Does Garlic Go Bad?

If you’re like me, you have a bunch of garlic stored away in the pantry, and it sits there for months on end. At any given time, there are like two or three whole bulbs and one started with a few cloves left in it. That brings up the question: does garlic go bad?

Garlic, unlike most other vegetables, lasts quite a while. Of course, it doesn’t last forever, but you can easily keep a few bulbs around without worrying they will rot.

That is assuming that you, like me, use fresh garlic at least from time to time. If you only use garlic once in a blue moon, it’s probably better if you switch to powdered garlic, which lasts for over a year.

If you’d like to learn more about storage, shelf life, and going bad of garlic, read on.

A whole garlic bulb
A whole garlic bulb

How To Store Garlic

You can store whole garlic bulbs and unpeeled cloves similarly to how you store yellow onions. In fact, many people keep them side by side, as they’re often used together.

When it comes to where to store these, a dark, cool, and dry place is what you’re looking for. Also, make sure the place is well ventilated.

The pantry is the best option, with the cellar being a close second. A cabinet in the kitchen will do too, but it’s less than ideal because the temperature is slightly higher there. If you put a whole bulb into the fridge, it’ll probably sprout pretty quickly.


Sprouted garlic isn’t bad by any means. If it sprouts, just cut off the shoots and use the rest.

Peeled garlic cloves
Peeled garlic cloves

Once you start a new bulb, don’t crack-open the whole thing. Instead, scoop as many cloves as you need and leave the rest intact. It will last longer this way.

When it comes to cloves you’ve peeled and prepared, their place is in the fridge. It doesn’t matter if you chopped, minced, or pressed the garlic, you either should use it right away or refrigerate in an airtight container.

Please note that you can submerge prepared garlic in olive oil to make it last a day or two more. Before you do that, make sure to learn about how to do it right so you won’t risk botulism poisoning. By and large, it’s probably better to discard the rest of the prepared garlic than to risk foodborne illness.

Bottom line is that you should always buy whole heads, take only as many cloves as you need, and try to peel and prepare them right before using. While some stores offer pre-peeled or pre-minced garlic, they often sit on the shelves for too long to have much of the taste left. All in all, always use fresh garlic if possible.

Bunch of garlic cloves
Bunch of garlic cloves

If you have more garlic on hand than you know you can use before it goes bad, you can freeze garlic cloves.

How Long Does Garlic Last

When it comes to garlic, the shelf life depends on how much it has already been processed. The further it is from a whole bulb, the shorter it lasts.

A fresh whole bulb can last for up to six months when stored properly. Once you take some cloves from it, the rest should keep fresh for like 3 to 4 months. A single unpeeled clove should last about a month, maybe two.

Once you’ve peeled the clove, a whole peeled clove can last about a week in the fridge. After preparing it, that is chopping, mincing, or pressing, it lasts about a day.

Garlic (whole fresh bulb)6 months 
Garlic (unpeeled clove)1 month 
Garlic (peeled clove) 1 week
Garlic (sliced, minced, or pressed) 1 day

Of course, the periods above are for best quality. The peeled and prepared varieties will likely last longer than the mentioned periods, but their quality won’t be top notch anymore.

Peeling garlic cloves
Peeling garlic cloves

How To Tell If Garlic Is Bad

Like with other vegetables, you need to use your senses and common sense to find out if garlic is still fine to use.

Let’s start with appearance. Dark spots or signs of rot are sure signs that you should toss the garlic. When it comes to sprouted garlic, you can either cut off the shoots and use it, or discard it. It’s up to you. Please note that sprouted garlic tastes somewhat differently and you might not be happy about it.

Checking the firmness of garlic is next on the list. Like with many other veggies, such as broccoli or asparagus, if it’s soft or mushy, it’s time to let it go.

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

If everything is good so far, time to peel a clove and see how it looks on the inside. If the clove is yellow, discard it. It’s not necessarily unsafe to eat, but its taste won’t quite hit the spot.

When it comes to peeled and prepared cloves, just toss them out once they sit for too long in the fridge. They won’t spoil after such a short period, but most of their flavor will be gone. And that means they’re of no use anymore.