Garlic is a staple for many kitchens across the world.
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Many people will enthusiastically add double the garlic that a recipe requires to ensure that they can taste it in their food.
That is unless you’re Queen Elizabeth II in the UK. Rumor has it that her majesty can’t stand the taste of the stuff!
Whatever your personal feelings on garlic, it’s hard to find a recipe that doesn’t call for it. Garlic is used in so many different dishes to give it added flavor.
From breads, to dressings, to main meals - garlic can be used in pretty much anything. It’s well known to help reduce cholesterol as well as combat heart disease.
But the problem for many chefs is knowing when garlic has gone bad. Garlic is often sold in multipacks, which can mean that you have a lot of this tasty herb in your store cupboard. So how long does garlic last?
The answer comes down to how you store it. If fresh garlic has been stored properly in your pantry, it can last you up to 5 months.
If you freeze your fresh garlic bulbs they can even last you up to 12 months in the freezer. We’ll be looking at this in more detail below.
Garlic is available fresh in whole bulbs, but you can also buy refrigerated garlic cloves, jarred minced garlic, and roasted garlic.
Everybody needs to store their garlic properly to get the best out of it.
But seeing as how long it lasts for can vary depending on the storage conditions, it’s also important to know when garlic has gone bad.
We’re going to cover how to tell when garlic has spoiled, as well as how you can maximize the shelf life of your garlic.
How long does garlic stay fresh?
How long does fresh garlic last?
Just like many other fresh fruit and veg that you buy, raw garlic doesn’t come with a best-by or expiration date.
So it’s important to know how to store it correctly. Garlic could last you anything between a couple of days up to a year depending on how you choose to store it.
If you properly store your garlic in your pantry, it should last you anything between 3 months up to 5 months.
However, you should bear in mind that once the bulb has been broken, the quality of the herb will decline fairly quickly.
Individual cloves of garlic which remain unpeeled can last for between 7 to 10 days when stored in your pantry.
We’ll cover how to properly store your garlic below!
How long can you use processed garlic for?
If you choose to peel and chop your garlic, then store it in the fridge, it should last you for around a week or so.
If you put this peeled and chopped garlic in your freezer it will last you for anything between 10 to 12 months.
If you put cooked garlic in the freezer it will also last you for between 10 to 12 months.
Most processed garlic that you can buy, such as dried garlic, powdered garlic, frozen garlic cloves, minced garlic, and jarred garlic will often come with an expiration date on their label.
This should help to make things much easier for you if you prefer these types of processed garlic. For the majority of products, these best-by dates are accurate, and should always be followed.
A jar of chopped or minced garlic should last in your fridge for up to 3 months.
Some commercial jars of garlic have added preservatives like citric acid.
These have been added to give the garlic a much longer shelf life. So why not try and make your own minced garlic at home?
You can soak it in extra virgin olive oil, which will ensure that it lasts for up to 2 to 3 weeks in your fridge.
How to tell when garlic has gone bad
It’s important to know when garlic has gone bad. You don’t want to eat this garlic, as it could make you seriously ill.
So how can you tell that garlic has gone bad? Here are three simple steps to help you know when your garlic is beyond its best.
Garlic that’s spoiled will have brown spots on the cloves. The cloves will also have turned from the usual white appearance to more yellow or brown in color.
The garlic may also have green shoots starting to sprout from the center of the clove. These are new sprouts forming!
While the green shoots won’t be harmful to eat, they do taste incredibly bitter. So you should always remove these before you cook the garlic.
Another good indicator of when garlic has gone bad is its smell. Garlic has a unique scent all of its own.
If your garlic cloves have started to lose their smell, or have a distinctly sour aroma, then it’s likely already gone bad.
You should get rid of this garlic bulb or cloves to prevent other garlic in your store cupboard from going bad.
Fresh garlic or garlic that is still good to use will remain quite firm to the touch.
Garlic can soften over time, which is another great indicator of when it’s past its best. If your garlic is mushy and soft, then it’s time to throw it away.
Can you eat bad garlic?
You should never eat garlic that’s gone bad. This is because eating garlic that’s gone bad can cause botulism.
Botulism is a very rare but often life threatening condition. It is caused by toxins which are produced by clostridium botulinum bacteria.
This bacteria will attack your nervous system and can even cause paralysis. The toxins caused by clostridium botulinum are some of the most potent toxins known to science.
This bacteria usually forms inactive spores which can be found in low acidic vegetables such as garlic.
However, in some conditions, these spores can become active. The low acidity combined with a lack of moisture, oxygen, and temperature can cause botulism to develop.
So if your garlic isn’t stored properly, it can develop these active toxic spores.
Botulism will affect the nerves in your eyes, face, mouth, and throat.
Some symptoms of botulism which bad garlic can cause include dizziness, double vision, difficulty breathing and swallowing, nausea, and vomiting.
If you’ve risked eating spoiled garlic and develop these symptoms, you should see your doctor immediately.
If you’re in doubt as to whether your garlic is safe to eat, it’s best not to risk it and go out and buy some fresh garlic instead.
How to store garlic properly
So now we know it’s important to store your garlic properly. But how should you store your garlic to ensure it stays fresh for longer?
One of the best ways to lengthen the shelf life of your garlic is to store it in the freezer. However, you should bear in mind that freezing your garlic can change the flavor and texture of the herb.
If you want to store your garlic in the freezer, you should leave the garlic whole and unpeeled. You should also make sure to wrap it in aluminum foil or plastic wrap to protect it from freezer burn.
If you want to store your garlic in your pantry or store cupboard, you should ensure this is in a dark, dry place.
This is because light and moisture can encourage mold to grow on your garlic. You should also store your garlic at room temperature.
When garlic is stored in high temperatures, garlic’s shelf life and quality will decrease fairly quickly.
Storing your garlic in the refrigerator can increase the shelf life slightly, but it can also cause new shoots to develop fairly quickly.
You can store your garlic in containers if you want to, however, you should ensure that you choose containers which have good air circulation.
You can also store your garlic in a wire mesh basket, a garlic keeper with holes, or a paper bag.
How to maximize the shelf life of your garlic
Want to know how to maximize the shelf life of your garlic? There are a couple of tips and tricks which can help you make the most of your favorite herb.
For chopped and minced garlic, you should keep it in an airtight container or jar.
You should also cover the chopped or minced garlic with olive oil, then keep this in your refrigerator. This should keep for around 2 to 3 weeks.
Don’t fancy using olive oil? Then you can also keep your chopped and minced garlic in the freezer.
You should put this in an airtight container, or wrap the garlic tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap before placing it in your freezer.
For fresh, peeled garlic cloves, you can spread them out on a baking sheet then freeze them for around 20 minutes.
Remove them from the freezer, then place them in an airtight container or freezer bag, and keep them frozen.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you know if garlic has gone bad?
There are several indicators that your garlic has gone bad. The first is that the garlic cloves feel mushy and soft to the touch. Fresh garlic stays quite firm.
Another indicator is that the garlic has a bitter scent rather than its usual fresh, garlicky aroma.
You should also take a look at the garlic cloves and see if there are any brown spots. Bad garlic will also be yellow or brown in appearance rather than the usual white.
Some garlic can also sprout green shoots, which taste quite bitter. These should be cut off before you use your garlic.
Should garlic be refrigerated?
You can refrigerate your garlic, however, you should be aware that it will be more likely to sprout green shoots if you do.
Minced garlic should be stored in your refrigerator. Jarred garlic should also be stored in your refrigerator when it’s been opened, and you will have to use it within a couple of days.
How do you store fresh garlic?
Fresh garlic is best stored in a dry, dark place, and at room temperature. When stored correctly at room temperature in your store cupboard, your garlic should stay safe to eat for up to 5 months.
You can also make your own minced garlic using fresh cloves. If you combine this with olive oil and store it in your refrigerator it should keep for between 2 to 3 weeks.
Can garlic go bad and make you sick?
It may be hard to believe, but yes, garlic can go bad and make you very sick. Improperly stored garlic can start to develop harmful toxins from the bacteria clostridium botulinum.
These spores are usually inactive, however, if your garlic has been exposed to certain conditions, the toxins can become active.
This harmful bacteria can cause botulism, which can be life threatening. It is very rare, however, it’s best not to risk it.
Symptoms of food borne botulism include dizziness, double vision, difficulty breathing and swallowing, nausea, and vomiting.
You should see a doctor immediately if you’ve eaten bad garlic and experienced these symptoms.
When should you throw out garlic?
You should throw out your garlic if the bulbs or cloves become soft and squishy, if the cloves have changed in color from white to yellow or brown, if the cloves have developed brown spots, or if green shoots have started to sprout.
Eating bad garlic can be very dangerous, so it’s best not to risk it.
How long do garlic cloves last in the fridge?
Garlic cloves which have been peeled will last for around a week in the fridge. Chopped or minced garlic won’t last for more than a day or two unless it’s been stored in olive oil.
Unpeeled garlic cloves will last for around a week when stored at room temperature in your store cupboard.
It’s understandable why garlic is one of the most popular herbs in the household. It has many health benefits, and can also have a long shelf life as long as it’s been stored properly.
Your garlic bulb can stay fresh for up to 5 months if it’s been properly stored at room temperature in a dark, dry place in your pantry.
If you’re in doubt as to whether your garlic is safe to eat, you should look out for brown spots on the cloves, a bitter smell, and see if the garlic feels mushy.
These are indicators that garlic has gone bad. Throw out your bad garlic and buy some fresh garlic bulbs!