Does Nutmeg Go Bad?

Nutmeg is a versatile spice that gives savory dishes and sweet treats a delicious kick of flavor and aroma. Prized for its distinct sweet flavor and warm, pungent aroma, nutmeg is often used to flavor a variety of desserts and holiday drinks. This spice is sold whole or grounded into fine powder.

As with most spices, nutmeg has gone through a careful drying process to enhance its natural flavors and aroma as well as to extend its shelf life. Since nutmeg is sold dried, it doesn’t require much prep to store. In fact, some say that nutmeg never goes bad although this remains a hotly debated topic. While dried spice will keep indefinitely, it will lose its potency over time.

The shelf life of nutmeg depends mostly on the storage conditions. This spice is quite sensitive to moisture and exposure to it could lead to mold growth. In some cases, the spice’s flavor and aroma are affected when stored improperly.

does nutmeg go bad

Image used under Creative Commons from Brian Snelson

When it comes to longevity, whole nutmeg tends to have a longer shelf life compared to ground nutmeg. Ground nutmeg has the tendency to degrade over time. If you’d like to make the most out of your nutmeg supply, check out the proper storage guideline below:

How to Store Nutmeg?

The best way to store nutmeg is to keep it in the pantry. Refrigeration tends to hasten the degradation of the spice. Also, the chilly temperature exposes the spice to moisture, which increases the risk of mold growth.

Freezing the spice is not ideal either because this could cause the nutmeg to lose much of its aroma and flavor. Freezing and refrigeration could also cause ground nutmeg to clump together. If you are storing nutmeg, or any other spice for that matter, it is best to store it away from sources of heat, like near a window or near a stove. Doing so could shorten the shelf life of the product.

If you are storing unopened jars of whole or ground nutmeg, there is no need to transfer the product to a different container. Just place the bottled spice in the darkest, driest corner of the pantry. Keep the product away from direct sunlight.

As for opened jars of whole and ground nutmeg, you can transfer the product to an airtight container. Choose a container with a tight lid. Just pour the product into an airtight container and place in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. Always keep the container tightly sealed when not in use. Whenever you use the spice, reseal the container well to keep moisture out.

does nutmeg go bad

Image used under Creative Commons from Quinn Dombrowski

Shelf Life of Nutmeg

Thanks to the drying process, nutmeg has a long shelf life. When kept in the pantry, an unopened bottle of nutmeg will keep for 4 to 5 years! If the spice is kept in a dry environment, it could keep well beyond 5 years.  Opened bottles of nutmeg will keep for 2 to 3 years in the pantry.

How to Tell if Nutmeg Has Gone Bad?

Ground nutmeg is light in color with a vibrant aroma. If the spice changed colors or its potency has been reduced significantly, discard the product. To check if the spice is still usable, rub a little of it into your palm and take a whiff. If the aroma is still strong and there are no off-smelling odors that you could detect, the spice is still safe to use.


When it comes to dried spice, there is little difference between opened or unopened products. The same can be said for whole and ground nutmeg, as long as the product is stored properly, it will keep well no matter what state it is in.

Does nutmeg go bad? It doesn’t go bad as most foods but it will lose its potency at some point. That’s why storing the product properly is a must if you have dozens of bottles of nutmeg to keep.