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

Cauliflowers were on sale and you’ve brought home one head too many. Now, you need to know how long cauliflower lasts.

Or perhaps you’re not quite familiar with this veggie, and you need to learn how to store cauliflower heads, or how to tell if yours is still okay to eat or not.

Either way, this article is for you. In it, we’re going to cover:

  • storage time of this veggie
  • signs that you should throw out your cauliflower head
  • storing cauliflower at home
  • freezing cauliflower – how and when to do it

After reading this piece, you should be well equipped to handle your cauliflower “situation.” Read on.

Cauliflower head in hand

How Long Does Cauliflower Last?

A whole fresh cauliflower head lasts 2 to 4 days on the counter and 7 to 10 days in the fridge. If you cut it up and store the florets, they keep for 4 to 5 days in an airtight container, and the same is true for cooked cauliflower.

The storage time for a fresh cauliflower head depends on a couple of factors. Those include:

  • storage conditions – if the bag was vented
  • how long the head was stored before you bought it
  • overall quality – if there were any black spots when you bought it, and the like

Because of that, it’s impossible to come up with a more specific estimate.


Cauliflower loses quality fast at room temperature, so it makes sense to leave it that way only if your fridge is full, or you plan on using it within a day or two.

Cauliflower (fresh)2 – 4 days7 – 10 days
Cauliflower (cooked)4 – 5 days
Cauliflower florets4 – 5 days
Please note the periods in the table are only estimates.
Creamy cauliflower soup
Creamy cauliflower soup

How To Tell If Cauliflower Is Bad?

Signs of spoiled cauliflower include:

  • Mold or large brown or black areas. If either is present, discard the head. Of course, if the “spoiled area” is quite small, you can cut it off (and then some) and use the rest, like many of us do for other veggies. Minor blemishes and imperfections are perfectly normal.
  • The head is soft or slimy. Fresh cauliflower is firm to the touch. If yours has turned limp, it’s time for it to go.
  • An off smell. If the head smells off, and you haven’t stored it near any smelly food item, there’s something wrong with it. Getting rid of it is the way to go.

As you can tell, cauliflower (and all of its varieties, including the standard white, and the more unusual ones like purple or orange) is no different than other veggies. And the signs are super similar to those of broccoli (read How to Tell if Broccoli Is Bad for more)

Black spots and mold on cauliflower
Black spots and mold on cauliflower

When it comes to cooked cauliflower, look for any signs of mold. And make sure you do so every time before using it.

Even though the cooked cauliflower often keeps well for up to a week, if you accidentally exposed it to microbes before refrigerating, it will go bad within a day or two.

Once or twice I’ve had cooked cauliflower that grew mold after being only two days in the fridge, so that’s definitely possible.

Discolored cauliflower tops
Discolored cauliflower tops – just cut those off

How To Store Cauliflower

The best place to store cauliflower is the fridge (UMN).

Of course, you can get away with leaving it in the pantry for a couple of days, but its quality will deteriorate there much faster.


Wash your cauliflower under running water right before cooking. If you’re not using the whole head, cut off as much as you need and only wash that part. Don’t use soap, as some of it might get stuck in the florets.

Should you just toss the cauliflower head into the crisper drawer and be done with it, then? Not necessarily.

Cauliflowers keep best in a cold and moist environment (UMN). While the fridge takes care of the temperature, it doesn’t provide the humidity. Sure, the veggie drawer is more humid than the rest of the fridge, but it’s still not an ideal setting.

Cut up cauliflower
Cut up cauliflower

The easiest way to fix that is to leave the head in a vented plastic bag. The bag will trap the moisture, but the holes help release the surplus.


Using unperforated bags or not leaving the top open is not a good idea. A well-sealed environment creates too much humidity, which leads to condensation. That, in turn, promotes the growth of microorganisms (UMN).

Once you’ve cooked the cauliflower, seal it in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge.

If you need to keep the fresh cauliflower for an extended period, freezing is the way to go.

Cauliflower florets
Cauliflower florets

How To Freeze Cauliflower

I’m sure you’ve seen frozen cauliflower florets in the supermarkets’ freezers, so you know this veggie freezes quite well.

When it comes to the process, it’s a bit more time-consuming than just cutting the florets from the stalks and chucking them into the freezer.

Here’s how it goes (MSU):

  1. Prep the cauliflower(s). Trim off the leaves, and cut the head into florets. Wash them thoroughly. If you’re worried about insects, check out the tip below.
  2. Blanching. Bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch the florets for 3 minutes. The Michigan State University Extension suggests blanching in water with 4 teaspoons of salt added per 1 gallon of water (MSU). Still, many people blanch with no salt and are happy about it. Test both options if needed.
  3. Cool and drain the florets. After blanching, transfer the florets into cold water and leave there for a couple of minutes, to stop the cooking process. Drain the water and pat the pieces dry.
  4. Portion and pack the veggies. Divide the florets into dish-size portions, and put each into its own freezer bag or airtight container. Seal everything tightly and add labels if you like.
  5. Put everything into the freezer.
Creamy cauliflower soup closeup
Creamy cauliflower soup closeup

If you’re worried about insects in the florets, soak them for half an hour in salty water, adding 4 teaspoons of salt per 1 gallon of water (MSU). Any insects that might be in the florets will die and float to the surface. Drain the water and continue with the freezing process.

Frozen cauliflower retains best quality for about 8 to 12 months (MSU).

In most cases, you will cook the frozen cauliflower, so more often than not, there’s no real need to thaw it. You can add it frozen, and that’s it.

But if you actually need to defrost it, do it in the refrigerator overnight.

Prepping cauliflower for soup
Prepping cauliflower for soup

Cauliflower Shelf Life and Spoilage Summary

Thanks for reading this short article on handling cauliflower. Let’s go through the most important points one more time:

  • How long does cauliflower last? A whole fresh cauliflower head keeps for about 2 to 4 days at room temperature and 7 to 10 days in the fridge. If you cut it up into florets and refrigerate in an airtight container, they keep for 4 to 5 days.
  • Does cauliflower need to be refrigerated? No, but cauliflower loses quality much quicker on the counter than it does in the fridge. Unless you know that you’re going to use it within 2 days, it’s best chuck it in the refrigerator.
  • How to tell if cauliflower is bad? Mold and discoloration are typical signs of spoilage for cauliflower. You can trim bad florets, but if the whole head is yellow or sprinkled with black spots, it’s time to discard it. An old head could also go soft and limp, and it up to you to decide if you’re going to use it or not.