How do you store a LARGE collection of spices?

February 10, 2008

For those of you who keep large numbers of spices, what storage solutions do you employ? I currently store my spices in two (overflowing) 10X18 narrow boxes slid into narrow cabinets next to the stove. I also have a wall rack where the everyday spices reside--various cinnamons, peppers, salts, salad seasonings and the like. We are planning a major renovation in our home, including a new kitchen. I need ideas on how to manage the spice inventory. I love to cook, and I do use them all. So, those of you with large spice inventories--please, please, share your storage solutions with me! If you can manage it, pictures would be MOST appreciated!!

PS, I live near Penzey's. It's a both a blessing and a curse. :-)


Comments (137)

  • smoothtalker

    Great pictures. It looks like you get alot of spices without using alot of space.

  • bluekitobsessed

    90 posts so far and you all are missing what is IMO the best answer: Outside in the herb garden! (I also have 2 small pantry shelves devoted to what can't be grown.)

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  • drjoann

    My DH designed and built this for me and attached it to the back of one of my pantry doors. I absolutely love it. Everything is alphabetized, at eye level and easy to find. He carefully chose the spacing and dowel heights so that both short and tall jars would sit there just fine. Also, it freed up quite a bit of space on the pantry shelves. He got tired of dinner being delayed because I was hunting for the spices so he decided to organize me.

    Even though my pantry is not a walk-in, it is wide with two doors that open out. If we were going to stay in this house, I would have him build me another one to match since there is spillover of the less used blends that are still on the shelves. I really think I'll skip over the pre-made solutions for the new kitchen and have him replicate this.

    Jo Ann

  • izbit

    Oooh, these are great fun. We went with both a drawer insert (with the angled pieces) and a rack on the inside of the upper cabinet immediately above. The KD clearly thought I was crazy, but it works perfectly -- the most frequently used ones go in the drawer, but the others are still easy to reach. My one complaint is that the penzey's bottles are just slightly too big for the drawer.

    Drawer: http://www.flickr.com/photos/elizabethlb/2485396330/in/set-72157604435186307/


  • mamadadapaige

    I have the door attachment and chose to have it to the right of the range. I really like it a lot. I also love Penzey's spices. When you buy a combo pack from them, the box comes stuffed with cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and hazelnuts (which I store away in airtight containers and consider a nice bonus!).

    My friend who doesn't cook as much as me and thus doesn't have as many spices, but has an absolutely gorgeous and very unique kitchen has the Dean and Deluca test tubes in a very attractive holder on her countertop. I love the look but it wouldn't work in my kitchen.

  • vicnsb


  • elwydee


  • Buehl

    How about a large collection of decorating sprinkles? :-D

    Every shape & color imaginable!

  • gwentm

    Great thread - so many terrific ideas. I have so many spices - some that I never use. Haven't started my demo yet, but when I'm packing up I'm going to get rid of all the old spices that have been accumulating (never dated any of them) - and buy new only as I need them. That should help my storage space!

  • firstmmo

    I love looking at this thread. Not only does it inspire me to stay organized but it inspires me to cook something with loads of spices! Thought I'd bump this for others to see.....

  • e4849

    I am an absolute devotee' of Penzey's. Having exactly the spice I want is critical to my cooking. Having packed them all up for my kitchen remodel, I would guess I have 60+ jars.

    I have them in nearly identical 1/2 oz glass jars from Penzeys. They occupy two 12", double-level lazy suzans in my large upper cabinets, adjacent to the oven. They are arranged alphabetically, A-H in one lazy susan and I-Z in the other. A-D on the top left, D-H on the bottom left, I-P on the top right, R-Z on the bottom right. Then I have another plastic lazy susan in the next cabinet with my small pepper grinders, and small extracts, also arranged alphabetically.

    I can always find what I need using this system. Works like a charm for me.

  • cj47_gw

    Oh, it's so funny that this thread should get bumped today. I'm finally, finally, finally packing up MY spices for the remodel! I'm doing drawers, because the cardboard boxes that I've been using all these years work well for me. Thanks to Lascatz, I know how big the drawer needs to be. I'm going to get two drawers; I know myself too well to limit myself to one. :-)

    Demo is Thursday!


  • lascatx

    "90 posts so far and you all are missing what is IMO the best answer: Outside in the herb garden! (I also have 2 small pantry shelves devoted to what can't be grown.)"

    Bluekit -- I have one of those two. It has been running down since Ike and with an especially hard summer and winter last year, I started over on everything but the bay laurel and one mint. I also put in a butterfly/humingbird garden beside it so I can watch while standing at the sink window. I am so happy to have it back as it was intended to be (since we bought the house anyway -- I was not satisfied with a blank fence view).

    Cj, good luck with your remodel. I thought my one large drawer was a lot, but it's better to have one drawer too many than one too few. You will always be able to find a use for another drawer if you find you don't need it. For me, it is probably better that I contain myself. I do have some larger rub jars, extracts, sprinkles, baking soda and baking powder -- that kind of stuff in the cabinet above the spice drawer. If I didn't have that, I would have to have a second drawer.

    Hope you enjoy the drawer(s). I had something similar to drjoann's, but it was the full height of the door. When we took out the walk-in pantry, I had to find another solution or I was sunk. The pullouts either side of the cooktop took up too much precious space -- the drawer was the right solution for us and I have loved it.

  • akc_at_aeits

    Full height pull out with room for expansion in between the top shelves. Extra spices for re-filling are kept on the top most shelf.

  • huango

    I'm short so I have my frequently used spices on the bottom shelf of the wall cabinet.
    Then the 2nd shelf I have this:

    I love it; it holds about 20+ spices.

  • flwrs_n_co

    bumping one of my favorite threads for more great ideas . . .

  • kristen_design

    I was wondering where the spice rack came from in the photo from mamadadapaige?

  • lazy_gardens

    Kristen - I think that is Rev-a-shelf

    You can also get wire racks that screw onto the door, is your doors are slab doors.

    My collection is all in one cabinet, on spinners, roughly sorted by their usual use, in whatever mongrel jar I have that can hold it. I buy baggies from the ethnic stores instead of 3x jars of the name brands.

  • cj47_gw

    Coming full circle here--when I posted this original query, I was just starting to seriously plan our remodel, with special attention to my kitchen and what kind of system I'd use to store my ridiculously large spice collection. Now, nearly three years later, we are winding down on the work, and I thought I'd post pics of my new spice drawers, fully loaded. I'm pleased with the way they're working for me. It's so NICE to be able to find whatever I need quickly--no unloading boxes from the cabinet to get the boxes that lurk behind!

    So, just for grins, let's look at the old spice storage, in the old cabinets.

    And the new storage, in the new cabs--that don't have hardware yet.


    Top Drawer

    Middle Drawer

    Bottom Drawer

    Thanks to everyone that posted their storage solutions--it was fun to see how you all handle it. And it was validating to see that I'm not the only Penzey's addict out there. :-)


  • cj47_gw

    Hm,I tried this post earlier but didn't see it come up on the forum, so I'm trying again. Apologies if it ends up to be a double posting!

    About 3 years ago, I posted a question asking you all for suggestions on storing a large collection of herbs and spices. Of course, you responded with tons of really great suggestions. Now, with our remodel winding down, I thought I'd post some pictures of my new spice drawers--fully loaded. :-)

    Just for grins, let's look at the BEFORE pic of my spice storage:

    And the new storage, where everything is easily accessible and easily found:



    A very belated thanks to all who responded to that original post. It was validating to see how many of you are also spice addicts, in my particular case, a Penzey's addict. And it was also very interesting to see the many ways that you deal with the resulting number of bottles and bags.

    Happy cooking to all,

  • jenellecal

    bumping for fun

  • cj47_gw

    OOPS, I somehow deleted the picture of the new spice drawer...

  • celticmoon

    Cool that there are so many Penzy's fans. Their headquarters is right down the road from me. Love going there.... I should apply to work there...

  • ginny20

    And now for something completely different... (dating myself again!)

    Good bump - useful information!

  • Donaleen Kohn

    We got some square sided glass jars and put the stuff we use all the time in a drawer in the prep area. The rest of the spices are stored on our pantry shelves.

    We always date the spices when we get them. In recent years we've cut back some on how many different ones we buy because there are only so many we use in a year or two.

  • cj47_gw

    LOL, good memories with this thread! Thanks for bumping, Westsider! Even now, I look at pics of the old kitchen and shudder a little....

    Celticmoon, I've often thought of getting a job at Penzey's as well, but I don't dare. It'd be like trying to work at a bookstore--or even worse, Half Price Books! LOL.... too much temptation! But think of the fun it would be. :-)


  • ellabee_2016

    I got strips of magnetic material (with glue backing) from Custom Magnetic Spice Racks (online place, but don't have the link handy), and bought small square tins from another online supplier. [Get the ones with solid metal lids; clear ones let in more air, and don't stand up to the more corrosive ground spices.]

    The strips and tins are on the inside of the pantry doors, at eye level. It's a delight to be able to easily find anything I need, they take up very little room, and they're stored away from light and heat. There are about sixty containers in all. They're in more or less alphabetical order, labeled using pieces of masking tape and a sharpie. If I cared more about how they look, I could always print out labels.

    Bulk spices are in a container in the freezer, to refill the pantry tins as needed.

    This works well for me because I'm an assemble-ingredients-first kind of cook. But even on the rare occasions when I decide at the stovetop stage that something else is needed, the pantry is just a few steps away, and the accessible layout makes it super-quick to locate and retrieve the right container.

  • willtv

    Like this.

    And this.

    We love our recessed cabs.

  • Debbi Branka

    My husband made this for me. I also have an entire drawer full of Penzey's jars and bags :) (This is in the old kitchen before remodel, but the spice rack still hangs in the same spot.

  • Nicole

    Here's mine for now. Still tweaking where stuff lives in the new kitchen.

  • mjher1

    Nicole6, what did you use to label your spice containers and do they stay on well?

  • Nicole

    I have a little Dymo label maker and so far the labels seems to stay on fine. I've labeled lots of other things with it over the years and they've held up good as well.

  • breezygirl

    Since I owe my spice drawer to this thread, I thought I'd post my spices. Out of view in the very back are fancy smoked paprika and Hungarian paprika (purchased in Budapest) in their decorative tins. I now have more spice tins than what's shown here so I have a few stacked on top of these at the back of the drawer. Any overflow is in the freezer.

  • aliris19

    I love my spice cabinet, but it's a little specialized and may not be everyone's cup of tea.

    Here's a shot from the side which has open shelves in it. The spice cabinet is at 90-degrees to the shelving:

    Here's the inside of the cabinet taken from when I was still moving back in:

    Things are a bit more crowded in there now. But it's still functional.

    So the area to the left is a full cabinet's depth and the area to the right is a single ledge's worth of space for frequently-used spices.

    As an amazing coincidence, the width of the deep left part is *exactly* the distance across of two 16oz spice containers from the Indian store - plastic canisters. So I can fit four of those on each of the top two shelves. Above the stove are hard-to-reach cabinets that store overflow empty glass bottles. I need a stool to get up there so that doesn't happen too much. Empties mostly hang out on my counter and socialize.

    The deep shelves on the left can, it must be admitted, be a pain for locating something quickly. But because all my jars are different, I do know the contents by the jar's shape, which helps. But truthfully, I haven't yet implemented a good organizing scheme by shelf or even location (R v. L) of the shelf. When I'm cooking I'm usually flying around, grabbing stuff and tossing it back in; a regular location just hasn't emerged yet for any of it, really.

    Still, I love that it's all together in one place at least. And wow! - does that cabinet smell good when opened. The one on the other side of the range holds coffees and teas and it's wonderful when opened too (yes, I know, not optimal placement for several reasons).

    Sweeby, my sil stores spices the same way as you - in test-tubes and test-tube racks. (Is Sweeby still here?)

  • rosie

    Aliris, thank you. After these impeccably organized systems, I needed that. To this day my spices have not found their regular places in my drawers, either. I do drop them back in, but then they just sit there (so the issue is not with shelves versus drawers). :)

    Long, long ago I got excited about buying containers, labeling, etc., but then leftovers had to be stored, the containers refilled, new ones that matched acquired for new spices, and that was a quick end to that. Not to mention my most-used versus alphabetizing quandary; why I couldn't come to terms with thyme in the back row is something I don't even care to know. Some kind of warring compulsion thing?

    Fortunately for me, I do also enjoy the look of various spice containers from all over. These days they sit in the two top 18" drawers by my stove, which're both like little treasure chests.

  • dietitian

    found thread looking for spice storage.... i saw an updated version of this pic in the siematic showroom-

    where the spices are stored in glass jars with glass lids that have a rubber seal. they sit in a wooden drawer insert with a cutout the diameter of the container (I cannot find a pic of it online, but similar to above except in above pic the wood does not encompass the entire container) . made by hafele. you can just take the glass top off and take what you need without having to take the spice out. I personally hate shakers since i usually have to remove the shaker to use my spoon to get a lot of spice. what do you think of this? I would have it in the top drawer just to the side of my cooktop. I am thinking it will be nice not to take out each spice and have to put it back- just put lid on, take lid off. Thoughts?

  • nancyjwb

    I REALLY like the look of that drawer. It gets my organizing side excited! But I do think if you tried to use a spice without removing it from the drawer, you might spill over the rest of the drawer and the counter, stovetop, etc. trying to get it to your bowl or pan. I know I would! I think the idea is good, but I might still remove my spice before using.

  • Donaleen Kohn

    I recommend you split the spices into two parts... those you use all the time should be near your prep area. Spices you don't use so often can be elsewhere.

    Also, I cut back on the my spices. They do lose their potency and my collection was too large.

  • cj47_gw

    Personally, I wouldn't like measuring out of jars sitting in a drawer. Moving the spoon all the way over to the pot on the stove is likely to result in spillage now and again, no matter how careful you are. And how careful are you when you're on a mission to get things moving for dinner on a tight schedule? Cleanup means taking the jars out of the drawer and trying to get all the powder/seeds out of those cutouts. I also rarely measure exactly, I pour a little into my palm and see how much looks "right". It may work for some folks, but I know it wouldn't work for me. Sure looks nice, though!

    I know my collection is too large, but I use most of them, so I keep them anyway. They lose potency over time, true, but having them is better than not having them when I don't have time to run out and get something that I need. Now and again, I do a purge of the oldsters and only replace them if I find I'm missing them.

  • dietitian
    This is what I love about this site- you took me from the clouds back to the ground.....
  • steph2000

    I like the IKEA spice containers/systems. I might go with something like that when I remodel. I like the idea of a drawer as I found them frustrating in my upper in the last kitchen.

  • nancyjwb

    I agree drawers are the way to go for spices. I've gone from a drawer to an upper for spice storage with my recent move and I do not like them in an upper. Planning a special drawer in our someday remodel.

  • jerzeegirl

    Mine are in my pantry on a pull out shelf. They are all top labeled and I try to keep them alphabetical. I have way too many spices and should really get rid of a raft of them. They lose their effectiveness after awhile.

  • defrost49

    I agree with two places. Frequently used herbs are in a spice rack that twirls. Others are in a cabinet to the right of the stove. The cabinet door has clear acrylic shelves on the back of it so I have each shelf grouped by type. Such as baking spices nutmeg, cinnamon, etc are on the same shelf. I usually have to grab two or more for a recipe. The shelves in the cabinet are recessed and can hold larger jars and boxes. I keep vanilla, my favorite Tony Cachere's, and such on bottom. Top shelf holds bags of dried mushrooms. I really have too much of everything. I usually buy popular things at the food coop where I can measure out what I need but I made a visit to a Penzey's store once. At first when we were planning the new kitchen I suggested the drawer to the kitchen designer and she talked me out of it.

  • rococogurl

    Mine is 24" wide and floor to ceiling. It's built against one side of the fridge and it faces the range. I only need to take two steps to get at anything and I can see everything. It's not near windows so light isn't an issue.

    I cannot store things like spices in tightly organized spaces as I often have gunk on my hands when I reach for something (disorganized). These shelves hold all the spices -- large and small bottles -- including a row of Bodum glass storage jars that hold different kinds of salt, sugar, baking soda, tea, fancy sugars for guests etc. The Bodum canisters hold up really well and still look new after years on the shelf. I throw them into the dw periodically.

    Another benefit of the full wall treatment is that I can store my oils and vinegars here as well. I have a dowel to hang up towels and there's a space at the bottom where I have a clip for often used recipes. I need to add another clip there. I've also thought of adding a shelf above the dowels. It could be easily done but I'm waiting until I have someone in to add after market pull outs to two of base cabinets where I stupidly specified shelves.

  • westsider40

    bump Hi CJ glad to see you in Feb 2015 Still cooking up a storm? Kids growing! Will be doing another kitchen in our new Arizona house so need spice ideas. This is a great thread. Hope all is well with all.

    cj47_gw thanked westsider40
  • cj47_gw

    Hi Westsider40! <waving> Lucky you, getting to do another kitchen!! Yep, still cooking, and the kids are growing and..YIKES....heading to college!! Nice to hear from you. Good luck with the new kitchen!

  • marcosmcqueen

    I really dig the metal tins with clear tops but I have a question for those that have them; do you find that your spices dry/stale faster those? It seems that they would be less air tight than a traditional bottle.

  • Amy

    Bump! Looking at a 2-tiered drawer. Each tier would be just over 2" usable space in height. Obviously wouldn't fit the larger spice jars, but I don't have many of those. Anyone out there have a 2-tiered drawer? If so, how does it work?

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