How Long Does Garlic Last?
Garlic would be the perfect aromatic if it didn’t give you the infamous garlicky breadth. It is an essential part of so many dishes it doesn’t even make sense to start listing them.
You can find garlic in pretty much any kitchen, but some people don’t use it nearly as often as others. And if you’re a part of that group, you certainly have a bulb or two sitting in the kitchen for a month or two already, or a couple of unpeeled cloves waiting for you to use them. And you’re here because you need to know how long does garlic last. And like with many other veggies, the short answer is: it depends. Let me expand on that.
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A whole (unpeel and unbroken) garlic bulb can last between 3 to 6 months (1), provided that you take good care of it.
Storing whole bulbs is no rocket science. Just keep them in a cool (not cold!) and dry place, away from sunlight (1). Also, make sure the storage place is well ventilated (2), so plastic bags are out of the question. The fact that garlic often comes in mesh bags isn’t a coincidence. These bags work great for storing the bulbs long term, and I usually just cut a hole big enough, so a single bulb comes out and keep the garlic in them.
When it comes to where exactly the garlic should sit, a cupboard in the pantry or kitchen is the perfect spot. Some people hang garlic braids somewhere in the kitchen as a decorative element, and that’s alright as long as you’re okay while a shelf life closer to a month or two, not the full 3 to 6 months.
Once I break open the bulb, I scoop a clove or two, depending on how much I need, and leave the rest of the bulb intact. This way the cloves that are ‘inside’ keep for longer than individual cloves removed from the bulb. This method is a bit messy, as there’s always garlic skin inside the mesh bag, but I’m okay with that. If your go-to method was to smash open the bulb and store all of the cloves individually, try this method instead. You’ll thank me later.
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Unpeeled garlic cloves last between two weeks and a month stored in the same conditions as bulbs. When I’m finishing a bulb, I leave the leftover cloves in the same mesh bag that the other bulbs are in.
Once you peel the clove, it keeps well for about a week at room temperature and up to two weeks in the fridge in an airtight container or resealable bag. Some sources suggest peeled cloves can last much longer (2), but as a rule of thumb I wouldn’t expect them to last more than maybe three weeks. That’s, of course, an average, and from time to time there will be a couple of cloves that seem to last forever, but don’t count on that. Obviously, it’s better to store the cloves unpeeled, and only peel them when needed. If you need to do it ahead of time, peel only as many as you need for the next week, not the next month.
Once you chop, crush, or mince the garlic, it lasts only a couple of days in the fridge.
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Last but not least, a couple of sources suggest storing garlic cloves in olive oil. While that’s a possibility, if you don’t do it properly, it’s a considerable botulism risk ((#refs)). I suggest you forget about this option. We hardly ever need to store garlic for that long, and it’s quite inexpensive, so it’s much safer to simply pick another bulb instead of risking food poisoning.
You already know how long does garlic last. Of course, the periods above are only rough estimates, and some bulbs and cloves can last longer or spoil quicker. So the last piece of the puzzle is knowing how to tell whether your bulb or cloves are okay.
Let’s start by taking a look at the bulb. If there are big dark or moldy spots, throw it out. Same thing if it’s mushy, slimy, or soft. If it looks a bit dry or maybe shriveled, that’s usually okay, just break it open and check the cloves.
When it comes to a single peeled clove, discard it if it’s yellow, moldy, soft, or shriveled. If there are any minor blemishes or simply put bad parts, cut them off and use the rest.
Is sprouted garlic bad, you ask? Well, it depends on whom do you ask. Some sources (1) suggest that you should toss out garlic that starts to sprout little hairs. Others say it’s perfectly fine, and like with potatoes, you can just cut off the sprouts and use the rest. I go with the latter approach, as I don’t really notice much of a difference between fresh and sprouted garlic. But if you find sprouted garlic not as tasty as a fresh one, feel free to toss it out. Garlic is an excellent aromatic, and when its taste isn’t quite up to par, it’s better to discard it than to use it and ruin a dish.
- Garlic bulbs last 3 to 6 months at room temperature in a dark and well-ventilated place.
- Unpeeled cloves last about 2 to 4 weeks stored like the bulbs. Peeled ones keep well for a week at ambient temperature and two weeks when refrigerated.
- Sprouted garlic is safe to eat. Just cut off the sprouts and use it like you usually would. Please note that some people notice that sprouted garlic has a slightly altered flavor, and toss it out when that happens. That’s okay too.