Does Ginger Go Bad?

So you’ve bought a few packages of dried ground ginger because a few recipes you wanted to try out called for it. As it turns out, you don’t add that much ginger to any one of them, so you’ve only finished one or two packages. The rest are still sitting in the cupboard and nearing the date on the label. Does ginger go bad?

Or maybe you’ve bought fresh ginger for the first time to see if the food tastes better when you use freshly ground ginger. And now you’re not quite sure how to store the root or how long it lasts. It was in the produce section, but you’ve heard you should keep it in the fridge. What gives?

Similar questions are asked time and time again, and if you’re interested in answers, this article is for you. In it, we go through storage, shelf life, and going bad of ginger, both the fresh and the ground dried variety.

Ginger root
Image used under Creative Commons from Tony Hisgett

How to Store Ginger?

Let’s start with dried ground ginger, as this is most likely what you have on hand.

You store it the same way you store other spices, like cinnamon or chili powder. That means it should sit in a cool and dark place, away from sources of heat. You probably keep spices within arm’s reach, so a cupboard in the kitchen is the best choice. Just make sure it’s not the one above the stove.

Once you open the package, make sure you keep it sealed tightly. If it comes in a paper packaging that’s not resealable, and you expect that the aromatic will sit in storage for quite some time, transfer the powder into a small glass jar or put the package into a resealable freezer bag.

Turmeric ginger latte, and fresh ginger root on the side
(credit: Hilary Hahn)

Now to fresh raw ginger. Like pretty much all veggies and fruit, fresh ginger is best stored with its brown skin intact. If possible, peel the skin right before using the aromatic.

You can store fresh ginger in the pantry if you plan on using all of it within a few days. Otherwise, the fridge is a better option. Before you refrigerate the ginger root, transfer it into a resealable freezer bag and squeeze as much air as you can before sealing it. Place it in the vegetable drawer, where it’s not that cold.

Last but not least, you can freeze raw ginger. Put it in a freezer bag, remove the air from it and seal it tightly. If you find that helpful, add a label with name and date on it. Now you can chuck it in the freezer.

Whenever you need some, take the frozen ginger, grate as much as you need, and put the rest back into storage. As simple as that.

How To Preserve Peeled Ginger Root

If you’ve peeled too much ginger, not all is lost. You can preserve the peeled piece in vodka or sherry. Just put the piece into a small mason jar and cover with one of the mentioned alcohols. You can also cut it into several pieces or chop it, so it takes less space and needs less alcohol.

The alcohol treatment should keep it fresh for a month. If the alcohol starts to get cloudy, discard it. While vodka is better for preserving, sherry is often recommended for that purpose because you can then use that ginger-infused sherry in cooking. If you don’t use sherry in any of your recipes, go with cheap vodka and discard the liquid once you need the ginger root.

Sliced ginger root
Image used under Creative Commons from Kjokkenutstyr Net

How Long Does Ginger Last

Once again, let’s start with dried ground ginger. Like other ground spices, it usually comes with a best-by date. Since it’s ground and dried, it should easily last months or years past that date.

However, sooner or later, ground ginger will start to lose its flavor. One day you might find that you need to use a ton of it to notice the flavor. Because of that, it’s best to use the powder within a year or two past the date on the label.

When it comes to fresh ginger root, a few things come into play. First, a good quality ginger root with smooth peel will last longer than one with wrinkled skin. Second, sometimes ginger can start to get moldy in the store, and you won’t even notice it. Last, you have no idea how the aromatic was stored before it got to the produce section.

Because of all of those, the periods I give you are rough estimates, and on more than one occasion the root will go bad much sooner than it theoretically should. The approximate periods for fresh ginger root are about a week in the pantry and about a month in the fridge.

 PantryFridge
Ground dried ginger rootBest by + 1 – 2 years 
Fresh ginger root1 week1 month
Aromatics: chili, ginger, and onion
(credit: Tra Tran)

How to Tell if Ginger Has Gone Bad

If powdered ginger looks like it should, that is there are no signs of mold, wet spots, or big clumps, it’s fine to use. Generally, it doesn’t go bad unless you let moisture in.

As mentioned earlier, over time it loses some of its potency. If you want to check if the aromatic has still some flavor in it, grab a pinch and rub it with your fingers. If the smell and taste are still there, feel free to use it. If not, it’s time to open a fresh package.

When it comes to fresh ginger root, the signs of going bad are quite similar to other plants and veggies.

Mold is an obvious one. If you notice some small specks of mold, you can cut off that piece and then some, and use the rest. If the spots are quite big, discard the whole thing.

The second sign is the change of texture. Fresh ginger is somewhat firm to touch, so if it turns soft or mushy, it’s time to let it go. Same thing if the flesh starts to turn dark yellow or greyish, instead of the usual bright yellow.

In short, once you see the flesh, you should know if it’s okay or not.