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

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Garlic is one of the most essential ingredients in cooking. It's important to know how to tell if garlic has gone bad and if it should be discarded.

Older garlic that is dry is safe to eat but may have less flavor or a sharper, bitter flavor. Garlic that is rotten or molded shouldn't be consumed. I'll show you the different ways garlic can go bad and when to discard it.

Fresh garlic should be firm and have a strong, but not overwhelming smell. It shouldn't have any slimy bits, dark brown and black blemishes, mold, or any "furry" looking textures. A fresh bulb of garlic, when stored properly, can last for 3 to 6 months.

A head of garlic with green sprouts.
A head of garlic with mold spots and sprouting.
A halved head of garlic with green sprouts.
A sprouted bulb of garlic cut in half.

Signs of Rot in Garlic

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

  1. Mold - older garlic or garlic that has been stored in a moist environment may develop white, dark brown, or black mold. The mold may be furry or look wet. It is typically on the outer husk of the bulb but may spread to the cloves as well. If garlic is molding, it should be discarded.
  2. Soft Spots - rotting garlic may have mushy spots. The mushy spots may be slightly brown or black. If the soft spots are over most of the cloves the bulb should be discarded. If the soft spots are small, they can be cut off.
  3. Sprouting - as garlic ages, it may start to sprout. If the sprout in the center of the cloves is small and the cloves are still moist and smell fine then remove the sprout and use as normal. If the sprouts are large and taking over the clove (like in the photos above), I recommend disposing of the whole bulb as it will no longer taste good.
  4. Smell - if the garlic has a strong smell that's acrid or ammonia-like, it's past its prime and shouldn't be eaten. It won't taste good and may be molding.
  5. Color - fresh garlic is white or off-white. When garlic ages it turns yellower.
A halved head of garlic with green sprouts and dry cloves.

The Best Way to Store Garlic

Garlic is best when kept at room temperature in a dry, dark place. It likes ventilation, so don't wrap it up or store it in a container.

Garlic can be kept in a basket in a pantry or cabinet. It's best if the cabinet is not next to an appliance like an oven or dishwasher that will release heat or moisture.

Don't keep your garlic in the refrigerator unless it's peeled or already chopped.

Garlic FAQs

Can you cut the moldy spots off of garlic?

If your garlic is moldy it should not be consumed. It's not going to taste good and may make you sick.

Do you need to store garlic in the fridge?

No, in fact, whole bulbs of garlic should not be stored in the refrigerator. If your garlic is peeled or chopped, then you should store it in the fridge or freezer.

Is garlic with a bad smell okay to eat?

Garlic with an acrid or sour smell should not be eaten. It's not going to taste good and may make you sick.

How long does peeled garlic last?

Individual peeled garlic cloves can last up to one week in the refrigerator. Minced garlic will last for a day unless stored in olive oil or frozen.

Can you freeze garlic?

Yes, you can freeze garlic. It will keep for up to a year when stored in a freezer-safe container. You can freeze whole, unpeeled bulbs, individual peeled cloves, and minced/chopped garlic.

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