How Long Does Garlic Last? Shelf Life & Signs of Spoilage

Say you have a couple of garlic bulbs, and you’re wondering how long is garlic good for.

A whole garlic bulb can last between a month and a couple of months, but it all depends on how you store it.

Moreover, actions such as breaking the bulb, removing individual cloves, and peeling them, all shrink the time that garlic keeps quality.

And then there’s minced garlic that you buy in the supermarket. It comes in at least three varieties, and its storage and shelf life is a whole different ball game.

Interested in learning the ins and outs of the shelf life, signs of spoilage, and storage of garlic, both bulbs and cloves?

Read on.

A whole garlic bulb
A whole garlic bulb

How Long Does Garlic Last?

 PantryFridge
Garlic bulb (whole fresh bulb)3 – 6 months 
Garlic bulb (cracked)2 – 4 months
Garlic (unpeeled clove)1 month 
Garlic (peeled clove) 1 week
Garlic (sliced, minced, or pressed) 1 day

Long story short, the further your garlic is from a whole untouched bulb, the shorter it lasts.

Let’s talk about the details.

Whole Garlic Bulbs

A fresh whole garlic bulb can last for three to six months when stored properly. Once you break the bulb and remove a couple of cloves, the rest should keep fresh for like 2 to 4 months.

Those periods depend heavily on storage conditions.

If your garlic sits in a warm and sunny place, which is far from ideal, it’ll lose its quality much faster and will probably be done for in a month or so.

Plus, sometimes it spoils prematurely because you were unlucky.

Say you bought a few onions and placed them next to your garlic bulbs. And those onions carried some mold spores.

Next thing you know, your garlic is moldy too, even though it sat in storage for only a week or two.

Also, to make sure your garlic bulbs last as long as possible, choose the best ones in the grocery store. Look for bulbs that:

  • have clean, unbroken skins
  • don’t have any signs of mold or sprouting
  • feel heavy for their size (don’t feel hollow)
Peeled garlic cloves
Peeled garlic cloves

Garlic Cloves

A single unpeeled garlic clove should last about a month in a cool pantry. However, once you peel it, the clove stays good for only about a week or so in the fridge.

As you can tell, the papery skin plays quite a significant role in protecting the clove from the outside environment (and the elements, e.g., air).

Of course, that clove can be processed even further, which brings us to chopped and minced garlic.

Fresh Homemade Minced Garlic

Fresh minced garlic stays nice and fresh for only a day or so. The same applies to chopped and sliced garlic, and anything in between.

In other words, you should do those final processing touches when you’re ready for cooking whatever you’re using that garlic for. Prepping fresh garlic in advance probably isn’t a good idea.

If you can’t be bothered with mincing garlic yourself, or you want to save some time, there’s also commercially minced garlic on the market. Let’s talk about its shelf life.

Bunch of garlic cloves
Bunch of garlic cloves

Store-Bought Minced Garlic

Store-bought minced garlic is available in at least three varieties:

  • dried minced garlic
  • minced garlic in olive oil
  • minced garlic in water

Dried minced garlic is similar to all the dried spices and herbs you store in your kitchen. It keeps quality for at least two years, and all it needs is a cool and dry place.

When it comes to the latter two options, they are different. In most cases, jarred minced garlic comes with a pretty long shelf life of at least over a year and requires refrigeration after opening.

For more details, please read the label and follow the advice that’s there.

Note

You could also store homemade minced garlic in olive oil, but storing garlic in oil causes botulism risk if you don’t know what you’re doing, so it’s probably better to avoid that whatsoever.

How To Tell If Garlic Is Bad?

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know if garlic is bad. In most cases, the spoilage signs are obvious, and the writing is on the wall.

Garlic Bulbs and Cloves

There are three things to examine when you’re checking if your garlic is spoiled or not: the looks, the feel, and the smell. If all of them are okay, your garlic is safe to eat.

Appearance

Dark spots and mold are a sure sign that you should toss your garlic.

If either is present on the outer layer of the bulb, you can peel it and check the cloves. If the cloves look untouched, feel free to use them.

Next, if there’s mold on only one or two cloves, you discard those and use the rest. But if most cloves are moldy, get rid of the whole thing.

When it comes to garlic that has sprouted, it’s not ideal in terms of quality, but you can still use it (same with sprouting potatoes and sweet potatoes). To remove the sprouting part, cut the clove in half and discard the green sprouting area.

Last, old garlic cloves tend to turn yellow. Yellow garlic cloves aren’t bad or spoiled, but the quality might not be as good as you like. If you’re using a couple of cloves, a single yellow one won’t make much of a difference.

Feel

Start by weighing the bulb in your palm. If it feels hollow or way too light for its size, some cloves have likely dried. Discard them, and use the good ones.

Then, check garlic’s firmness. If your garlic feels mushy or rubbery, throw it out. It applies to both whole bulbs and individual cloves.

Smell

If your garlic smells sour or moldy, discard it.

A whole bulb, or even individual cloves, don’t smell like much. You can feel the signature pungent garlicky scent only after you cut into the clove, and even more so after you cook minced or pressed garlic for a couple of minutes.

In other words, don’t expect any strong smells until you cut that peeled clove in half. And if they are there from the get-go, it’s not a good sign.

Peeling garlic cloves
Peeling garlic cloves

Minced Garlic

For homemade minced garlic, toss it after it sits in the fridge for more than a day.

Chances are there won’t be any signs of spoilage just yet (hey, it’s been only a day), but most of the flavor will be gone. And flavorless garlic is pretty much useless.

For store-bought minced garlic, look for the usual signs of spoilage. Those include:

  • mold and any other signs of organic growth on the surface
  • change of color
  • an off or “funny” smell
  • bad taste
  • anything else seems off, even if you can’t quite put your finger on it

Besides that, follow the instruction on the label, especially those related to storage time after opening the jar.

How To Store Garlic

Storing Whole Bulbs

Store whole garlic bulbs in a dark, cool and dry place that’s well ventilated.

A pantry or a cellar are great options, but if you don’t have access to either, a cabinet at room temperature in the kitchen will do.

Just remember that your garlic might not last for the whole 3 to 6 months if it sits in a relatively warm place. Or if it’s the middle of a hot summer and you’re not blasting AC all day long.

When it comes to how, wire-mesh baskets and the like work great because they allow good airflow. Anything else that keeps the bulbs ventilated works as well.

Tip

Refrigerating whole bulbs isn’t recommended because storing them in cold temperatures for a prolonged period stimulates sprouting.

Once you break a new bulb, don’t peel the whole thing. Instead, remove as many cloves as you need and leave the rest intact. It will last longer this way.

Garlic cloves in a glass bowl
Garlic cloves in a glass bowl

Storing Garlic Cloves

Store unpeeled garlic cloves in a cold, dry, and dark place next to your whole bulbs. Once you peel the clove, transfer it into an airtight container or bag and place it in the fridge.

Since the storage times for unpeeled and peeled cloves are vastly different (see earlier sections), I suggest you don’t peel the cloves in advance.

This way, they last way longer, and you don’t have to worry about refrigerating them.

You can also freeze garlic cloves if you have way more than you can handle.

Storing Minced Garlic

For homemade minced garlic, an airtight container in the fridge is the best choice. Just make sure it’s sealed tight before you place it in the refrigerator.

Moreover, remember that homemade minced garlic (without olive oil) retains a great taste for only a day or so. And that it offers the best flavor if you mince the clove right before you cook it.

In other words, you probably shouldn’t ever be concerned about storing fresh minced garlic because you should use all of it right away.

If you buy pre-minced garlic, follow the instructions on the label. In most cases, that means letting the jar sit in a cool and dark place as long as it is unopened, and refrigerating it after opening.