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How To Tell If Garlic Is Bad 5 Easy Ways?

Quick Answer: What Are The Best Ways To Tell If Your Garlic Has Gone Bad?

If you’re unsure whether or not your garlic has gone bad, there are 5 foolproof ways to determine this. The top 5 indicators include texture, smell, color, whether or not your garlic has mold on it and lastly, if it has developed any sprouts. Texture relates to soft and mushy cloves. In terms of smell, a sour or strange odor will also indicate your garlic is spoiled. In addition, if your garlic has yellow or brown spots on it, you may want to throw it away. If you see any mold spots in the form of white, fuzzy, or brown areas, you should not consume it. Finally, if you see roots forming, your garlic is starting to sprout and is past its prime.

Garlic is one of those foods that truly adds a delicious flavor to any dish. Throwing together some pasta? Add in a little garlic for a kick! Need an appetizer for your next dinner party? Bruschetta is perfect and yes, you guessed it- garlic is one of the staple ingredients.

It’s safe to say that you should always have a little garlic on hand and for that, proper storage is crucial. 

Have you ever entered your pantry and been taken aback by a rancid smell? While the source could be a number of things, a good possibility could be that it’s the garlic. 

When garlic is good, it’s smooth, firm and possesses a white color. In this state, it is highly nutritious and contains numerous health benefits, including vitamins C and B6, manganese and selenium. 

Garlic also produces a chemical called allicin, which is an antioxidant that is believed to be the source of the most positive effects.

Allicin has an innumerable amount of health benefits, including protecting against heart disease and cancer, lowering blood sugar and blood pressure as well as improving your immune system and fighting off viruses and fungi (and vampires, hehe). 

However, when garlic turns rotten, all of these health benefits disappear and you are left with nothing but spoiled food. 

Although there are obvious signs of spoilage, when garlic initially goes bad, it may be difficult to identify whether or not it has actually expired. 

In today’s fast-paced society, life is too busy to have to worry about possibly eating rotten food (not to mention the ailments you may contract post-eating), which is exactly why we are here to share with you 5 foolproof ways of being able to recognize spoiled garlic. 

If your garlic passes any of the following texture, smell, color or mold tests, it has likely gone bad and we would highly recommend not consuming it. 

How To Tell If Your Garlic Is Bad: Texture?

If you have suspicions that your garlic may be past its prime, a great indicator of this is the texture. 

If any of the following signs are visible, it’s likely time to throw it away. 

Indicator Description 
Softness When garlic is in its best state, it will have a tight and firm texture. 
Similar to an onion, so if you’re having doubts and have an onion on hand, you can use this as a point of reference. 
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell unless you’ve peeled the gloves, so if you’re unsure, go ahead and remove the peel. 
If you give your garlic cloves a squeeze and they feel soft and mushy, avoid consuming them. 
Mushy garlic will often also be accompanied by a bit of liquid. This is definitely a sign you need to get rid of it. 

RELATED: 5 Amazing Garlic Infused Bread Recipes

How To Tell If Your Garlic Is Bad: Smell?

When it comes to identifying whether or not food has gone bad, the most common indicator is smell. 

Have you ever opened your fridge or walked into your pantry and almost got knocked over by an extremely unpleasant odor? 

If this happens, it’s a good idea to find the root cause of it. If you suspect it might be your garlic, take a look at the following indicators. 

IndicatorDescription 
Unpleasant smellGarlic is known for its delicious, pungent smell. When garlic is in its prime, it should produce this spicy aroma.  
When garlic starts to go bad and develop bacteria or mold, it will lose this familiar spicy smell and may even start to smell sour. 
If you observe that your garlic is giving off either of these indicators, it’s likely time to get rid of it. 
Remember that healthy garlic naturally has a strong odor and, in this state, is perfectly okay to consume. 
If you’re feeling unsure, look for some of the other indicators, such as the texture, color and whether or not mold or sprouts are present.

How To Tell If Your Garlic Is Bad: Color?

After smell, the second most obvious indicator of rotten veggies is appearance. 

When you look at your garlic and your instincts are telling you that something is off visually, you’re probably right. 

The color, in particular, will be a sure sign of this. When it comes to garlic, it’s the actual cloves that will show signs of maturation. 

For further reassurance, check out these indicators: 

Indicator Description
ColorTo identify whether or not the skin has gone bad, it’s important to keep in mind that naturally, garlic should be white in color (there is a variety that also comes in purple). 
If you peel the cloves and you notice the garlic has turned yellow or brown, your garlic has started to rot. 
NOTE: yellow spots are safe to eat, but they contain a bitter flavor. 
Your best bet is to simply cut out any brown or yellow spots and use the rest of the garlic. 
However, if the garlic is brown, do not consume it. (At the end of the day, it’s up to your best judgment.)
If you’re still feeling unsure, look for some of the other indicators, such as the texture, smell and whether or not mold or sprouts are present. 

How To Tell If Your Garlic Is Bad: Mold?

For the sake of both you, the vegetable and the garbage man, we hope your garlic never reaches this state. 

If it does, don’t panic. We’ve all been there- you haven’t cleaned out the pantry in a while and food inevitably gets lost in the dark, dark corner of the produce shelf. 

You start to notice a strong odor and decide it’s time to go on a hunt to identify where the smell is coming from. And that’s when you discover it. A shriveled lump of something that once resembled food, is now covered in mold. 

Mold is extremely unhealthy and, when consumed, can make you very sick. If you’re not sure whether or not the spots on your garlic are moldy, the indications in the following chart may be able to help you. 

IndicatorDescription 
Mold spots When your garlic begins to go bad, it may start to develop mold.
This will appear in the form of white fuzzy spots and should not be consumed under any circumstances. 
Your garlic may also become plagued with brown spots. When this happens, it’s important to discard it immediately (besides bacteria, they will also be tasteless and bitter). 
NOTE: While it is unsafe to consume areas that are moldy, if only a small part of the garlic is fuzzy or brown, you can simply cut this out and consume the rest. 
If you’re unsure, it’s best not to risk it!

RELATED: Does Garlic Go Bad? How To Tell If Garlic Is Bad!

How To Tell If Your Garlic Is Bad: Growths/Sprouts?

As your garlic matures, it may start to develop growths or sprouts in the center

While some of these are not necessarily harmful, after an extended period of time, it’s best not to consume areas contaminated by them. 

For more info, check out this chart:

IndicatorDescription 
Growths/sprouts When garlic is fresh, it should be free from any growths or sprouts. 
After some time, green roots may appear in the center of the garlic, but it’s important to keep in mind that most of them are not harmful. 
If the sprouts are small and minimal in quantity, we recommend simply cutting them off and consuming the rest of the garlic before cooking (the sprouts are extremely bitter, so although they are safe to eat, we would still remove them). 
However, if you notice there are a lot and quite large in size, we would recommend throwing the garlic away. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Garlic Go Bad?

Yes, garlic can go bad and will manifest this in a variety of ways. 

The top 5 indicators include texture, smell, color, whether or not your garlic has mold on it and lastly, if it has developed any sprouts. 

Texture relates to your cloves turning soft and mushy. In terms of smell, a sour or strange odor will also indicate your garlic is spoiled. 

In addition, if your garlic has yellow or brown spots on it, you may want to throw it away. This is also the case if you see any mold spots in the form of white, fuzzy, or brown areas. 

Finally, if you see roots forming your garlic is starting to sprout green roots and is past its prime. 

How To Choose Garlic At The Store?

Choosing the right garlic at the grocery store is critical for allowing it to have the longest shelf life possible. To ensure you’re purchasing the freshest garlic available, look for these indicators:

  • Even if the garlic is contained in some form of wrapping, the universal, pungent and spicy odor of garlic should be glaringly present. 
  • The skin of the garlic should be tight and firm. 
  • The color of the garlic should be papery white. 
  • The texture of the skin should also be slightly flaky. 
  • Fresh garlic will be more on the heavy side. 

A good tip when buying garlic at the store is to look for bulbs that are sold loosely so that you can easily analyze them. 

How Do You Store Garlic?

Storing your garlic correctly is crucial for extending the shelf life for as long as possible. How long your garlic will last depends on the method of storage as well as whether or not you are storing unpeeled, peeled or minced garlic. 

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Unpeeled Bulb Of Garlic: this is the best way to store garlic as it lasts the longest. For this method, keep the garlic bulb in a cool, dark and dry place such as in the pantry. Garlic does not need to be kept in the fridge and thrives in temperatures between 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • An area with proper ventilation is also ideal. This is also applicable if you choose to wrap the garlic. In this case use mesh or paper as they are more breathable. 
  • In this setting, your garlic should last for up to a month or even longer. 
  • Peeled Garlic: peeled garlic should be stored in the fridge in a Ziploc bag or an airtight container. 
  • Once garlic is peeled, it will slowly lose its pungent flavor. Because of this, it’s best to consume it this way within a week. 
  • Minced/Chopped Garlic: if you have any leftover garlic from dinner, you can store it in a little bit of olive oil in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two days.
  • It is critical that you use it up within this 2-day timespan as after that, it can develop botulism (an illness that attacks the nervous system and, in some cases, can be fatal).

What Is Purple Garlic?

Purple garlic comes from the “hardneck” variety of the garlic family and contains all of the same benefits as white garlic but is slightly more mild in flavor. 

So if you are grocery shopping and notice the garlic is purple, it is perfectly healthy. 

Note that, like white garlic, purple garlic can succumb to the same signs of spoilage when it is past its prime. However, because of its purple skin, you may need to peel this type of garlic in order to identify any rot on the actual white bulbs, where it will be more visible. 

Jess Smith