The Ultimate Guide to Recognizing Spoiled Garlic

Today we explore the many signs of how to tell if garlic is bad. This will help you properly store the whole bulbs and cloves to use the freshest aromatic you possibly can!

If you enjoy informative articles like this, you have to check out the MANY others on my site! Some that I find very handy include How To Tell If Ground Beef Is Bad and How To Tell If An Onion Is Bad.

And I also have some handy kitchen guides like How To Melt White Chocolate Chips.

Go take a look and if you have any questions, feel free to let me know in the comments below!

How To Tell If Garlic Is Bad

Can Garlic Go Bad?

While garlic may seem invincible with its potent flavor and aroma, it’s not immune to the passage of time. Let’s delve into the fascinating world of garlic and its expiration.

Garlic, like most natural ingredients, has a shelf life. Over time, its quality can deteriorate, affecting both flavor and texture. So, the answer is yes, garlic can go bad if not stored properly or if it’s been sitting around for too long.

To give you a clearer answer, the following are the reasons why garlic goes bad:


Garlic’s worst enemy is excessive moisture. When exposed to moisture or stored in a humid environment, garlic becomes a breeding ground for mold and bacteria. The high water content facilitates microbial growth, leading to decay and an unpleasant taste. Properly drying and storing garlic in a dry environment is crucial to prevent garlic spoilage.

Air Exposure

Oxygen is another element that can accelerate the degradation of garlic. When garlic cloves are exposed to air, they undergo enzymatic reactions that break down their compounds and alter their flavor. As a result, the cloves may become less potent, lose their characteristic aroma, and eventually go bad. Storing garlic in airtight containers or sealed bags helps slow down this process.


Temperature plays a significant role in the lifespan of garlic. Warm temperatures can speed up aging, causing garlic to go bad more quickly. Conversely, extremely cold temperatures, such as refrigeration, can lead to sprouting and loss of flavor. Finding a cool, dry, dark place with a consistent temperature is ideal for extending the shelf life of garlic.


As with most natural products, time is a factor in garlic’s deterioration. Over time, the chemical composition of garlic changes, impacting its flavor and texture. As garlic ages, it is more prone to sprouting, loss of moisture, and diminished potency. Proper storage and usage of garlic within a reasonable time frame can help delay the onset of spoilage.

How Long Does Garlic Last?

Garlic has a very long range of shelf life, about 1 week to 1 year, depending on several factors. The shelf life of garlic isn’t very certain. Despite popular belief, while it is pretty hardy, garlic can spoil VERY easily. So, sometimes it will only last a week, sometimes quite a while, and other times it can last up to a year!

Garlic has the ability to last for months! But, if the garlic you’ve bought is already 7 months old, then it might only last a week in your pantry. And unfortunately, there is no way to really know the age of store-bought garlic.

Next, how you store garlic will (obviously) also affect the shelf life of this ingredient.

Whole garlic bulbs will last longer than garlic cloves. Furthermore, peeled cloves won’t last as long as cloves with their skins still on. And, of course, chopped garlic (even if it is kept in oil) has an even shorter shelf life.

How To Tell If Garlic Is Bad close up

If you properly store a whole (unpeeled) garlic bulb, it can easily last between 3 to six months in the pantry.

Garlic cloves will generally last about a month (at the most). They don’t have the protective layers of the whole house and dry out pretty quickly. 

How Long Does Peeled Garlic Last

Under proper storage conditions, peeled garlic can last up to five weeks in the refrigerator. To maintain its quality for as long as possible, it’s crucial to store the peeled cloves in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag.

Storing peeled garlic in a resealable plastic bag helps minimize air and moisture exposure, which can accelerate spoilage. Remember to remove as much air as possible before sealing the container or bag to prolong the garlic’s freshness.

However, it’s worth noting that even with optimal storage, peeled garlic may start to lose its potency and flavor after a few days. The cloves may become drier and less aromatic, gradually losing the distinct garlicky punch that we all adore.

When frozen, peeled garlic last for about 3-6 months in its best condition but could still be usable for up to 12 months.

How Long Does Minced Garlic Last

Like peeled garlic, minced garlic cloves last up to five weeks in the refrigerator when stored properly.

If you find yourself with excess minced garlic that you won’t be able to use within about a week, consider freezing it. Freezing minced garlic is an excellent way to extend its shelf life. Portion out the minced garlic into small airtight containers, or you can freeze it in ice cube trays for convenient portioning.

How To Tell If Garlic Is Bad

Nobody likes eating bad garlic. So, how do you know when garlic is bad? There are a couple of signs, but many of them aren’t super obvious. In most cases, bad garlic just won’t be optimal for food usage and is better tossed instead.

It’s important to understand that “bad garlic” doesn’t just mean rotten. It also means that something has gone past its prime and isn’t longer functional.

So, even if the cloves aren’t black with mold and rot, they can still be spoiled.


The first tell-tale sign of old and spoiled garlic will come from its color. The color of the thin garlic skin won’t change a lot. It will pretty much stay a type of whitish-gray. But, if it does turn moldy or black in any way, you should inspect the peeled cloves to see if the garlic has gone bad.

If your peeled garlic cloves become brown or black, they start to go off. Usually, they form discolored spots first before taking over the entire garlic clove itself.

Is Purple Garlic OK?

Purple garlic is actually just a type (species) of garlic. It is not an indication that the garlic has gone bad or the under-ripeness of the cloves.

It can be used exactly like white garlic and has a slightly milder flavor. And generally, people say the flavor lingers longer than that of white garlic, making it ideal for salad dressings or spreads.

If the garlic has a slimy texture or is extremely dry, it is a dead giveaway for how to tell if garlic is bad.

What Is Yellow Garlic?

Yellow garlic is just old white garlic. So, it’s another way how to tell if you have bad garlic.

It indicates that the cloves are less than fresh. While you can still use these cloves (if they don’t show other signs of spoilage), it isn’t ideal.

Purple Garlic


Fresh garlic is pretty firm. But, as it ages and spoils, it becomes softer and softer. After some time, garlic feels soft and can even become mushy, at which point you should immediately discard the garlic.

If the garlic has a slimy texture or is extremely dry, it is a dead giveaway for how to tell if you have bad garlic.

Aroma (Smell)

Garlic has a very unique odor. It’s slightly pungent but still neutral in a way. Some even describe it as having spicy smells.

Unlike other food, garlic does not produce a sour smell. As it ages, the smell becomes less noticeable. Once it is completely gone, the garlic clove is useless (even if it hasn’t “deteriorated” yet). 

Unlike many other ingredients that spoil, garlic doesn’t produce an off-smelling gas that indicates spoilage. So, as I’ve said, all you can go off of is that the cloves lose their smell completely.


This isn’t an ingredient that grows mold easily. That’s because it has a low moisture percentage, which makes it an unappealing target for bacteria.

However, that doesn’t mean mold will never grow on garlic. You will often see it on the skins of unpeeled garlic. 

In that case, you can peel the cloves to see what they look like inside. If the cloves look perfectly fresh, they should still be fine to use. But if you notice any discoloration on the inside, that’s an indication that the garlic has gone bad.

How To Store Garlic

Now that you know how to tell if garlic is bad, let’s take a look at different storage methods for this ingredient to help extend its shelf life. Before we get started on the storage, you should secure that you choose fresh garlic bulbs every time.

First and foremost, fresh garlic cloves prefer a cool and dry environment. A common mistake is storing garlic in the refrigerator, but this can actually lead to premature sprouting and loss of flavor. Instead, find a spot in your kitchen that is away from direct sunlight and has good air circulation.

One classic approach is to properly store garlic bulbs in a mesh or wire basket. This allows for proper airflow, which helps prevent moisture buildup that can lead to rot. Plus, the baskets add a rustic charm to your kitchen decor!

Another clever option is the use of terracotta garlic keepers. These specially designed containers provide an ideal environment for garlic storage. The porous nature of terracotta helps regulate humidity, ensuring the garlic stays dry and fresh.

If you’re a minimalist at heart, a simple brown paper bag can come to the rescue. Place your garlic bulbs inside the bag, gently fold the top, and store it in a cool pantry or cupboard. The paper bag helps maintain a suitable level of airflow while shielding the garlic from excessive light.

The best place to store garlic is inside your pantry. I like to place mine inside a mesh basket or paper bag. You can even store garlic inside a container with holes. One important tip to remember is never to store garlic in plastic bags or sealed containers. Garlic needs proper air circulation to avoid moisture buildup and mold growth.

storage for garlic

How To Store Peeled Garlic

Peeling a bunch of garlic in one sitting is therapeutic and is a good way to ensure that you will always have peeled or homemade minced garlic ready when you need them. When it comes to storing peeled garlic, there are a few key strategies to ensure its freshness and flavor last as long as possible. Let’s get straight to the point:

Airtight Containers: Place peeled garlic cloves in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag to prevent them from drying out and to contain their strong aroma. Removing excess air before sealing is crucial.

Infuse in Olive Oil: For a flavorful twist, you can infuse your peeled garlic cloves in extra virgin olive oil. Place the garlic clove in a clean jar and cover them completely with olive oil. Storing garlic in jars typically prevents any risk of botulism.

Freezing Method: Spread peeled garlic cloves on a baking sheet, ensuring they don’t touch each other, and freeze garlic until solid. Transfer the frozen cloves to a freezer-safe container or bag for convenient future use.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Eat Bad Garlic Cloves?

You should never eat anything that has gone bad, especially when you start noticing warning signs of spoilage, such as green or brown spots or any dark spots, green sprouts, and tenderness. Consuming bad garlic may cause food poisoning.

Does Garlic Paste Have a Longer Shelf Life?

Garlic paste has a shorter shelf life than garlic, with individual cloves still intact. Once peeled, minced, or pasted, garlic starts to deteriorate faster, which causes garlic paste to have a shorter shelf life.

Is Store Bought Minced Garlic Safe to Use?

Store-bought minced garlic offer the same health benefits as homemade minced garlic. It can still reduce cholesterol levels, boost the immune system, and still has antioxidants. You can also use store-bought minced garlic in as many recipes as homemade ones.

Does Garlic In Olive Oil Have a Longer Shelf Life?

No, jarred garlic in olive oil and other processed garlic has a shorter shelf life as it is prone to bacterial growth, leading to spoilage. Commercial jarred garlic with olive oil has a longer shelf life when unopened but turns spoiled after weeks of opening.

What Can You Do With Sprouted Garlic Cloves

Once sprouted, you can plant individual unpeeled garlic cloves into soft loamy soil and wait for them to grow, so you’ll have your own supply of garlic at home!

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