Here’s all you need to know about the shelf life and spoilage of garlic. Learn how long garlic lasts, how to store the bulbs, and how to tell if garlic is spoiled.
Say you bought a couple of garlic bulbs and wonder how long garlic is good for.
Or maybe you removed a couple of cloves, perhaps even peeled them, and you need to know how to store them and how long garlic cloves last.
If so, this article is for you. Read on.
Table of Contents
- How Long Does Garlic Last?
- How To Tell If Garlic Is Bad?
- How To Store Garlic
- Garlic Shelf Life and Spoilage Summary
How Long Does Garlic Last?
|Garlic bulb (whole fresh bulb)||1 – 2 months|
|Garlic bulb (cracked)||1 month|
|Garlic (unpeeled clove)||2 weeks|
|Garlic (peeled clove)||1 week|
|Garlic (sliced, minced, or pressed)||1 day|
A whole garlic bulb lasts about 1 to 2 months in a cool and dry place, while an unpeeled garlic clove keeps for up to two weeks under similar conditions. Once you peel a clove, it needs to be sealed tight and refrigerated to last about a week.
That’s the high-level overview of the shelf life of garlic. As you can tell, it retains quality much longer than its cousins, such as onions (here’s how long onions last), leeks, shallots, or chives.
Next, let’s talk about the details.
Whole Garlic Bulbs
A fresh whole garlic bulb can last for 1 to 2 months when stored at ambient temperature that’s between 68° to 86°F (20° to 30°C). So if you keep your garlic in the pantry or kitchen, that’s about how long it will stay good for.
If you have a slightly cooler spot that maintains 60°F (or 16°C) and is dark and dry, that period increases to 3 to 5 months.
Once you break the bulb and remove a couple of cloves, the rest should keep fresh for about a month or so, assuming the bulb is fresh. If it’s pretty old already, the cloves will probably stay okay for only a week or two.
Of course, all of the above depends heavily on storage conditions, which I’ll discuss in a moment.
Finally, choose the best ones in the grocery store to make sure your garlic bulbs last as long as possible. 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)
An unpeeled garlic clove should last about two weeks in a cool pantry. Once you peel it, the clove can stay in the fridge for about a week or so, tightly sealed. The papery skin plays quite a significant role in protecting the clove from the outside environment and the elements, and removing it halves the storage time.
Of course, you can process that clove even further, which brings us to chopped and minced garlic.
Homemade Minced Garlic
Homemade minced garlic stays nice and fresh for only a day or so. The same applies to chopped and sliced garlic and anything in between. After about a day or so, the aromatic loses most of its flavor and becomes pretty much useless.
Of course, it won’t spoil after a day or so, but you won’t get much from it in terms of taste. Minced garlic is best fresh.
In other words, you should do those final processing touches when you’re ready to cook 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 want to save some time, there’s also commercially minced garlic on the market. Let’s talk about its shelf life.
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.
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. If you decide to do so, limit storage time to 4 days in the fridge or simply keep it in the freezer.
How To Tell If Garlic Is Bad?
Main article: How to tell if garlic is bad?
Discard garlic if:
- The whole bulb or a single clove is light, soft, or feels hollow. Either is a sign of water loss and means the garlic is no good.
- It smells off. A whole bulb or individual garlic cloves don’t smell like much. The signature pungent garlicky scent is noticeable 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 there’s a strong aroma from the get-go, it’s not a good sign.
- There are large dark spots. 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 they look untouched, feel free to use them. If there’s mold on only one or two cloves, you discard those and use the rest. But if most cloves from a bulb are moldy, get rid of all of them.
If there’s anything else about the garlic that seems off, trust your gut and toss the aromatic. Better safe than sorry.
But before we wrap this section, let’s talk about sprouting and yellowing garlic cloves.
When stored long enough or in specific conditions, garlic starts to sprout, the same way potatoes and sweet potatoes sprout. Of course, that’s not ideal in terms of quality, but you can still use sprouted garlic.
To remove the sprouting part, cut the clove in half and discard the green sprouting area.
(You can still eat sprouted potatoes, and sprouting sweet potatoes are okay to use, too.)
Finally, 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. But if you’re using a couple of cloves, a single yellow one won’t make much difference.
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
Should Garlic Be Refrigerated?
Refrigerating whole garlic bulbs isn’t recommended because storing them in cold temperatures for a prolonged period stimulates sprouting. And while sprouting garlic is okay to use, its quality is not great.
It’s better to store garlic bulbs at ambient temperatures.
Storing Whole Bulbs
Store whole garlic bulbs in a dark, cool, 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.
Remember that your garlic might not last the mentioned 1 to 2 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.
The best way to store your garlic is in a wire-mesh basket with plenty of room, but anything else that keeps the bulbs ventilated works as well.
Finally, don’t peel the whole thing once you break a new bulb. Instead, remove as many cloves as you need and leave the rest intact. It will last longer this way.
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 peeled cloves is noticeably shorter (see the section on shelf life), 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 only 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.
Garlic Shelf Life and Spoilage Summary
Thank you for reading this short guide on garlic. Let’s briefly recap what we’ve covered above:
- How long does garlic last? A whole garlic bulb lasts 1 to 2 months at room temperature, while an unpeeled clove keeps for about two weeks in similar conditions. After peeling the clove, it should retain quality for about a week in the fridge.
- How to tell if garlic is bad? Toss garlic that’s soft, light, feels hollow, or smells off. Do the same to any cloves that have large dark or moldy spots. Sprouting garlic is okay; just cut off the shoots and use the rest.
- Should garlic be refrigerated? No, because refrigerating garlic promotes sprouting. Leaving it at ambient temperature slows things down quite a bit, but it doesn’t eliminate the risk of sprouting entirely. The good news is you can still use sprouted garlic.