A pinch of chili powder goes a long way and pairs extremely well with just about anything from soups to grilled meats and veggies.
Whether you have a large stash or an old jar, you might be wondering, ‘does chili powder go bad?’ In this article, we cover everything you need to know from shelf life to storing your chili.
Does Chili Powder Go Bad?
Store-bought chili powder does not go bad. However, the spice will lose its ‘heat’ with time even under proper storage conditions.
Commercially packaged ground chili comes with a use-by or sell-by date but this is more a quality date than a safety date. This means that the spice will still be safe to use after this date but it will gradually start to lose its flavor.
We’ll take a look at the shelf life in a bit but to enjoy the hot magic of chili powder, we recommend using your spice as close to the purchase date as possible.
How Long Does Chili Powder Last?
If stored in the right conditions, chili powder can last indefinitely. That said, it is important to differentiate between how long your spices can last in terms of safety and quality.
Safety-wise, chili powder is good to use indefinitely as long as you store it properly to protect against critters and mold contamination.
When it comes to quality, chili powder will retain its flavor for about 1-2 years after the use-by date on the label. Past that, even with proper storage, the spice will slowly lose its heat and aroma and will eventually go flat.
Of course, it always helps to properly store your spices to maximize both quality and safety. Storing ground chili is easy—just put the spice in a cool and dry place and preferably in a dark airtight glass jar.
The pantry is a good choice to store your spices but the kitchen cabinet can do as long as it is not close to a source of heat.
Some people like to store their chili powder in the refrigerator but this will actually shorten the shelf life of the spice. Every time you remove the container of spices from the fridge, you expose it to humidity and encourage oxidation. This creates the perfect breeding ground for mold.
Here’s a quick summary of how long you can expect chili powder to stay fresh:
Chili Powder Shelf Life
1-2 years past the use-by date
Now that we’ve seen how long chili powder lasts, let’s take a look at how to check your seasoning for freshness.
5 Tips To Tell If Chili Powder Has Gone Bad
Checking if chili powder has gone bad isn’t difficult. Here are the major signs to look out for:
When chili powder stays too long in the container, it might start to form some clumps. This in itself is not a sign of staleness but it shows you that the seasoning is quite old and it might be time to replace it.
Mold is a sure sign of spoilage. Improper storage such as exposing your can of spices to moisture and heat creates the ideal conditions for the growth of mold spores. Mold contamination can also be accompanied by clumping and that’s your cue to toss that chili powder.
Chili that has lost its peak freshness will have a damp moldy smell. Take a good sniff and if your spice has lost that distinctive smoky aroma, that is a good sign that it is no longer fresh.
Another easy way to tell if your chili powder has gone bad is to taste it. Stale chili will have lost its potency and might taste moldy too.
5. Sell-by date
The use-by date on your jar of chili powder will give you a pretty good indication of how fresh the spices are. Ground chili that is 3 years past its sell-by date will not be as fresh as if it were just a couple of weeks or months old.
You should still check for other signs of spoilage to be sure. Sometimes, spices can get stale well before the sell-by date, which indicates a problem with the manufacturing or packaging process.
Trust your senses when checking for the freshness of food products including ground chili. If the spice has lost its smooth powdery texture and smells and tastes off, then it is best to buy a new jar.
4 Tips To Store Chili Powder
Storing chili powder under optimal conditions will extend its shelf life. For proper storage of spices, you want to keep in mind these three things:
- Oxygen: When exposed to air, the essential oil of ground spices oxidates, causing the spice to lose its flavor and aroma.
- Moisture: Dry, ground chili powder, like other spices, can easily attract water, which encourages the formation of mold.
- Light: Colored spices, such as chili, turmeric, saffron, and the like will oxidate and lose their beautiful color when exposed to light.
As you can see, when storing your chili powder, you want to protect the spice from oxygen, moisture, and light.
Here are some quick tips to store your chili spice the right way:
1. Opt for dark glass
If you plan to store a large stash of chili powder, use dark, airtight glass jars. These containers will keep light away and protect your spices from loss of essential oils and oxidation.
2. Choose a cool and dark spot
The refrigerator might be cool and dark but it is not the best place to store spices. The dry chili powder will easily absorb moisture and even the smallest amount of water is enough to cause mold growth.
The pantry is the most ideal storage space for sensitive spices. If you do not have one, you could store your chili in the kitchen cabinet. Avoid storing near a stove, dishwasher, heating vent, or microwave.
If you prefer to display your spices on a rack, be sure to direct it away from light, heat, and moisture.
3. Fill it up
For long-term storage, it is best to tightly pack the spices in the jar. This way, you will not leave any space at the top for air and moisture to accumulate.
4. Refrigerate with caution
Refrigerating your spices causes more potential harm than good. Moisture condensation in the fridge will quickly encourage mold growth especially if you keep moving your jar of chili powder in and out of the fridge.
That said, a safe option is to stick larger jars of spices in the fridge for long term storage and to keep smaller stashes handy in the kitchen cabinet, storage rack, or pantry for everyday use.
The Risks of Consuming Expired Chili Powder
If your stash of chili powder has gone past the use-by or sell-by date, you might worry about getting sick if you consume it.
The good news is using expired chili powder has no real risks. To be sure, chili powder does not have an expiry date. The spice does not go bad and is safe to use past the sell-by date recommended by the manufacturer.
However, you should never consume spice that contains mold or shows signs of spoilage. Some types of mold spores are harmful and can make you seriously ill if ingested.
Trust your senses—if chili powder that has gone past its expiry date looks spoilt, it is best to be safe and throw it out.
Can You Freeze Chili Powder?
Freezing chili powder especially if it is homemade and you have a large supply might seem like a good idea. Technically, you can freeze chili powder but we do not recommend it for several reasons.
For one, you should not freeze chili for everyday use. The opening and closing of the freezer bag or container will expose the spice to air and moisture and encourage mold growth.
Long term freezing also takes away from the spice’s natural flavor and aroma. In the end, you might not enjoy the chili that you are trying to preserve.
If you do opt to freeze, follow these easy steps:
- Pack the ground chili spice in a freezer bag and squeeze out any air bubbles. Make sure to seal the bag tight
- Flatten the freezer bag for easy stacking in the freezer
- Place the bag of spices in a larger freezer bag to proof against moisture
- Seal the bigger freezer bag and store in the freezer compartment
- When ready to use, simply thaw at room temperature
- Try to use the frozen spices within 6 months.
Once you take out a bag of frozen chili powder, do not use it and return it to the freezer. Store at room temperature for best results.
Ground chili will last for years and still be safe to consume past its use-by date. However, your spices will lose flavor, color, and aroma the longer you keep them. To get the most from your chili powder, buy smaller quantities, and try to use as fast as possible.