Food preservation

Does Pepper Expire?

Pepper is a popular ingredient. Most Americans use it daily, so it’s only natural that you would stock up on it.

If you have had pepper sitting in your pantry for several months, you may ask yourself: does pepper expire?

You should know that most dried and ground spices don’t spoil easily, and pepper is no exception. Pepper doesn’t necessarily expire, but it starts losing its flavor when you store it for an extended time. So even though it won’t spoil, it won’t last forever either.


In this article, we will discuss the shelf life of pepper, storage, and signs of spoilage.

We will also look at how to salvage pepper that has lost some of its flavors.

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Pepper shelf life

Pepper does not last forever. It has a relatively long shelf life, but its quality starts to deteriorate with time.

When you buy ground pepper, you’ll notice that it has a best by date. The best by date is not an expiry date, but it estimates how long the pepper will retain its good quality.


Pepper may still be good to use for a few weeks past the best by date. So as long as it still does the job and doesn’t have any sign of spoilage, you can keep using it in your dishes.

Note that how you store the pepper after opening the package has a significant impact on its shelf life.

Generally, ground pepper retains its good quality for approximately two years.

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How to store pepper


You should store ground pepper in a cool, dry place. Additionally, you should store it away from any source of light.

Other than that, you should always ensure that you have sealed the jar tightly before storing it. This way, the pepper will retain its quality for longer.

If you buy pepper in non-resealable bags, transfer the pepper to an airtight container or jar before storing it. Alternatively, use a sealing clip to seal the bag after every use. 

The pepper mustn’t come into contact with water for its quality to remain intact.

Containers for storing pepper


Clear glass bottle spice containers usually look so appealing on the spice rack. Unfortunately, they are not ideal for storing pepper.

Storing pepper in a clear spice container will lower its shelf life significantly since the pepper is exposed to light.

I recommend that you store pepper in the following containers to extend its shelf-life;

  • Carousel spice racks
  • Tins
  • Mason jars

Carousel spice racks are ideal for storing pepper. However, you must store the rack away from sources of heat, light, and moisture.

Tins are ideal for storing pepper as long as they don’t have clear or glass tops. I recommend storing pepper in tins because they don’t allow any light to penetrate.

Mason jars are good eco-friendly containers for storing pepper. The only downside is that they are transparent. Therefore, it is crucial that you store the jar in a dark place and not expose it to any light whatsoever.

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Peppercorns shelf life


When whole, peppercorns will retain their quality for up to four years. 

Most peppercorns come with a best by date on the package. However, they do not necessarily become unusable after the date. Most times, they will still be good to use for several weeks past the best by date.

As long as the peppercorns still have a sharp, pungent taste and the signature aroma, you can keep using them in your dishes. Don’t discard peppercorns for the mere reason that they reached their best by date.

How to store peppercorns

You should store peppercorns the same way you store pepper.


Store them in a tightly sealed container and a dry place away from direct light, moisture, and heat. I recommend storing peppercorns in the pantry or kitchen cabinet.

If you buy pepper packaged in non-resealable bags, transfer them to an airtight container or jar after opening the bag. Alternatively, use a sealing clip to seal the bag after every use. 

It is essential that you don’t expose the peppercorns to fresh air. If you do, their quality will deteriorate faster.

Signs that you should discard pepper


Although pepper does not necessarily expire, there are instances when you should discard it. Discard the pepper if; 

  • It loses all its heat.

If your pepper no longer adds a kick to your dishes, you should discard it. The chances are that you stored it for too long hence its quality has significantly deteriorated.

  • It becomes wet or moldy.

Wet and moldy pepper is not safe to use. Mos times, pepper gets moldy when water finds its way into the package.

  • Off smell

You should discard pepper if it has an unpleasant smell.

  • Color change

If the pepper appears to have a faded color, you should discard it.

How to salvage ground black pepper that has lost some of its flavors


When you store ground black pepper in your pantry or cupboard for too long, it may start losing its flavor.

Luckily, there are a few steps you can follow to salvage it and make the pepper regain its kick. Here are the steps.

  1. Separate the pepper you intend to use from the rest and pour it into a container.
  2. Over medium heat, warm a skillet then pour in your pepper.
  3. Toast the pepper for two minutes ensuring you toss the pan every few minutes so that it covers all the sides.
  4. Once the pepper starts having its signature aroma, remove the pan from heat.
  5. Let the pepper cool down, then transfer it to a dark container and seal tightly until you are ready to use it. 



Pepper is a versatile spice that enhances the flavor of many dishes. When you store it properly, pepper can last for up to three years.

Follow the storage tips shared above to extend the shelf life of your pepper.

If you stored pepper in your pantry for a long time, and are skeptical about its quality, look for the signs of spoilage we discussed above.

Generally, pepper does not spoil. It just loses its quality over time. 

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