Can I use expired rosemary?

Quick answer

Rosemary has a relatively long shelf life compared to other fresh herbs. Properly stored, fresh rosemary will generally last 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator. Dried rosemary can last 1-3 years in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. So if your rosemary has passed its prime but not gone completely bad, you may still be able to use it.

Smell and taste the rosemary first. If it still has a strong, piney aroma and flavor, it should be fine to use. Watch out for rosemary that smells musty or tastes bitter, dull, or off – this is a sign it has spoiled. As long as it seems fresh, expired rosemary is safe to eat but may be less flavorful than fresher rosemary. Try using more of it than a recipe calls for to boost the rosemary flavor in a dish.

How to tell if rosemary is still good

Since rosemary has such a long shelf life, chances are rosemary that is past its best-by date is still usable if it has been stored properly. Here are some signs that rosemary has gone bad and is no longer good to eat:

  • Dry or shriveled texture
  • Dull, faded color instead of vibrant green
  • Soft, mushy spots
  • Moldy growth
  • Musty or bitter smell instead of bright, piney aroma
  • Bitter, “off” taste instead of piney, minty flavor

As long as your rosemary seems fresh based on its appearance, aroma, and taste, it should be fine to use in cooking. Trust your senses – if the rosemary smells nice and tastes as it should, any expiration dates are just guidelines and don’t necessarily mean it has gone bad.

How to store rosemary to maximize freshness

Proper storage methods help prolong the shelf life of fresh and dried rosemary. Follow these tips:

Fresh rosemary

  • Wrap the stems in damp paper towels and place inside a loosely closed plastic produce bag in the fridge.
  • Changing the damp paper towels every few days helps keep it fresh longer.
  • Keeping air circulation around the leaves is important, so don’t pack it too tightly.
  • Fresh rosemary will keep for 1-2 weeks stored this way.

Dried rosemary

  • Store dried rosemary in an airtight container in a cool, dark place away from light and heat.
  • A dark pantry or spice cabinet works well.
  • If left untouched in an airtight container, dried rosemary will last 1-3 years.
  • Smell and taste periodically to catch any decline in quality over time.

Following proper storage methods helps maximize the shelf life of fresh and dried rosemary.

Does expired rosemary pose any risks?

Eating expired rosemary that has gone slightly bad poses minimal risks. At worst, it may not taste very good.

Here are the risks associated with spoiled rosemary:

  • Bad taste/flavor – Expired rosemary will gradually lose its signature flavor notes and may start to taste dull, musty, or bitter.
  • Upset stomach – Eating rosemary with mold growth may cause digestive upset like nausea or diarrhea in some people.

However, these effects are usually mild and temporary. So you don’t need to worry if you eat rosemary that is slightly past its prime. Just be sure to inspect rosemary closely and give it a smell and taste test before using to determine if it has spoiled or not. Discard any rosemary that smells or tastes off.

As long as the rosemary still smells and tastes relatively fresh, it should be perfectly safe to use in recipes. The flavor may start to diminish over time, but aside from potentially losing some flavor potency, expired rosemary does not pose any worrisome health risks.

How to freshen up expired rosemary

If your rosemary is still safe to eat but lacks some of its original punch, there are a few tricks to help boost its flavor:

  • Use more than the recipe calls for. Increase the amount by 1.5x or 2x to make up for any loss of flavor from aging.
  • Add it earlier in the cooking process to allow the rosemary flavor to infuse the dish.
  • Chop or mince it more finely to release and distribute the essential oils.
  • Combine it with other strong herbs and spices like garlic, thyme, or black pepper.
  • Roast expired rosemary alone in the oven at 300°F for 2-3 minutes to intensify the flavor before adding it to recipes.

With these tips, you can still get plenty of use out of rosemary that is past its prime but not completely spoiled. A little extra rosemary here and there in your recipes can help compensate for any decline in strength of the flavor.

Substitutes for expired rosemary

If your rosemary has gone bad and can’t be salvaged, all is not lost. You can substitute other herbs and spices in recipes calling for rosemary. Here are some good options:

  • Thyme – Very similar earthy, lemon notes.
  • Oregano – Another pungent Mediterranean herb.
  • Sage – Shares piney, minty aspects.
  • Marjoram – Sweeter but excellent substitute.
  • Savory – Closely related to rosemary.
  • Lemon zest – Bright citrus flavor complements rosemary.
  • Black pepper – Adds some punch.

Use about the same amount of the substitute herb or spice as the original recipe calls for in rosemary. Taste and adjust amounts as needed. Keep in mind the flavor profile won’t be exactly the same, but combining a couple substitutions together can help approximate the rosemary flavor.

Cooking tips for expired rosemary

Here are some ways to use up rosemary in your cooking that may be past its prime:

  • Infuse oil or vinegar – Steep expired rosemary in olive oil or vinegar to impart flavor; strain and use in salad dressings, marinades, etc.
  • Butter – Blend chopped rosemary into softened butter; spread on bread or use to top meats, vegetables, pasta. Freezes well.
  • Roasted veggies – Toss potatoes, carrots, squash, etc. in oil and liberal amounts of expired rosemary; roast at 400°F until caramelized.
  • Pesto – Puree rosemary with olive oil, garlic, Parmesan, pine nuts; use on pasta, grilled meats, bruschetta.
  • Aromatics – Add to soup stock, stew, roast chicken, bread dough; imparts flavor as dish cooks.
  • Skewers – Thread meat, onions, bell peppers on skewers with lots of woody rosemary stems; grill.
  • Potpourri – Mix with other dried herbs for a fragrant homemade potpourri.

Maximize the use of older rosemary by incorporating it generously into recipes where it can infuse foods with its woodsy flavor.

Can you freeze rosemary to extend usability?

Freezing is an excellent way to preserve fresh rosemary and prevent waste. Frozen rosemary maintains its flavor remarkably well straight from the freezer. Follow these steps:

  1. Rinse rosemary and pat dry thoroughly with paper towels.
  2. Strip leaves from stems or chop into desired size pieces.
  3. Spread in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
  4. Freeze overnight, then transfer rosemary pieces into freezer bags or airtight containers.
  5. Label with the date and use within 6-12 months.

To use frozen rosemary:

  • Add directly to simmering soups, stews, sauces.
  • Mix into batter for baked goods.
  • Combine with oil to make compound butter or dressings.

Frozen rosemary is much easier to chop or grind from its frozen state as well.

Freezing fresh rosemary is a smart way to significantly lengthen its usable life. Keep bags of frozen rosemary on hand so it’s always ready to bring its woodsy aroma and flavor to your cooking.


Rosemary has a relatively long shelf life. With proper storage methods, fresh rosemary lasts 1-2 weeks and dried can last 1-3 years. Expired rosemary that still smells and tastes piney, minty, and fresh is perfectly safe to use in recipes.

Watch for mold growth, off smells or flavors as signs rosemary has spoiled and should be discarded. To maximize the flavor of older rosemary, use extra and incorporate earlier in cooking. Frozen rosemary maintains its potency much longer. With some care in storage, handling, and usage, expired rosemary can still add its iconic flavor to many dishes.

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