How Long Does Garlic Last?

Plus how to store it and how to recognize when it’s gone bad.

January 26, 2023

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Photo by: Wolfgang Moucha / EyeEm/Getty Images

Wolfgang Moucha / EyeEm/Getty Images

By Alice K. Thompson for Food Network Kitchen

Alice is a contributing writer and editor at Food Network.

Garlic is one of the world’s most popular ingredients, and most of us reach for it almost every time we cook. We’ll tell you exactly how long you can expect garlic to last, how to recognize when it’s gone bad and tell you everything you need to know for optimal storage.

How Long Does Garlic Last?

Garlic’s longevity depends a lot on what form you store it in. The less you break a bulb down, the longer its shelf life.

How Long Do Garlic Bulbs Last?

Whole garlic bulbs will last 3 to 6 months when properly stored away from heat and humidity. Keep the papery layers on the bulbs intact; they help prevent moisture from reaching the cloves. Most garlic sold in supermarkets is a variety known as softneck, but you may see what’s known as hardneck garlic at farmers’ markets. This variety has a long, woody stem in the center; be sure to leave the stem in place for longer storage.

How Long Do Garlic Cloves Last?

If left in their papery shells, unpeeled garlic cloves will keep for about 3 weeks. Leave as much of their papery husks on the cloves as possible to protect them from moisture.

How Long Do Peeled Garlic Cloves Last?

Whole peeled garlic cloves should be refrigerated and will last about a week. Garlic is often sold in containers this way; while it’s convenient to just reach for a clove without stopping to peel it, make sure you cook enough garlic-heavy dishes to use it up before it goes off.

How Long Does Minced Garlic Last?

Minced or chopped garlic will keep no more than a day refrigerated. Garlic’s flavor and aroma becomes overpowering, almost acrid, as it sits, so try to mince it as close to using it as possible. Chopped garlic can be stored for a few days covered by olive oil; see below for more information on that.

How to Recognize Bad Garlic

Garlic bulbs in peak condition should have plump, firm cloves tightly covered by white or purplish papery husks. Take a pass if you see shriveled cloves or browned husks, or if the cloves are soft when pressed. Green sprouts from the top of the bulb are a sign of improper storage, so avoid garlic with these. Once peeled, the cloves themselves should be taut and white or ivory in color; brown spots or mushy spots are a sign of age and compromised flavor.

Is Spoiled Garlic Dangerous?

Although it’s very rare, spoiled garlic can make you sick. Garlic can harbor botulism-causing spores which, under the right conditions, can become active. Despite the low risk, it’s best to discard garlic that shows signs of spoilage. Additionally, if you store raw garlic in olive oil you should be particularly careful about how long you keep it (see below for details).

Is Sprouted Garlic Safe to Eat?

While sprouting can impact garlic’s flavor, it’s still safe to eat. The green part itself can be bitter, so we recommend you split the clove and lift it out with the tip of a paring knife. And while these cloves might taste less than absolutely fresh, you’re unlikely to notice the difference in cooked dishes. Do, however, avoid using sprouted cloves raw in dressings or other uncooked dishes.

Garlic bulbs on packing paper, on rustic wooden table. Closeup of garlic bulbs.

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Garlic bulbs on packing paper, on rustic wooden table. Closeup of garlic bulbs.

Photo by: Adão Gileno Carmo Dos Santos / EyeEm/Getty Images

Adão Gileno Carmo Dos Santos / EyeEm/Getty Images

How to Store Garlic

Follow these simple rules to keep garlic at its freshest.

How to Store Garlic Bulbs

Garlic will keep longest stored in a cool, dry, dark place. Your pantry or a cupboard is ideal, as is a basement storage cabinet or old-fashion root cellar. Temperatures of 60 to 65 degrees are best, but don’t stress about this; just avoid an area near the stove or other heat source, and keep it away from sunlight.

Airflow is particularly important for garlic. Choose a ventilated container like a basket, mesh bag or even a paper sack with a few small holes punched in it. Avoid plastic bags or sealed containers since they can trap moisture. Ceramic or terracotta garlic keepers can be attractive and convenient for storing garlic on the counter as long as you keep them away from heat.

If you use a lot of garlic, buying a decorative garlic braid can be practical. Here the stems of a dozen or so heads are woven together, and the whole thing can be hung in a cool dry place; this guarantees airflow for optimal storage.

Storing bulbs and unpeeled cloves in the refrigerator isn’t ideal. Removing the garlic from the cold will make the garlic think it’s spring, and it will begin to sprout unless used quickly.

How to Store Peeled or Chopped Garlic

Peeled whole garlic cloves and chopped garlic should always be refrigerated. Make sure they are sealed in an airtight container to avoid their distinctive odor permeating other foods in your fridge.

Garlic Stored In Olive Oil

Covering sliced or chopped garlic with a layer of olive oil can help preserve it for longer and will also yield a nice garlic-infused oil as a bonus. But use caution: To avoid the risk of food-borne illness, the USDA recommends that the garlic and oil be refrigerated at 40 degrees F at all times and used within 7 days.

Are Pests or Insects Attracted to Garlic?

There’s good news about garlic’s pungent odor: Almost all pests and insects are repelled by its aroma, so they're not a big concern for garlic storage. So powerful is its ability to fend off creepy-crawlies, it’s a popular ingredient in natural insecticides.

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