How Long Does Broccoli Last and How to Tell if It’s Bad?

Here’s all you need to know about the shelf life and spoilage of broccoli. Learn how long broccoli lasts, how to store it, and how to tell if one is spoiled.

Broccoli heads are large, and we often don’t use a whole head for a single meal. Or even when we cook the whole thing, there are leftovers.

That inevitably brings out the question: how long is broccoli good for?

Or maybe your broccoli has been sitting in storage for a few days already, and you want to make sure you can safely eat it. That’s when you ask: when is broccoli bad?

In this article, we cover all of that and more. Let’s jump right in.

Broccoli florets
Broccoli florets, right before cooking

Table of Contents

How Long Does Broccoli Last?

 PantryFridge
Raw broccoli2 – 3 days4 – 7 days
Broccoli florets3 – 4 days
Cooked broccoli3 – 4 days

Fresh broccoli lasts 4 to 7 days in the fridge. If you cut it into florets, you can store them in an airtight container or freezer bag in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. Cooked broccoli lasts 3 to 4 days as well.

If those periods aren’t long enough, you can always freeze broccoli.

(I cover freezing below.)

The storage period for a whole broccoli head is only a rough estimate. There are a lot of factors involved, like how and for how long it was stored before you bought it. Plus, its overall quality matters too.

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

After Cooking

Cooked broccoli lasts 3 to 4 days in an airtight container or a lidded pot in the fridge. Let it cool to about room temperature before storage, but keep the cooling period to two hours for safety purposes.

That means cooking broccoli for the whole week ahead as a part of meal prep isn’t that great of an idea. To stay safe, you should freeze about half of your broccoli or split the cooking into two sessions.

That said, freezing cooked broccoli works quite well, and the veggie itself doesn’t need any extra setup once it’s cooked. You can place it in an airtight container or freezer bag and chuck it in the freezer.

Broccoli soup
Broccoli soup

How to Tell if Broccoli Is Bad?

Discard broccoli if:

  • It’s limp, slimy, or seeping. Fresh broccoli should be deep green and firm to the touch. If it starts to lose its firmness, it’s past its prime time, and you’ll have to discard it at a certain point. Of course, a slightly soft broccoli head is okay to use.
  • The broccoli is yellow or brown. Yellow florets don’t make the broccoli technically spoiled, but it’ll taste pretty bad. You can trim yellow florets if only a couple of them are discolored, but if the whole veggie is yellow, it’s time for it to go. Similarly, yellow kale is not spoiled, but it’ll probably taste bitter.
  • It has large black or brown spots or other visual changes. You can cut out small discolored or moldy areas, but if the decay is taking over the whole broccoli, let it go.
  • It smells off. If your broccoli head doesn’t pass the sniff test, it’s no good.
  • It’s moldy. Cooked broccoli can go moldy prematurely if it’s been contaminated at some point. If you notice any mold in the container, toss it.
  • It’s cooked and stored for more than four days. Cooked broccoli stays safe for up to 4 days, so discard yours if it has been refrigerated for longer.

As always, the list above isn’t complete by any means. So if you notice anything odd about your broccoli head, err on the side of caution and discard it. Better safe than sorry.

Broccoli cut into florets
Broccoli cut into florets

Typically, what’s going to happen to a whole broccoli head stored for too long is that it will turn yellow or brown. And even though it’s still okay to eat at that point, I suggest you toss it because of the poor quality.

Other spoilage options don’t occur nearly as often and depend highly on the circumstances.

Does Broccoli Need to Be Refrigerated?

Broccoli doesn’t require refrigeration, but without it, it’ll only last 2 to 3 days at room temperature before it turns all yellow. If you store it in the fridge, however, it will keep for 4 to 7 days.

In other words, refrigeration extends the storage time for broccoli twofold, and that makes it a much better storage option than leaving it on the counter.

(The same is true for cauliflower.)

Whole broccoli
Whole broccoli

How to Store Broccoli

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.

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

Cut broccoli belongs in the fridge too. Transfer the cut florets and stalks into an airtight container or freezer bag and then to the refrigerator.

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

Finally, cooked broccoli.

Cooked broccoli requires refrigeration, too. After cooking, let it cool for at least 15 – 20 minutes, so it’s not hot anymore. Ideally, you’d allow it to cool to about room temperature.

Once it’s nice and cold, you can transfer the vegetable into an airtight container and then into the fridge.

If you want to store the broccoli (no matter the form) 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.

Freezing Raw Broccoli

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 Broccoli

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

Defrosting Frozen Broccoli

Here’s how you defrost frozen broccoli?

  • Overnight in the fridge. Best choice if you want to cook it the next day.
  • Microwave. Transfer the broccoli to 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 broccoli in a soup. Add a few minutes of cooking time to account for the thawing of the vegetable.
Broccoli closeup
Broccoli closeup, it’s a couple of days old, so florets start to turn yellow

Broccoli Shelf Life and Spoilage Summary

Thank you for reading this guide on broccoli. Let’s briefly recap what we’ve covered above:

  • How long does broccoli last? A fresh broccoli head lasts 4 to 7 days in the refrigerator, while broccoli florets keep for 3 to 4 days in a freezer bag or airtight container in the fridge. Cooked broccoli lasts 3 to 4 days refrigerated as well.
  • How to tell if broccoli is bad? Broccoli is spoiled if it’s limp, slimy, or if large areas are dark, rotten, or moldy. Yellowing broccoli is okay to eat, but it will taste bad, so it’s better to toss it or at least cut out the yellowing florets. Discard cooked broccoli that’s been in the fridge for more than four days.
  • Does broccoli need to be refrigerated? You don’t have to refrigerate broccoli, but it’ll last only 2 to 3 days at room temperature. If you place it in the fridge, it’ll keep for up to a week without much quality loss, which makes refrigeration a much better option.