How to Tell if Garlic is Bad


How to tell if garlic is bad is key to knowing whether it’s safe to consume. Know our top 3 indicators that will show you that your garlic is bad and should be thrown away. We’ll also teach you the best storage methods for fresh garlic which results in maximizing its shelf life.

two bulbs of garlic how to tell if garlic is bad

What is Garlic?

Garlic is a bulbous flowering vegetable in the onion and allium family. It’s closely related to leeks, chives, onions, and shallots. Garlic is used as a flavoring for many dishes and has medicinal properties. Most of the world’s garlic comes from China.

How to Buy – Tips & Tricks

When buying fresh whole bulbs of garlic, you’ll want to look for the following indicators that will help indicate that the garlic is fresh. Here’s how to choose fresh garlic at the grocery store:

White skin. The garlic should be wrapped in a nice white papery skin. Any other colors such as gray, brown, or yellow would indicate that the garlic is old.

Firmness. Give it the firmness test by gently squeezing the garlic between your fingers. If the garlic is firm, that means it’s nice and fresh. If it’s squishy then the garlic is old.

No sprouts. Look for garlic that’s not sprouted. Sprouts on your head of garlic also indicate age.

Where to Buy

Fresh garlic can be found in supermarkets and grocery stores in the United States, typically located in the produce section near the potatoes. Minced garlic can be found sold in jars typically near the salad dressings and condiments or spices and seasonings.

How Long Does Fresh Whole Bulb of Garlic Last?

The length of time fresh whole bulb garlic will last depends on a few factors such as its storage conditions and its freshness.

Whole bulb garlic can last anywhere from a few days to a year, depending on how it’s stored. We estimate that when stored in a cool, dry, dark place such as a pantry, whole garlic will generally last between 3-5 months.

How Long Does Processed Garlic Last?

Fresh garlic that’s been processed and peeled or chopped will typically last about 1 week when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and will last about 10-12 months in the freezer.

Commercial prepared jarred garlic sold as whole, cloves, or minced, traditionally contains citric acid to make it last longer. You should use the best if used by date when determining how long commercial garlic will last and store it sealed in a container in the refrigerator after it’s opened.

How to Tell When Garlic Has Gone Bad

There are three mains signs that you can look for to know if your garlic has gone bad. Just use your senses to know signs of bad garlic:

Examine the appearance of your fresh bulbs or cloves of garlic.
Do brown spots or mold appear?
Does it appear more yellow or brown in color rather than white?
Does it have green shoots emerging? 
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, your garlic has likely gone bad and needs to be thrown away.

The smell of fresh garlic is one that’s pungent, mellow, and spicy.  If your garlic smells sour or off in any way, don’t use it and throw it out.

Gently squeeze your garlic between your finger and your thumb. If it feels nice and firm and has none of the other key indicators listed here, then it’s still good.

However, if your garlic feels soft, then it’s likely spoiled and shouldn’t be used.

single bulb of garlic

Can You Eat Bad Garlic?

Let’s say you’ve determined that your garlic is bad because you’ve noticed one or more of the signs above, can you eat bad garlic? Or should you eat bad garlic? The answer is NO. Garlic that has gone bad should be thrown away. 

Side Effects of Bad Garlic

The potential side effects of eating bad garlic are unpleasant and ones that no one wants to encounter if they can help it. Side effects of consuming garlic that has gone bad can include food poisoning, or botulism.  If you encounter illness from eating bad garlic, seek medical attention right away.

How to Properly Store Garlic

There are various ways to properly store garlic and maximize its shelf life depending on the type of garlic you’re using.  Let’s look at each one.

How to Store Fresh Garlic

The best way to store fresh bulbs of garlic is in a cool, dry, dark place such as a pantry. Fresh garlic should last for several months or even up to a year when stored this way. 

Be sure that plenty of air circulation can get around the bulbs to keep them from molding or going bad.

How to Store Peeled Garlic

The best way to store peeled garlic is by placing your cloves in an airtight container or zipped food storage bag in the refrigerator. Peeled garlic should generally be used within a week

And if you notice any key indicators of spoilage that we’ve listed above, throw it out.

How to Store Garlic Paste

Homemade garlic paste can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days when stored in an airtight container or zipped storage bag.

Garlic paste can also be frozen in small portions using ice cube trays and then transferred to a zipped freezer bag after the portions have solidified.

How to Freeze Garlic

Before you freeze garlic, you should know that freezing garlic tends to alter its texture and flavor.

To freeze garlic cloves, minced garlic, or garlic paste, remove the skin of the garlic and prepare as desired. Then place it in a zipped freezer bag, removing all the air. Garlic can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.

how to tell if garlic is bad sprouts

Tips to Make Your Garlic Last Longer

Knowing how to maximize the shelf life of your garlic will make it last longer.

You can do this by keeping the bulbs of garlic whole and with the skin intact.

Use proper storage methods keeping it in a cool, dry location or in the refrigerator if the skin has been removed.

For whole bulbs of fresh garlic make sure there is proper air circulation that can easily flow around the garlic to help keep it from molding.

Freeze The Garlic

Freezing the garlic can also be a way to maximize its shelf life. When freezing garlic, however, it’s valuable to know that this process can result in a change in texture and flavor after it has been frozen. 

To freeze garlic, remove the skins and prepare as desired such as whole cloves, minced garlic, or garlic paste. Then place the garlic in a zipped freezer bag, removing the air. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Frequently Asked Questions

Following are frequently asked questions that relate to how to tell if garlic is bad. If you have a question that’s not answered here, feel free to drop it to us in the comments box below and we’ll be happy to answer it.

Can garlic be stored in the refrigerator?

Yes, garlic can be stored in the refrigerator. Garlic that has had its skin removed needs to be stored in either the refrigerator or freezer for food safety reasons.

Fresh whole bulbs of garlic can also be stored in the refrigerator if the proper dry conditions and air circulation are provided.

How long can you store garlic?

The length of time garlic can be stored varies depending on its freshness, the state it’s in, and the storage conditions. See our list above for how to store garlic and its estimated shelf life.

How do you store garlic for a year?

The best way to store garlic for a year is by pickling and canning it. This food preservation option is the best way for almost guaranteed results for the length of shelf life.

How do you know if garlic has gone bad?

There are three main ways to know if your garlic has gone bad. You’ll want to examine its appearance, judge its smell, and feel its firmness. See the section above for how to tell if garlic has gone bad for more details. 

Should garlic be refrigerated?

Garlic that’s been peeled or processed needs to be refrigerated. But whole bulbs of garlic with the skins left on can be kept at room temperature in a dry place.

How do you store fresh garlic?

Fresh garlic is best stored in whole garlic bulbs with its skin left on and placed in a cool, dry location that gets good air circulation, such as a pantry.

Can garlic go bad and make you sick?

Yes, garlic can go bad and eating bad garlic can make you sick. If your garlic is in question or you know it’s gone bad, throw it away instead of eating it.

When should you throw out garlic?

You should throw your garlic away if you notice any of the key indicators that we’ve mentioned above in the section for how to tell if garlic is bad. These indicators include discoloration, the garlic becoming soft, or a sour smell.

How long do garlic cloves last in the fridge?

Fresh garlic cloves without the skins, sealed in an airtight container will last in the refrigerator for about a week.

How do you store peeled garlic?

Peeled fresh garlic needs to be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container and used within a week. Or for longer shelf life you can store peeled or processed garlic in an airtight container or zipped freezer bag in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Is sprouted garlic okay to eat?

If your garlic has sprouted but doesn’t show any of the other indicators of spoilage, it’s likely safe to eat it, but it will be sourer than garlic that hasn’t sprouted. You’ll want to remove the sprouts first before using it.

how to tell if garlic is bad purple garlic

How To Prevent Garlic From Going Bad

The best way to prevent your garlic from going bad is to provide proper storage. Storage conditions are what will ultimately lengthen the shelf life of your garlic.

How To Store Garlic

Here are the best conditions for storing fresh whole bulb garlic:

Use a cool, dry space at room temperature
Allow for good air circulation
Store in mesh bag or loosely woven basket
Keep cloves intact, without pulling them apart
Leave skin on the garlic

For minced or processed garlic, store it in airtight container in refrigerator, add olive oil to help maintain freshness, and eat it within a week.

Some of the Common Side Effects of Using Spoiled Garlic

If you suspect that your garlic is spoiled and it shows any of the key indicators listed above, that you can use for knowing if your garlic is bad, throw it away. If the garlic is consumed, it can produce nasty side effects of food poisoning or botulism.

These side effects can include stomachache, diarrhea, vomiting. If you experience any of these side effects after consuming bad garlic, seek medical help right away.

You Can Pickle the Garlic

To lengthen the shelf life of garlic, sometimes folks like to pickle garlic rather than freezing it. You can use apple cider vinegar, peel cloves of garlic, seal it in a jar or airtight container in the refrigerator, add some salt. 

Pickling garlic can increase the storage life of garlic for up to 4 months.

Garlic Shelf Life & Expiration Dates

When considering whether commercial jarred garlic is still good, you’ll want to take into consideration the garlic’s shelf life and expiration dates. Also, after jarred garlic is opened, it should be stored with the lid sealed tightly in the refrigerator.

Interesting Facts About Garlic

Following are some facts about garlic that you might find of interest.

The average person eats about 2 pounds of garlic each year.

About 75% of the world’s garlic (3/4) is grown in China.

Garlic was one of the first historical herbs to be cultivated.

Garlic is one of the healthiest foods on earth.

Eating garlic has many health benefits including helping to reduce cholesterol.

There are thought to be more than 450 varieties of garlic.

How to Plant Garlic

In cooler regions, such as the Midwest, garlic should be planted in the fall and harvested in the following late summer.

Plant garlic as individual cloves with the thin papery skin still intact. Garlic should be planted about 3-4 inches deep in well-drained soil.

The following summer when the garlic begins to mature, flowers will form, but the flowers should be removed to all the plant to pour its energy into growing the garlic bulb.

Help! My Garlic is About to go Bad, What Should I do? 

If you know your garlic has been around for a little bit, but it’s not yet showing any of the key indicators of being spoiled, you have two options. You can use it in a dish and eat it, or you can preserve it by canning or freezing it.

If your garlic is showing any signs of going bad, you should throw it away instead of eating it. Never risk eating food that has spoiled. 

Storing Garlic During the Winter

The best way to store garlic is to keep it in a cool, dry place that has good air flow, such as a pantry or countertop out of the sun. Garlic can be kept in a mesh bag or loosely woven basket to provide good air flow.

In colder regions, you’ll want to bring your harvested garlic inside so that it doesn’t freeze in the winter.

Roast The Garlic In The Oven

A delicious alternative for preparing and eating garlic is roasting the garlic in the oven or on the grill. The outcome is delicious for all kinds of dishes such as homemade garlic bread, garlic pasta and more. Here’s our article on how to roast garlic.

Health Benefits of Garlic

Garlic has a history of providing health benefits when it’s consumed. Some of the health benefits of garlic include, improving immunity, reducing high blood pressure, supporting heart health and brain health, reducing cholesterol levels, and helping to stabilize blood sugar levels.

Garlic Nutrition Facts

Following are the nutrition facts for 2 cloves of fresh garlic. Please note that nutrition facts vary based on the ingredients and the brand of ingredient. Be sure to calculate your nutrition facts based on the ingredients you intend to use.

Calories: 2
Total Fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 0mg
Total Carbohydrate 0.3g
Dietary Fiber: 0.2g
Total Sugars: 0.2g
Protein: 0.2g
Vitamin D: 0mcg
Calcium: 0mg
Iron: 0mg
Potassium: 4mg

Top 3 Ways to Tell If Garlic Has Gone Bad

As a recap, before using your garlic make sure to test it to make sure it has not gone bad. Those three ways are:

Did you feel the garlic to make sure it’s nice and firm?
Did you look at the garlic to make sure that it doesn’t appear yellow or brown in color and that there’s no mold?
And did you smell the garlic to make sure that it’s nice and fresh?

If there are warning signs your garlic has gone bad, be sure to throw it away. 

Other Garlic Ideas:

How many cloves in a head of garlic

Easy grilled garlic

California pizza kitchen garlic cream fettuccine

Red Robin garlic parmesan fries

Chicken with rosemary garlic cream

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Sarah is known for her extra fancy yeast breads, melt in your mouth pies, and everything salads. She has won awards as a home cook, and is passionate about helping others feel smarter in the kitchen. Sarah is the cooking genius of the sister duo.

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