Does Garlic Go Bad?

Does garlic go bad or not? How should you store garlic to make it last longer and how do you tell if garlic has gone bad? Here are the answers.

Maybe you found some old garlic bulbs that have been lying in your pantry for a few months and are wondering whether you can use them.

Or maybe you use garlic sparingly and have plenty of cloves left even after several weeks.

Either way, you may be worried whether your garlic is spoiled.

The best thing is that garlic does not get spoiled quickly like other vegetables. Although it does not last forever, there is no harm in having a few garlic bulbs handy.

Whole bulbs do not rot for at least 3-6 months. Separated cloves last for 1-2 weeks.

Let’s find out more about the shelf life, storage, and signs of spoilage of garlic.

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How To Know If Garlic Has Gone Off

garlic in bowl

What gives your garlic its fantastic flavor?

Each clove of garlic contains a compound called allicin which is responsible for the great flavor of garlic. This compound is very volatile. When you cut or crush a clove of garlic, allicin begins to disintegrate. So if you want to enjoy the best taste of your garlic, you should use it on the day you cook it.

Your common sense is the best guide to finding out if your garlic is spoiled.

  • Look for indications of rot or dark spots.
  • Squeeze your garlic gently to check its firmness. If it is mushy or soft, throw it away.
  • Peel a clove and take a close look. Do not use it if it is yellow. Its taste may not be up to the mark.
  • If you have some peeled or prepared cloves sitting in your fridge for a long time, discard them. They may have lost their flavor and become useless.

Has your garlic sprouted? No worries. Just cut the shoots before using. It may be slightly bitter, so use it in a broth or as a light base in another dish, and you shouldn’t be able to notice the bitterness.

How To Store Garlic

spicy garlic chicken

Store your unpeeled cloves and whole unused garlic bulbs in the same way you keep your yellow onions. Your best bet is to keep them in a dry place that is cool, dark, and well-ventilated.

Just pop them on a shelf in your pantry if you have one. If not, a cellar comes a close second.                            

What about your kitchen cabinet and fridge?

The kitchen cabinet is not an ideal place because it has a slightly higher temperature. If you leave your whole bulb in the fridge, it may sprout quickly.

Some handy tricks:

  • Store your garlic in a place that has a temperature of about 60 o  F and moderate humidity.
  • Put the bulbs in hanging wire or mesh baskets or bags. The airflow ensures that the garlic remains fresh. If you like, you can make use of paper bags, too.
  • Sealed containers and plastic bags are not suitable for keeping garlic at room temperature. It will hasten the process of sprouting, and garlic will get spoiled faster.
  • When you use a new garlic bulb, only take out the number of cloves you need. Leave the remaining bulb intact to make your garlic last longer.
  • Always keep peeled or prepared cloves in your fridge. After you chop, mince, or press your garlic, use it or put it into an airtight box and shove it into the refrigerator.
  • If you are determined to make your prepared garlic last for some extra time, immerse it in some olive oil (do it in the right way to prevent botulism poisoning). If you don’t know the correct method, do not take the risk.
  • Last but not least, in case there is a lot of garlic lying in your pantry and you are not going to use it soon, put it in your freezer. Do not keep whole bulbs in the fridge. Instead, wrap them in cling film, put them in an airtight container, and place them in the freezer. Your garlic will last for a year, but it may lose some of its flavor.

How Long Garlic Lasts

garlic bread

The longevity of garlic depends on the amount of processing it has undergone. So a whole garlic bulb lasts longer than a peeled or prepared garlic clove.

Store-bought prepared garlic retains its quality until the best-before date mentioned on the label. It is pickled with vinegar or preserved with oil and may last for about 2-3 months in the fridge.

Here are some rules of thumb to keep you on track:

  • Whole fresh bulbs of garlic last for six months in the pantry.
  • After you take a few cloves from the bulb, they can remain fresh for 3-4 months.
  • An unpeeled clove may last for one month.
  • A peeled clove may continue to be usable for one week if you keep it in your fridge.
  • Once you chop, mince, or press garlic, it can last for a day.

The Bottom Line On Garlic

Make it a point to buy whole bulbs of garlic. Take out a few cloves that you need and leave the remaining garlic bulb intact. You should peel, chop, mince, or press garlic just before using.

Although you can get peeled and minced garlic from the stores, it is better to buy fresh garlic. Prepared, ready-to-use garlic may sit on store shelves for a long time and lose its taste.

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Alisa Shimoyama

Alisa eats her way around the world on her travels and likes to have good food ready and waiting for her when she gets back.