Crushed red peppers (also known as red pepper flakes) are made from chilies that have been dried before being coarsely ground. Drying them out keeps them usable for a longer time than fresh peppers, but how much longer? Let’s take a look at how long crushed red pepper lasts and what you can do to keep it fresh and flavorful for as long as possible.
Does crushed red pepper go bad?
Crushed red pepper goes bad when stored in conditions where it takes on moisture. Moisture takes away all the benefits that come with drying the peppers and creates the conditions for mold and bacteria to grow. Mold and bacteria will cause red pepper flakes to spoil.
Proper storage keeps crushed red pepper from going bad in the sense that it won’t get moldy, rot or spoil. The absence of moisture will prevent most of the factors that result in spoilage.
Crushed red pepper can also become unusable without moisture. Over a long enough time or because of storing it in the wrong containers, it can lose its flavor and some of its color. The compounds that give red pepper flakes its flavor and vibrant color can simply evaporate. You will be left with bits of tasteless fiber that won’t add much to your meal.
How long can crushed red pepper remain usable?
If you store crushed red pepper properly, you can expect to get about three years. The three-year lifespan is with the assumption that the pepper was properly dried and packaged in the first place. Factors in how long it lasts include moisture and mold. Both will cause your red pepper flakes to go bad quickly if you store it incorrectly.
Does crushed red pepper get spicier over time?
Crushed red pepper will lose heat over time rather than gain it. It will lose its spiciness faster if you store it in a container that lets light and outside air in. The longer you keep it stored in the wrong container, the greater the likelihood that it will eventually lose its flavor.
Not only will it lose much or all of its flavor over time if stored improperly, but the flakes can become discolored as well. What was once scarlet or ruby red will become pale and drab. Glossy flakes may also become dull.
How can you increase its lifespan?
One option is to store them at a lower temperature. Keeping red pepper flakes in your freezer is an option for extending the shelf life well beyond the three-year mark. Freezing is the best storage method if you have a large amount of crushed red pepper, but it can be inconvenient for smaller portions. If you would rather not have to go to your freezer every time you need the spice, you can store it at room temperature.
Never store red pepper flakes anywhere near your stovetop or any other heat source in your kitchen. Resealable bags alone won’t do the trick. You will want to ensure that the container keeps out light as well as air and that the location in which you store it is kept cool. Since most other spices require a similar environment, you should choose the part of your kitchen furthest away from windows and stoves to store your spices.