: cinnamon sticks, whole cloves)

Ground spices stay fresh for 3-4 years (example: ground cinnamon, ground cloves)

Dried leafy herbs stay fresh for 1-3 years (example: dried oregano, dried parsley)

Keep your spices sanitary by never sticking your fingers into the jars. Always use a clean spoon!

Avoid pouring spices directly from jars right over steaming pots. The moisture may cause clumping, and the heat may exacerbate the loss of the flavor.

The Basic 18

We’ve searched far and wide and talked to many an expert, and we culled the seemingly infinite list of spices down to our list of absolute essentials. These are the spices that everyone should have in their kitchen.

Maldon Sea Salt - Let’s call this the Cartier of sea salt. It is uniquely potent and all-natural.

Whole Peppercorns - Don’t use already-ground pepper please, we beg of you.

Ground Cinnamon - Put it in everything from your coffee grounds to your curries.

Ground Cloves - Holiday fragrance, in a jar. Use for both sweet and savory recipes.

Allspice - This makes your gingerbread sing, but also perfectly complements rich chocolate desserts.

Ground Nutmeg - Not just for eggnog. This is divine in savory dishes (try a pinch in your creamed spinach).

Cumin - A little bit goes a long way in everything from carrot soup to homemade veggie curry.

Turmeric - This spice has anti-inflammatory properties that have us sneaking it into everything, including our scrambled eggs.

Curry Powder - The perfect blend of flavorful curry spices like cumin, coriander, and ginger.

Bay Leaves - No soup is complete without a bay leaf (or two).

Oregano - For Greek salads, cauliflower crust pizza, and beyond.

Pumpkin Pie Spice - Add this fragrant blend to your oatmeal, smoothies, and chia seed pudding when the weather gets chilly.

Cayenne Pepper - A potent way to add heat.

Chili powder - Not spicy, just flavorful. You’ll want this for your meat marinades and turkey chili.

Paprika - Derived from peppers, but not spicy. You know it by that vibrant red hue.

Garlic powder - One of the easiest flavor adds, from simple grilled chilled to bone broth and more.

Red Pepper Flakes - A more gentle way to add heat.

Sesame Seeds - A surprisingly good source of calcium (we recommend toasting them a bit before adding atop salads, slaws, and more).

Spice Up Your Life: The Advanced 18

If you’re a kitchen regular, this is the V2 of what you should be keeping in your spice cabinet at all times.

Cardamom - Incredibly aromatic, and great paired with roasted pears.

Smoked Sea Salt - Dense smokey flavor in one tiny spoonful (try it as a bacon substitute).

Dried parsley - For when you don’t have fresh, in a pinch.

Coriander - Made from dried cilantro seeds, and great with roasted root veggies.

Garam Masala - The sweeter sibling to curry powder (this one doesn’t have turmeric in it).

Za’atar - A flavorful blend of sesame seeds, dried oregano, and sumac that’s big in Middle Eastern cooking.

Chinese Five Spice - A must for making Chinese and Vietnamese dishes.

Harissa - Found in the Middle East and Northern Africa, try it in soups and stews (and tossed with roasted carrots).

Ground Ginger - For all of your fall crumbles, pies, and tarts.

Whole Nutmeg - Makes your snickerdoodle cookies extra potent.

Cinnamon Sticks - Better for infusing drinks and mulled beverages than its ground sibling.

Fennel Seeds - An essential for making your own sausages (and goes really well in turkey meatballs).

Herbs de Provence - Incredibly aromatic (there’s dried lavender in there) and tastes like the South of France in a bite.

Old Bay - We call it Old BAE, best friend to shellfish (hello, lobster boil) or try on a baked potato.

Dry Mustard - Great for rubs and marinades.

Nutritional Yeast - Our favorite vegan substitute for Parmesan.

Truffle Salt - A flavor bomb that we add to everything from frozen peas to mashed potatoes.

What are your go-to spices? Do you have a way to keep tabs on what's fresh? We'd love to know!


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Carolyn Stine

A party without cake is just a meeting.

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