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How to to tell if garlic is bad?

I use garlic in just about all of my recipes. I love the taste that it adds and the smell… Oh, how I love the smell of garlic! I usually have a couple of bulbs on hand at all times.

The good news is, garlic can last quite a while at room temperature in a dark place. But, how can you tell if it has gone bad? There are four easy things to look for to tell if your garlic is still good or not.

We will cover garlic cloves, minced, and paste.

Garlic on a cutting board, cloves whole garlic

Top 3 ways to tell if garlic has gone bad

bad garlic on a cutting board

Figuring out whether your garlic is ok to use or if it’s gone bad can be pretty simple. You can usually tell by smell, texture, and looks.

You will most likely see more than one of these things on an expired garlic clove. Follow along and I will go into more detail.

Are you using garlic powder? Learn how to tell if garlic powder is bad.

1. Feel the garlic?

bad garlic clove

You want to break off however many cloves you are planning to use for your recipe. Give them a little squeeze.

Fresh garlic will be firm, similar to an onion. You really get a good feel for this when you start to peel garlic.

If you find that it has given to it or is soft then I would say that your garlic has expired and I wouldn’t use it.

Sometimes if it’s soft you will see a little liquid inside when you peel it also. Another sign that it has gone bad.

2. Look at the Garlic?

cloves of garlic on a cutting board going bad

Does the garlic have brown spots? The same goes if you notice that your garlic is a yellow color when you peel it.

You can still use it when it’s yellow but it will have a bitter taste.

When you peel your garlic it should be white in color if it is fresh. If it has brown spots I tend to cut them off before I cook with them.

Over time your garlic can start to grow a green sprout inside. This is fine to eat and doesn’t mean that your garlic has gone bad.

garlic that is spoiled on a cutting board

Although it is perfectly fine to eat the green sprout it does have a more bitter taste to it. It is easy to remove the sprout from the center of the clove by slicing it down the center and cutting it out or it will even just fall out a lot of times.

It is perfectly fine to eat the rest of the clove as long as there are no signs of brown spots on it.

3. Smell the garlic

rotted garlic

Garlic is universally known for its mild, pungent, spicy aroma. If you start to lose that amazing smell then your garlic is either on its way out or already gone by.

You really want to follow all of these steps before you cut garlic.

How to prevent garlic from going bad

  • Store fresh garlic in a dark, dry place at room temperature.
  • Storing garlic in the fridge will cause it to spoil faster and grow mold.
  • Freezing is not recommended as it will change the consistency, texture, and taste.
  • Minced garlic should be stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.

How to choose fresh garlic at the grocery store

When I am picking out garlic at the store I am looking for garlic that has the smell come through them even with the wrapper on the garlic.

When buying garlic at the store you want to look for loosely sold bulbs so that you can choose them individually and look them over well.

Fresh garlic should be plump and tight with taunt white papery skin that is flaking a little. Fresh garlic that will have great flavor will also be firm and heavy.

How to store garlic

garlic before storage on a cutting board

You want to be sure to store your garlic bulbs in a dry dark space at room temperature. Keep the cloves intact that you are not using to maintain the freshness.

If you are storing minced garlic, it is recommended to store it in a tightly sealed container in the fridge and it should last a few days. If you add a little olive oil to the minced garlic it will gain you another day or so of freshness.

I have an entire post on how to store garlic.


No, purple garlic is actually coveted and a good sign that you are going to have some great-tasting garlic cloves.

This purple color is on the outer skin and not the actual cloves of the garlic. The cloves are going to be the same but the flavor might surprise you.

If I see purple organic garlic in the store that is the one I am going for!

Yes, garlic paste does go bad. If it is store-bought you are going to need to look at the use-by date. If you are making your own garlic paste then it is important to store it correctly in the refrigerator.

The paste is going to have additives like oil and salt so you will get a different taste than fresh garlic.

Yes, minced garlic does go bad. If you have store-bought minced garlic it will have a shelf life and you need to follow the date that they give you on a jar.

It is also a good idea to give it a good sniff to make sure that it is still good and to also store it properly in the refrigerator after you open it.

If you’re making your own then it will go faster if you are not adding a preservative to your minced garlic.

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