How to organize your spices (and be the envy of all your friends)

Conquer your kitchen spice organization with ideas perfect for large or small collections of herbs and spices. Find streamlined and space-efficient products to organize your kitchen spices in a drawer, pantry, cabinet, or even countertop!

See how I went from a disorganized spice cabinet to the eye-candiest of organized spice drawers — complete with matching glass bottles and beautiful labels!

Spices in matching glass jars with white labels lined up in a drawer

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Long time no see! It’s been a while since I’ve last posted because we’ve been busy moving to a new house! And with a new house comes new organizational challenges… and opportunities!

I’ve been generally frustrated with my kitchen organization for a while, so one of my first priorities at the new house is to make sure the kitchen functions like a well-oiled machine. I wanted everything I need daily within easy reach, reserving the less-accessible spaces for the less-frequently-used items.

Spices seemed like a good place to start.

Our old spice organization system

You see, when we moved from our old house of 7 1/2 years, I thought one of the things I would miss was my cool cabinet spice organizer insert that came with the house. I hadn’t looked in that cabinet prior to buying the old house, so when I went to unpack the kitchen and saw what was waiting behind door number three, I literally gasped in delight.

It was a swinging door insert built just for spices, with narrow shelves, that you could access the front or the back of! No more losing spices in a 12-inch deep cabinet!

I thought I had a pretty good system going there. Everyday spices on the front bottom, herbs in the middle, blends on top, extracts on the back top, spicy spices (paprika, chili powder, cayenne) on the back middle, and… all the short jars on the bottom.

Cabinet with swinging spice shelf insert - labeled with organization
Cabinet with swinging spice shelf insert - labeled with organization

Nevermind the downsides to this system.

  • I couldn’t see the labels on the “short jars” shelf so I had to rewrite the spice names in sharpie at the top of the label, if I remembered. Half the time the spice name, even if written in sharpie, ended up not facing outward, so I had to spin each jar around or pick it up to see what it was.
  • My spices eventually overflowed to the shelf behind the fancy insert, along with the cans of tuna for some reason.
  • My husband frequently put them back in the wrong spot, putting a “spicy spice” or a blend where the “frequently used” spices were supposed to go. (I mean, who could POSSIBLY have trouble with such a straightforward categorization system?) When I went to find it the next time, I’d search for several minutes in frustration, or even figure we had run out and add it to the grocery list.
  • I’m short, and some of the spices and backstock spices were too high for me to comfortably reach.
  • My backstock system was lacking. I would write “1 more” in sharpie on the label if I had a backup jar somewhere, but I’d forget to write it or not see it and ended up with a shocking number of duplicates I only discovered when unpacking at the new house.
Cabinet with swinging spice shelf insert - labeled with flaws in organization
Cabinet with swinging spice shelf insert - labeled with flaws in organization

Spice organization ideas I considered

My original plan was to get something like this wall-mounted spice rack to mount on the inside of the pantry door (I have a pantry now, guys!!) but then I discovered this wide, shallow drawer under the cooktop would be perfect to organize my huge collection of herbs and spices. A much better use, I thought, than the jumbled assortment of cooking utensils it contained during our house tour. What better way to use a super shallow drawer and ensure it never gets jammed with a spatula or potato masher?

Cluttered, disorganized spices lined up in a drawer in their original containers

I really wanted one of these drawer spice organizers but the drawer isn’t deep enough to accommodate the angled jars, so laying the jars flat was the only option.

Then I considered something like these silicone spice organizer strips, but it seemed like it would waste a lot of horizontal space between jars unless I found some awkwardly short, round jars. Also, I didn’t like that it seemed to warrant arranging your spices in vertical rows rather than horizontal ones.

How I organized my spices

So I went back to a long-standing dream of mine (because I’m a dork), which was to decant my spices into uniform glass jars with matching labels. I got square ones so the label always faces up. And I laid down a simple non-slip drawer liner to keep the jars from scooting forward and backward every time I opened and closed the drawer. Basically the same idea as the silicone strips, but much more space-efficient when you have identical square jars!

Spices in matching glass jars with white labels lined up in a drawer - view of full drawer

The pitfalls of the previous system have all pretty much been addressed.

  • All the labels are easily visible at all times, always facing up, and never obstructed.
  • All the spices are neatly corralled into one location, helped in large part by a) the efficiency in space — no wasted space beside, above, or below the spices, and b) my discovery of all kinds of duplicates I was able to consolidate, and c) throwing away some really, really old and unused weird spice blends.
  • They’re arranged alphabetically, not by some weird designations of what counts as a “spicy spice.” That eliminates any question of where to put back a particular spice (not to mention the obvious hole it would leave in the perfectly-aligned grid of jars).
Closeup of spices in matching glass jars with white labels lined up in a drawer
  • For backstock, hopefully this system will eventually eliminate most duplicates as I use up the spices. In the meantime, and for spices I might buy in bulk containers, I have a new strategy. I’ve added one of these plain round stickers on the backs of any jars that have refills available so I don’t accidentally buy more before I need it. Then, when I’ve used the refill, I can remove the sticker.
Hand holding glass jar of garlic powder with round blue sticker to denote backstock is available

Most of the jars are 4-oz, which is the perfect size to decant a standard spice bottle into. It’s bigger than necessary for the spices that were in the short jars, but the visual uniformity and ease of organization is worth it to me.

I did get a few matching 6-oz and 8-oz bottles for certain spices that I always buy in a larger container — sesame seeds, Lawry’s seasoned salt — or that I make myself in larger quantities because I go through it so quickly — *achem* blackened seasoning.

Even the swing top bottle I had already made my homemade vanilla extract in matched the clear glass aesthetic of the rest of the drawer, and had a square base to boot!

Labeled photo of different sizes of glass spice jars with white labels

Best of all, the spice jars came with pre-printed labels — nearly 400 of the most common spices (including an entire page of different types of pepper)! And a page of blank labels so I could write in my own weird ones on there, like Jane’s Krazy Mixed-Up Pepper, which I keep on hand to use in my pimento cheese.

Hand writing name of spice on blank label for spice jar

One more item I got was a set of 4-oz jars with a built-in spice grinder, for my pink Himalayan salt, freshly ground pepper, and a couple specialty blends that need to be ground! It turns out the base jar is the same as my regular 4-oz jars, and the threading is the same, so I could even use the grinder lids on any of the larger jars too if I wanted! The grinder lids actually work better than my old pretty salt and pepper grinders too.

Pink Himalayan salt and black pepper in matching labeled clear spice grinders on countertop

What’s next

My spice drawer, although giant, is at capacity (food blogger problems). I’ve already put salt and pepper grinders on the counter, and I may end up getting a countertop spice holder for other everyday spices. I was also considering putting the larger spice jars and extracts on a turntable in the cabinet or inside the pantry door or something.

I’m also on the lookout for small amber glass bottles to move my extracts into, like these but with a flat side. I found some available wholesale but I only need like a dozen. If you’re wall-mounting yours, though, those would be great! I may just get the round ones anyway because decanting makes me happy.

What I used

So, to recap: Here’s what I used to organize my spice drawer!

What I used

Here are the actual items I purchased and used to organize my spice drawer.

On my list

These are on my to-buy list to make this system even better!

Alternate solutions

If I didn't have the most perfectly sized super-shallow, giant drawer to contain all my spices, here's what I might be using instead.

How do you store your spices? Are there any great organization solutions I missed? If you feel like yours could be better organized, streamlining your spices is a relatively simple, straightforward, and extremely rewarding kitchen project! I love opening my drawer now and seeing all my happy little matching spices all lined up and looking beautiful!

If you decide to take on this task in your own space, I’d love to see your befores and afters — tag me on Instagram @pinchmeimeating so I can marvel!

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