Does Saffron Go Bad?

Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world, so naturally, you want to make the most of your stash. And if you already store it for a while, the question “does saffron go bad?” comes up inevitably.

Or maybe you’ve found a great deal on saffron and are debating if stocking up makes sense. Since the price of saffron is quite high due to a quite complicated process of collecting the saffron strands, taking advantage of a sale makes sense.

But on the other hand, you only use the spice from time to time, so buying in bulk would mean you buy enough of it for a few years. And you’re not quite sure the spice retains potency for such a long period.

In this article, we go through storage, shelf life, potency, and going bad of saffron. If you’d like to learn a thing or two about this spice, you’re in the right place. Read on.

Saffron in a wooden bowl
Saffron in a wooden bowl

How to Store Saffron

Usually, saffron is sold in strands or powdered form, but the storage guidelines are pretty much the same. Storing saffron is like storing other spices, like cinnamon, or bay leaves. First and foremost, you should keep saffron in a cool and dark place, away from sunlight and sources of heat. A dark cupboard or a spice drawer in the kitchen is the way to go.

Once you open the container, it’s more of the same. Remember to keep the container or bag sealed tightly after every use.

If your packaging isn’t resealable, consider transferring the product to a small jar or an airtight container. Either of these will keep moisture at bay and keep it away from “fresh” air. That, in turn, helps the spice to retain its potency for longer.

Warning

Take extra care if you’re transferring saffron strands so they won’t break. Otherwise, you will end up with half-strands half-powdered saffron.

Colorfull spices
Image used under Creative Commons from Marco Verch

How Long Does Saffron Last

Just like pretty much any spice, saffron is best used as soon as possible for optimal flavor and potency. And over time, it will slowly lose its potency, so after storing it for two or three years, it definitely won’t be as fragrant and flavorful as it was fresh.

That being said, both powdered saffron and saffron strands usually come with a best-by date. And as long as you take good care of the spice, it will last many months or even years past that date.

If there’s no date on the package, you can assume it should retain most of its taste for 2 – 3 years. Of course, as time goes by, you might need to add more of it to the dish you’re cooking for it to taste as it supposed to.

 Pantry
Powdered saffronBest-by + 1 year
Saffron strandsBest-by + 1 year

Please note the periods above are for the best quality only.

Saffron threads
Image used under Creative Commons from THOR

How to Tell if Saffron Has Gone Bad

So as I already mentioned, saffron doesn’t really spoil, unless of course water gets to the powder or the strands. And if that happens, you will know.

But the spice, like other ones, loses its potency gradually. So after storing it for a long time, it might have little to no flavor. Thus, if you keep it for a prolonged period, it’s best to test if there’s any flavor left before using it.

Tip

An excellent way to tell if the spice is still usable is to rub a small amount of it between your fingers and give it a whiff.

If the aroma is still strong and the flavor robust, the saffron is still usable. But if the spice has lost its smell, it’s time to discard the saffron.

If the smell and taste have weakened significantly, it’s up to you to decide what to do. You can throw it out for quality reasons or use more of it than usual to get the results you’re looking for. This way, you will finish the package sooner.