Can You Eat Sprouted Garlic?

Your garlic started to grow and now you're wondering, can you eat sprouted garlic? You can—but there's a catch.

You definitely had the best intentions when you bought those beautiful heads of garlic a while back. You were going to surprise the family with the famous Garlic Clove Chicken for Sunday dinner. But somehow, the meal never happened.

Now that poor, neglected garlic has sprouted unsightly green shoots. Can you eat sprouted garlic? Yes—but it depends on some factors.

Why Does Garlic Sprout?

If you’ve had your bulb around a little too long—it happens to the best of us—you’re likely to see some green. It’s a sign that your garlic is old, or going off. The shoots can also start growing if you’ve exposed your garlic to heat, light or moisture.

Is It Safe to Eat Sprouted Garlic?

Rashanda Cobbins, food editor for Taste of Home, says spouted garlic is perfectly safe to eat. It has no side effects, unlike sprouted potatoes. In fact, a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that garlic that’s been sprouted for five days has significantly higher antioxidant levels than fresh garlic. “It’s a personal preference whether or not you utilize spouted garlic cloves in cooking,” Cobbins says.

If you’re still worried, just sniff the garlic, like you would for other items that have been hanging out in your pantry or fridge for a while. If it has an off odor or looks squishy or discolored, simply discard it. Don’t be afraid to give the sprouted garlic a taste, too. Use your senses to tell if food is spoiled.

What Does Sprouted Garlic Taste Like?

Even if the cloves look and smell OK, you may have some bitterness issues with the green bits in the garlic. “Some say sprouted garlic has a sharper, spicier or bitter flavor, although it likely can go undetected in most dishes,” Cobbins says. “If the sprouts are removed and the remainder of the clove used, I believe the bitterness will be undetectable.”

You’ll want to be careful when you’re using the garlic raw or where garlic is prominent in the dish. The bitterness is rarely going to be a plus, but there are recipes where it’ll be a non-issue. “Most recipes will tolerate it and the flavor likely will not be noticeable. Think pasta sauce, pot roast…things that may simmer for a while for the flavor to mellow out or have other prominent flavors,” Cobbins says. In our recipe for spaghetti with meat sauce, for instance, the garlic is cooked in a slow cooker along with ground beef, onion, tomatoes and seasonings until it’s tender.

For other recipes, where the garlic isn’t cooked for a long period of time (like a quick stir-fry), or a fresh salsa where the garlic will be used raw, you’ll want to purchase a fresh bulb of garlic.

How to Choose the Best Garlic

First, keep an eye out for green sprouts or visible signs of mold. If you don’t see them, pick the bulb up and lightly squeeze it. This will tell you if any of the outside cloves are too soft or dry. Make sure it feels firm and not strangely hollow or dehydrated, and that it doesn’t smell off in any way. If it meets all the criteria, go ahead and buy a couple!

Tips for Making Garlic Last

Store your garlic properly

Keep your garlic in an area with some ventilation—but make sure the area it’s kept in is relatively cool, dry and dark. Try storing it in an easy-to-reach place so you use it faster—maybe near the wine or the chocolate?

There are some foods you shouldn’t store together—like onions and potatoes—but garlic won’t make any other foods go bad. The strong smell might cling to other fruits and veggies though, so it’s best to keep it separate or store it with equally strong-smelling onions.

Get a garlic keeper

A ceramic garlic keeper is an easy way to keep your garlic fresh for longer—and you’ll always know exactly where it is!

Buy local

Try to buy your garlic locally, as it’s likely to be fresher than bulbs that have traveled miles to get you. Depending on where you live, garlic may not be in season—but if it’s available, it’ll taste better and last longer if you buy it from your local farmers market.

Recipes for Garlic Lovers
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Amrita Thakkar
Amrita is an Assistant Digital Editor at Taste of Home. As a writer and amateur photographer, she often ends up applying these skills to her one great love: food. She can usually be found researching global cuisines, at the farmers market, doing yoga, or looking up new places to travel to.