Does Chili Powder Go Bad?

So you bought a package of chili powder because a recipe called for it. You’re not a big fan of spicy food, so you don’t add the powder to other dishes just to make them extra hot. That means that chili powder probably sits in the cupboard for quite a few months. Does chili powder go bad? How long does it last?

Such questions regarding chili powder come up time and time again. If you’d like to learn a bit more about storage, shelf life, and going bad of chili powder, read on.

Various spices on wooden spoon
Image used under Creative Commons from Marco Verch

How to Store Chili Powder

Like for pretty much all other spices, the best place to keep chili powder is a cool and dark cupboard away from sunlight and sources of heat. The pantry is the best place for unopened packages.

Once you open the chili powder, you’ll probably prefer to keep it in the kitchen, where you can quickly grab it when needed. That’s perfectly fine, just make sure the cabinet isn’t above the stove.

As usual, keep the package sealed tightly after opening.

Tip

If it’s a paper package that you can’t easily seal, consider pouring the powder into a small jar or container. That’s especially important if you expect to store the spice for a few months.

How Long Does Chili Powder Last

Like with other spices such as ground ginger or saffron, there’s usually a best-by date on the label. Of course, since the chili is in powdered form, it will stay safe to use for years past that date, just like salt does.

But, similarly to hot sauce, that’s often made of the same chili peppers as the powder, chili powder gradually loses its heat. That means a 5-year-old chili powder won’t be as spicy as a fresh one.

Tip

If your chili powder isn’t as hot as it used to be, add more of it to counteract that.

Ground red pepper
Image used under Creative Commons from Marco Verch

All in all, try to finish chili powder within a year or two of the best-by date for best results.

 Pantry
Chili powder (unopened or opened)Best-by + 1 – 2 years

Please note the period above is an estimate and for best quality. Chili powder will last for much longer.

How to Tell if Chili Powder Is Bad

Like other ground spices, chili powder doesn’t go bad in a way it’s unsafe to eat. Unless, of course, water gets inside the package. If there are any signs of mold, wet spots, or big clumps, that means water got there, and you should discard the powder.

As I already mentioned, chili powder loses its flavor and aroma over time. It’s somewhat similar to baking powder that loses potency over time.

The good news is that it’s easy to check if chili powder still got some heat left. Grab a pinch and rub it between your thumb and index finger, then taste it. If it’s still spicy, feel free to use it. If it lacks flavor, discard it.

Tip

Once you’re done with checking powder’s potency, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly. You’ll thank me later.