How To Tell If Garlic Is Bad

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Whether you’re pickling garlic or adding a few cloves to your cooking or baking, it’s important to know how to tell if garlic is bad. When properly stored, garlic will last for several months, but if it is not stored properly it can spoil in just a few days.

Packed garlic for display

Garlic is an easy addition to any food and a favorite spicy vegetable for many cooks. In addition to the aromatic and zesty flavor it adds to food, garlic has tons of health benefits. What’s more, it’s a cheap vegetable with an impressive shelf life.

Like all vegetables, though, garlic can still get spoiled and therefore, it is crucial to understand how to examine it and know if it has gone bad. In this post, we are going to discuss the signs/indicators of bad or spoiled garlic.

Garlic is a widely used food ingredient that’s both delicious and good for you (in moderation). But, how do you know if it’s past its prime?
There are several ways to tell, but below is a quick and easy way to find out.

Garlic bulbs and peeled garlic

First things first, how long does garlic last?

Garlic has a relatively long shelf life and if well stored, a whole bulb can last for 3-5 months in the pantry. If the garlic bulk is broken, its shelf life decreases significantly and in general, the individual cloves should last for 7-10 days.

In the case of processed garlic, here is what you should expect:

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• Peeled and chopped garlic

Around 1 week in the refrigerator and 10-12 months in the freezer.

• Homemade minced garlic soaked in extra virgin olive oil

2-3 weeks in the fridge.

• Commercially minced and chopped garlic in jars

Up to 3 months in the fridge. These should also have expiry dates or best-by dates that should be strictly followed.

This said, we can now look at the strategies you can use to know if your garlic has gone bad.

How to know if garlic is bad?


Good and fresh garlic should be white in color. If your garlic starts developing a yellow or brown color, it is probably spoilt and unsafe for consumption. Also, spoiled garlic will start to form brown spots on the cloves.

Sprouting and moldy garlic


Fresh and safe to consume garlic should feel firm to the touch. If your garlic feels very soft or even mushy, then you better discard it.


Garlic has a characteristic pungent and mellow aroma. If your garlic starts to lose this smell and starts developing a sour scent, it is bad and should be disposed of.

Note that even if the garlic has sprouted, it is still safe to consume as long as it has passed all three tests discussed here. Since the roots are bitter, you should consider removing them before cooking the garlic cloves.

How to store garlic properly

• Store garlic in a well-aerated container such as a mesh basket.

• Store in a dry, dark place as moisture and light can lead to development of mold in garlic.

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• Wrap a whole bulb unpeeled in aluminum foil and store it in a freezer to keep it fresh for a longer time.

The bottom line

Consuming bad garlic can cause foodborne illnesses and you need to be careful and vigilant before consuming this vegetable. With the strategies above, you can easily evaluate if your garlic is safe or not for consumption before cooking it. Follow the storage tips to maximize your garlic’s quality and shelf life and you will enjoy this spicy and flavory vegetable for long.

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