How Long Does Garlic Last?

I've been eyeing some cloves on the counter and wondering, How long does garlic really last? Here's what I found out.

If you’re like me, you might have been under the impression that garlic never goes bad. Unfortunately, I realized I was wrong on the exact day I needed to roast a few cloves for a recipe with garlic. So how long does garlic last?

It doesn’t last forever, but garlic is unusually long-lasting. Unpeeled, a head of garlic can keep up to six months, while a single, unpeeled clove will last about three weeks. However, taking the skin off means that it’ll go bad much faster—a peeled clove will last a week in the fridge, while chopped garlic can go bad in as little as two days. And this is assuming it’s stored properly! That’s why it’s so important to pick good heads of garlic and store them the right way.

How to Pick the Best Garlic

When shopping for garlic, make sure it’s not too dehydrated or hollow. The best way to check this is by picking up the bulb and giving it a gentle squeeze. Be sure it’s firm and none of the cloves are too soft or too dry.

If your garlic bulb has green sprouts, it’s best to skip it. It’s been on the shelf too long!

The Best Way to Store Garlic

Much like how we store onions, whole garlic bulbs or cloves should be stored in a dark, dry and cool place that’s well-ventilated. Your countertop is probably a good bet—but make sure you don’t accidentally expose your garlic to any heat, light or moisture. If you want to make your kitchen look pretty while keeping your garlic fresh, look into a garlic keeper.

How to Store Minced Garlic

Minced garlic can go bad quickly, so try to use it up as soon as possible. You can keep minced garlic in the fridge for up to a day, as garlic starts to break down extremely fast when it’s cut. If you want to extend its life, try covering it with olive oil. This will only keep it good for two or three days, though, so make sure you use it up ASAP.

How to Tell If Garlic Has Gone Bad

When you’re trying to tell if food is spoiled, keep an eye out for certain things: look, smell and feel. Look for brown spots on your garlic cloves—garlic is mostly an off-white color, so any spots means your bulb has probably gone bad. If your garlic has sprouted, you can still eat it, but make sure you cut the sprouts off—they can be bitter.

If garlic loses its signature spicy, pungent smell or begins to smell sour, that’s another sure sign it’s gone bad. As for the feel, make sure it feels similar to what you’re looking for at the store—firm, with no overly dry or soft cloves. If it’s gone bad, make sure you don’t eat it—it can cause a rare but serious illness known as botulism, thanks to bacterial overgrowth.

If you do cook with garlic and the smell gets on your hands, here’s how to remove it.

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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.