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How to Tell if Cauliflower Has Gone Bad (with photos!)

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Cauliflower is one of the best and most versatile vegetables. It's important to know how to tell if cauliflower has gone bad and if it should be discarded. Not all spots on a cauliflower mean it's unsafe to eat, so we'll tell you how to know the difference!

Old, rotten cauliflower doesn't taste good and isn't safe to eat. When using cauliflower the first thing you should do is make sure any spots on it are just oxidization and not mold.

Fresh cauliflower should be firm and have no smell. It should be free of dark brown and black blemishes, mold, and any "furry" looking textures. A fresh head of cauliflower can be stored for up to a week if kept in the right condition in the refrigerator.

Cauliflower that has gone bad with mold and dark spots.
A cauliflower that should not be consumed.
A yellowed cauliflower leaf.
A yellowing cauliflower leaf with mold growth.

Signs of Rot in Cauliflower

Look for these signs to see if your cauliflower has gone bad.

  1. Mold - older cauliflower may develop dark brown or black mold. There may also be furry white mold if the cauliflower is spoiled. It may grow on the cauliflower head or the leaves.
  2. Soft Spots - if the cauliflower has any mushy spots it is too old to eat. The mushy spots may be the same color as the cauliflower or light brown.
  3. Discolored Leaves - if the leaves around the cauliflower head are turning yellow or have mold on them, check the cauliflower head before consuming. Yellowing leaves are a sign the cauliflower head was cut some time ago.
  4. Smell - if the cauliflower has a strong smell that's acrid or ammonia-like, it is past its prime and shouldn't be eaten. Uncooked cauliflower should have no smell (it's normal for cooked cauliflower to be pungent though).
A closeup of mold on cauliflower.
Dark brown and black spots of mold on a head of cauliflower.
The browned leaves of a cauliflower that has gone bad.
Yellowing leaves with mold on the underside of the cauliflower.

The Best Way to Store Cauliflower

Cauliflower is best when kept in the refrigerator in a loose bag or perforated bag that allows for some air movement.

If you buy cauliflower from the grocery store it often comes tightly wrapped in plastic. You can release the knot if it's in a bag or cut a few slights in the plastic wrap to allow for some air movement.

Don't wash your cauliflower before putting it in the fridge, it should remain dry until you are ready to use it and then it can be washed.

Cauliflower FAQs

How long does cauliflower keep in the fridge?

A whole head of cauliflower, when stored properly, will keep for 5 to 6 days in the refrigerator.

If the cauliflower is stored in a tight, plastic bag with no air movement it might start going bad after 3 days.

Precut cauliflower florets will keep for 4 days in the refrigerator.

Can you cut the dark spots off cauliflower?

If the spots on your cauliflower are light brown they can be cut off. Light brown spots are just oxidization, and while it doesn't look pretty, it isn't harmful.

However, if the spots are dark brown or black, have a bad smell, are mushy, or look to be mold growth, you need to throw the cauliflower away - it should not be consumed.

Do you need to store cauliflower in the fridge?

Cauliflower should be stored in a refrigerator. It can also be frozen and will keep for up to a year in the freezer.

Is cauliflower with a bad smell okay to eat?

Cauliflower with an acrid or sour smell should not be eaten. If cauliflower smells pungent before it's been cooked, it's probably too old.

Cooked cauliflower has a strong smell (and that's fine), but uncooked cauliflower shouldn't have a smell.

How to tell the difference between oxidization and mold?

Oxidization on a cauliflower will result in light brown spots. These are very common and they are caused by exposure to light and air - similar to how an apple browns after it's cut. Oxidization can be trimmed away and it's safe to eat.

Mold on cauliflower is dark brown or black and may have a furry texture. The mold may also create a mushy spot. If there are signs of mold, the cauliflower should be discarded.

How long does cut cauliflower last?

Cut cauliflower florets will keep for up to 4 days when stored in the refrigerator. Make sure they are completely dry before storing them in a loose plastic bag or container.

Can you freeze cauliflower?

Yes, you can freeze cauliflower. It will keep for up to a year when stored in an airtight container.

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