There is no comfort food without garlic. I mean, the aroma and flavor that come with it are incredible. Seriously how come anyone makes a proper meal without it? Anyhow, everyone has it in the kitchen, literally everyone.
Since I add garlic to almost everything I cook, I always make sure to buy it in larger amounts, so I don’t run out on this culinary golden ingredient. So if you are like me, I bet you have a large bag of garlic stored somewhere in the kitchen for weeks, maybe even months.
This might make you question yourself, does garlic go bad? Don’t worry, I got you covered, so if you want to know more about shelf life, storing conditions, and more, read until the end.
How To Properly Store Garlic
You might think garlic is invincible, but boy, you are wrong! Garlic can go bad quickly if it is not stored properly.
You should store whole garlic bulbs and unpeeled cloves the same way you store red and yellow onions. Once you start a new bulb, never crack-open the whole garlic, just scoop out as many cloves as you need for the dish, and leave the rest intact to prolong the shelf life.
If you accidentally peel the whole thing, make sure you put it in the fridge in an airtight container. Do the same thing for chopped, minced, and pressed garlic. You can also choose to place the peeled garlic in olive oil to make it last up to two days longer. Do not use it after two days since you can risk getting botulism, and that is a big no-no!
When it comes to where to store garlic, the best option is a pantry or cellar since both are dark, cool, and dry places. The important thing is to make sure the place is well ventilated. Places that are exposed to light and moisture will cause the growth of the mold. If you do not have a cellar or pantry, a cabinet in the kitchen will do too. But be aware that the temperature is slightly higher there.
Do not place the whole bulb into the fridge since it will sprout pretty quickly. This does not mean it is not good to use, but sprouting shortens the shelf life. Also, never buy pre-peeled garlic since it usually sits too long on the shelf in the store.
If you bought more garlic than you know you can use before it goes bad, you could freeze it in the airtight container or freezer bag.
How To Maximize The Shelf Life
The following tips will help you retain the quality and maximize your unpeeled garlic bulbs’ shelf life:
- Always store your garlic at room temperature. At high temperatures, your garlic’s quality and shelf life will deteriorate fast, and the temperature in the fridge can cause sprouts to develop quickly.
- Make sure you use containers that allow good air circulation like paper bags, a wire mesh basket, or a plastic garlic keeper with holes.
- You can freeze garlic, but make sure you wrap the unpeeled bulb in a plastic wrapper or aluminum foil before putting it in the right container. Remember, freezing can alter the texture and flavor of garlic, but it will significantly extend shelf life.
The following tips will maximize the shelf life of your peeled garlic:
- If you chopped or minced too much garlic and you will not need it soon, you can store it in the freezer. Wrap it up tightly with plastic wrap and place it in the airtight container.
- If you do not want to freeze the chopped and minced gloves, you can store them in the fridge, but make sure to add some olive oil.
- In case you want to freeze peeled garlic cloves, spread them on a baking sheet and freeze them for 20 minutes or more. Then transfer the garlic cloves to an airtight container or freezer bag and keep frozen.
How Long Does Garlic Last?
The shelf life depends on whether it has already been processed or raw and whole. Naturally, the further it is from an entire bulb, the shelf life is shorter.
An adequately stored fresh whole bulb will last for up to 6 months in the pantry. When you take some cloves from it, the rest will stay fresh for up to 4 months. A single unpeeled clove could last about two months if you are lucky, and their papery skin remains intact.
When we talk about peeled garlic, the situation is a bit different. First, it must be stored in the fridge, as I said. A whole peeled clove should last about a week in the refrigerator. When you chop it, mince it, or press it, it can’t stay fresh for more than a day in case you do not place it in the olive oil.
Unpeeled, as well, peeled garlic will stay fresh in the freezer for up to 12 months.
How To Tell If Garlic Is Bad
To find out if your garlic turned bad, you need to use your senses. First, give your heads of garlic a tight squeeze to check how fresh they are. A fresh bulb of garlic is hard and tight, and in case it starts to rot, it will be soft and pliable. Mushy garlic screams, let me go!
Also, dark spots or any trace of mold are sure signs that you should toss it immediately. Sprouted garlic should be cut off the shoots and used at that moment or discarded. Remember that sprouted garlic tastes differently, and you might not like it, so it is up to you if you will try to use it or toss it. Yellow cloves are not fresh at all though you can still use them.
Garlic has its own unique scent that is strong, spicy, and mellow. If your garlic starts to lose the smell or starts to develop a sour scent, the chances are high that it has already become rancid.
Side Effects Of Eating Bad Garlic
Did you know that eating bad garlic can cause botulism? This is not naïve at all! Luckily, foodborne botulism is extremely rare, but it can be severe and potentially fatal.
So what causes botulism? Clostridium botulinum is the bacteria that generally form inactive spores in low-acid veggies, just like garlic. In certain conditions, like lack of oxygen, high temperatures, and moisture, these spores may become active and develop botulism. Garlic has very low acidity, and if it is not stored properly, it tends to develop active toxic spores.
Very dangerous is garlic stored in olive oil, especially a homemade version since they are lower in acidity than the store-bought ones. This means you should consume this mix within a day since Botulism spores can survive in the fridge. The good news is that they can’t survive in the freezer, so you can freeze this mix in the ice cube trays in case you made too much.
The bad thing is that botulism affects the nerves connected to the whole face, including the eyes, mouth, and throat. Symptoms are nausea, vomiting, double vision, dizziness as well as difficulty in breathing and swallowing. If you experience these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.
So yes, garlic can go bad, and it is not safe to consume after it turns rancid. If you notice that even one clove turned dark, moldy, or it changes the appearance in any way, immediately remove it and dispose of it since if it stays in the bulb for a day or two more, it will surely spoil other cloves.
Knowing how to store the garlic properly will save you a lot of money and prolong the garlic’s shelf life significantly. One of my favorite ways to use spare garlic that sits in the pantry is to make a garlic salt that can be used in any meal to enhance the flavor with some garlicky magic when needed.