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How long does garlic last?

How long does garlic last?
Posted at 12:20 PM, Apr 12, 2024

Garlic is always a good idea. It’s healthy, it works in all kinds of dishes and it turns boring old French bread into … delectable garlic bread. To have garlic on hand is to have a meal-enhancing secret weapon in your pantry.

But unless you use the dried powder kind (which has a shelf life of three to four years), you may wonder how long you can store garlic before it loses its freshness. Read on to learn the ins and outs of garlic’s longevity.

Does Garlic Go Bad?

Like any vegetable, garlic does go bad. And once it does, eating it can upset your stomach. If you let garlic sit out long enough, it may, in rare cases, even begin to grow botulism-causing bacteria. The U.S. Department of Agriculture warns this risk increases when garlic stored in oil isn’t placed in the fridge, or isn’t consumed within a week.

When you’re shopping for garlic at the supermarket, the freshest bulbs will be firm when squeezed, and will have tight skin. They also shouldn’t have a strong smell.

How To Tell if Garlic Is Bad

If the garlic still has its original roots attached, it’s probably fresh. But if small, green sprouts are growing from the top of the bulb (as in the photo below), the garlic may have been stored improperly and is on its way to spoiling. You can still eat it without getting sick, but its taste might be slightly off.

To see if garlic has truly gone bad, look for bulbs that have gone soft and are turning yellow, have a sour smell or have dark, moldy spots.

A bulb of garlic with a green sprout coming out of its top.

How Long Does Garlic Last?

That depends. Is it whole? Peeled? Chopped into bits? The more you’ve cut into your garlic, the shorter its shelf life. But let’s look at how long you can keep each type of garlic.

Whole Garlic

If you store your fully intact garlic bulbs in a cool, dry place, you can expect them to last between three and six months. A garlic bulb’s papery skin protects its cloves from the moisture and heat that can cause spoiling. Be sure not to store whole garlic bulbs in the refrigerator, or you’ll cut their window of freshness by a bit (more on why that is in the How To Store Garlic section below).

Unpeeled Cloves of Garlic

If you separate a clove from the bulb but keep it in its paper husk, the clove should last for about three weeks before it starts to turn.

Peeled Cloves of Garlic

If you’ve peeled your garlic cloves or bought a container of pre-peeled garlic cloves, they should last about a week in the fridge.

Minced Garlic

Once you’ve chopped your garlic, it will only last for about a day in the fridge. The longer it sits, the more acrid it will smell and taste.

If you buy a jar of minced garlic, it will have a longer shelf life because of added preservatives like citric acid or vinegar. These can make garlic last for several months, but will also alter its flavor. Always use a clean spoon when scooping garlic out of a jar to prevent contamination. You’ll know jarred garlic has gone bad if it begins to smell or changes color.

Frozen Garlic

Frozen garlic that you buy at the grocery store can last up to two years in the freezer — though I end up buying it once a month! My own go-to pick for this is the frozen, crushed garlic from the Dorot Gardens brand, which is mixed with a bit of oil, lemon juice and salt. One portion equals one fresh clove of garlic. I pick it up at Trader Joe’s or Publix, but it’s sold at various supermarkets, including Kroger and Whole Foods.

But if you want to freeze your own peeled cloves or chopped garlic, just spread the garlic flat on a baking sheet and slide it into the freezer. Once it’s frozen, collect it in an airtight container. You’ll alter the texture a little, but the garlic should retain its flavor for up to a year. You can also freeze it in ice cube trays and then pop a cube of chopped garlic into a dish that needs a boost.

How To Store Garlic

Whole garlic cloves are best kept at room temperature in a dry place, such as on a pantry shelf or in a basket on the kitchen counter. Your aim should be to avoid excess moisture and encourage air flow, so use a ventilated container like a wire basket or garlic keeper.

Whole garlic bulbs won’t stay fresh as long if you put them in the fridge.

“The cold temperature in the fridge mimics autumn to garlic, and causes it to sprout within a couple weeks,” Sur La Table’s chef Richard Temples told Martha Stewart. “Sprouts are edible but can have a bitter flavor.”

On the other hand, peeled garlic cloves or chopped garlic do need to go in the fridge. Put them in an airtight food container like a glass jar or a silicone bag. Otherwise, the garlic’s pungent odor could permeate other food items.

Storing peeled or chopped garlic in olive oil can extend its life for up to seven days. Just place the garlic in a jar, cover it completely with the oil and fasten a tight-fighting lid on top. Be sure to discard any garlic you’ve kept this way after seven days in the fridge to avoid the risk of botulism.

If you grow your own garlic, you need to cure it (place the garlic, bulbs down, in a dark, cold place) for two to four weeks. Then you can break off the roots and leaves and store it in your pantry. Soon enough, you’ll be ready to make some delicious garlic mozzarella bread!

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