Does Broccoli Go Bad?

Broccoli heads are large, and we often don’t use the whole broccoli for a single meal. Or even when we cook the whole thing, there are leftovers. That inevitably brings out the question: does broccoli go bad?

Of course, since broccoli is a veggie, we all know that it spoils. But there are many questions out there about broccoli. People are not sure if it needs to be refrigerated, how to store it after cooking, or if limp or yellow broccoli is fit for consumption.

In this article, we cover all of that. In it, we go through storage, shelf life, and signs of spoilage of broccoli. If that’s what you’re looking for, read on.

Broccoli florets
Broccoli florets, right before cooking

How To Store Broccoli?

You can find broccoli in the not-refrigerated section in the grocery store. Because of that, many people believe that you can store broccoli in the pantry.

While that’s technically true, broccoli stored in the pantry will often turn yellow in 1 to 2 days (just like cauliflower does). In other words, it deteriorates in terms of quality quite quickly if stored at room temperature. So, if you wanted to know if you can leave broccoli out of the fridge, the answer is yes, but it’s not recommended.

The best way to store fresh broccoli is to keep it chilled in the refrigerator. Once you get back from the grocery store throw it into the fridge and you’re good to go.

Tip

Don’t wash the broccoli before storage. The extra moisture will promote mold growth, and you don’t want that. Wash it only when you are ready to use it.

Whole broccoli
Whole broccoli

When it comes to storing cut broccoli, it belongs in the fridge too. Transfer the cut florets and stalks into an airtight container and then into the refrigerator.

Please remember that cut broccoli ages much faster than the whole head. That means the best option is to prepare the veggie in the morning or the night before, not three days before cooking.

Now let’s talk about cooked broccoli. Cooked broccoli belongs in the fridge, too. After cooking it let it cool down for at least 15 – 20 minutes, so it’s not hot anymore. Once that time passes you can transfer the vegetable into an airtight container and then into the fridge.

Warning

Don’t leave the cooked broccoli in room temperature for longer than about 2 hours, as the bacteria growth is fastest at room temperature.

If you want to store the broccoli for the long-term, freeze it!

Pouring broccoli soup
Pouring broccoli soup

Can You Freeze Broccoli

You can freeze both cooked and raw broccoli, depending on your needs. If you want to have some broccoli for soup or another cooked dish, freezing raw broccoli is the way to go. If you’d rather reheat the broccoli to eat it as a side dish, cook it before freezing it.

You can freeze raw broccoli by following these steps:

  1. Wash the broccoli head and cut it into florets. If you’re freezing the stalks, cut them into small pieces, too.
  2. Blanch the veggies. Bring a pot of water to a boil and throw the cut broccoli into the water. Leave it there for 2-3 minutes, depending on the size of the cut pieces. Then drain the water and throw the veggies into an ice bath for at least 5 minutes to stop the cooking process. Take the broccoli out of the cold water and leave it to dry. Use paper towels to get rid of the moisture.
  3. Pre-freeze the vegetable. Take a cookie sheet and lay the pieces onto it in a way they don’t touch one another. Put it sheet into the freezer and leave it there until the veggies freeze.
  4. Transfer the frozen pieces into freezer bags. Label each bag if needed.
  5. Chuck the prepared freezer bags into the freezer.

As you can see, freezing raw broccoli might be quite a hassle. Freezing cooked one takes less time and doesn’t require any additional steps. You can do it this way:

  1. Cook broccoli your favorite way. You can also steam it or roast it, whatever works best for you.
  2. Divide the prepared broccoli into meal-sized portions and let it cool down to about room temperature (30- 40 minutes max).
  3. Once it’s cool, transfer the veggies into freezer-bags or meal-prep containers. Add labels if needed.
  4. Transfer the bags or containers into the freezer.

That’s it. As you can see, the process is straightforward and doesn’t take much time at all.

Pile of broccoli florets
Pile of broccoli florets

Now that you know how to freeze broccoli, let’s cover the ways to defrost it:

  • Overnight in the fridge. Best choice if you want to cook it the next day.
  • Microwave. Transfer the broccoli into a glass container or plate. Start on low to defrost it, then increase the power to warm it up.
  • In cold water. If you don’t have a microwave and need to defrost the broccoli fast without cooking it, throw it into a bowl of cold water. Of course, this way works much faster if the vegetable is in a freezer bag, not in a container.
  • Using a non-stick pan. Start on low heat to defrost, then increase the heat to warm it up. If there’s not much water left but the broccoli still isn’t warm enough, add some water.
  • Throw it in frozen. There’s no need for defrosting if you’re using the broccoli in a soup. Add a few minutes of cooking time to account for thawing of the vegetable.
Broccoli closeup
Broccoli closeup, it’s a couple of days old, so florets start to turn yellow

How Long Does Broccoli Last

For the broccoli to last the longest, you start by choosing the best one at the grocery store. Go for broccoli with firm, fresh-looking stems, and deep green head.

It’s quite difficult to say how long does raw broccoli last. There are a lot of factors involved, like how and for how long was it stored before you’ve bought it.

If you’ve chosen a decent-looking broccoli head, it should last in the fridge for at least 4 to 7 days, possibly more. Of course, it most likely won’t go bad after a week or so, but its quality will start to drop quite quickly.

In other words, if you store raw broccoli in the fridge, you will probably have to discard it for quality reasons, not because it has gone bad. If you plan on keeping fresh broccoli for longer than a week, consider freezing it.

When it comes to cooked broccoli, it stays fine in the fridge for about 3 to 5 days. If you’d like to keep it for longer, freezing is the way to go. Especially considering that it takes very little work to freeze cooked broccoli.

When it comes to the shelf life of frozen broccoli, it’s pretty much indefinite. The quality of it will very slowly drop while it’s in the freezer, so the earlier you use it, the better quality you will get. Use frozen broccoli within three months for best results.

 FridgeFreezer
Raw Broccoli4 – 7 days3 months +
Cooked Broccoli3 – 5 days3 months +

Please note that the dates above are approximate.

Broccoli soup
Broccoli soup

How to Tell If Broccoli Is Bad?

Let’s start with uncooked broccoli. As I already mentioned, if you store raw broccoli in the fridge, its quality will deteriorate before it goes bad (or rotten). And it’s more likely you will throw it out because of the quality loss, not because of it technically going bad.

Fresh broccoli should be deep green and firm to the touch. If it starts to become limp, it’s past its prime time, and it’s up to you if you want to cook it or discard it. Same thing when the florets turn yellow.

It’s not bad in a way that it will make you sick, but its taste won’t be that great. If there are some small black or brown spots on the broccoli head, cut them out.

When it comes to sure-signs of raw broccoli being rotten, bad smell is the first one. Large dark areas, mold, or any other visual changes that aren’t small dark spots are good enough reasons for you to get rid of the broccoli. In short, if you feel that something is wrong with the veggie, you’re probably right and should discard it.

Broccoli cut into florets
Broccoli cut into florets

When it comes to cooked broccoli, the signs of it going bad are usually quite obvious.

Here’s a classic scenario: you open the fridge, take the container with the broccoli, open it, and notice white mold on top. Mold in the container means that you should discard the contents of the container.

If there’s no mold, look for discolorations and give it a good sniff. If it seems okay and doesn’t smell bad in any way, it’s most likely fit for consumption. It there’s anything wrong with it, get rid of it.

Also, if you’ve stored the cooked broccoli in the fridge for over a week, it’s better to throw it out, even if by all means it seems to be okay. Better safe than sorry.