Does unpeeled garlic go bad in the fridge?

Garlic is a popular and versatile ingredient used in many savory dishes. Its pungent flavor adds depth and aroma to soups, sauces, meat dishes, and more. Many home cooks buy garlic by the bulb and use it over time. This leads to the common question – does unpeeled garlic go bad in the fridge?

Does Unpeeled Garlic Go Bad?

Yes, unpeeled garlic can eventually go bad when stored in the refrigerator. However, garlic lasts a surprisingly long time when stored properly. An unpeeled garlic bulb will usually last for at least a few weeks when kept refrigerated.

Here are some signs that your garlic is going bad:

  • It starts to sprout green shoots
  • It becomes dried out and shriveled
  • It develops dark spots or begin to mold
  • It takes on a yellowish tinge
  • It becomes soft and mushy
  • The cloves separate and peel apart from each other

Garlic that displays these signs should be discarded. Fresh, firm garlic can be peeled and used immediately, while older garlic should be inspected first before using.

What Causes Garlic to Go Bad?

There are a few main factors that can cause garlic to spoil or go bad over time:

  • Moisture: Excess moisture speeds up spoilage. Leaving garlic out on the counter or not storing it in a breathable container can lead to condensation and mold growth.
  • Temperature: Heat and cold both hasten spoilage. Keep garlic between 40°F to 60°F for best preservation.
  • Air exposure: Oxygen can react with compounds in garlic and cause faster deterioration. Keeping garlic enclosed helps prolong freshness.
  • Damage: Bruises, nicks, and crushed cloves decompose quicker. Handle garlic gently to avoid damage.
  • Natural oils: The sulfur compounds in garlic can break down and go rancid over time, leading to off-flavors.

How to Store Garlic Properly

To get the longest lifespan out of your garlic, follow these tips for proper storage:

  • Store bulbs loose, not bundled together tightly.
  • Keep in a cool, dry place like the refrigerator.
  • Place in an open container like a wire mesh basket or loosely tied bag.
  • Avoid sealing in plastic bags or air-tight containers.
  • Let garlic “breathe” – moisture control is key.
  • Use clean, dry garlic only. Don’t refrigerate garlic that’s become damp or wet.
  • If storing peeled cloves, submerge them in oil or vinegar to prevent oxidation.

How Long Does Unpeeled Garlic Last Refrigerated?

The shelf life of refrigerated, unpeeled garlic can vary quite a bit. Whole bulbs will typically last:

  • 2-3 months in ideal conditions.
  • 4-5 weeks as a realistic average.
  • 2 weeks for garlic that’s been previously stored at room temperature.

Peeled cloves of garlic will only last about 7-10 days in the fridge.

To maximize freshness, use strict refrigeration after buying garlic. Letting it sit out before cooling cuts down on preservation time. Sticking to the proper storage methods is also key.

Can You Freeze Unpeeled Garlic?

Freezing unpeeled garlic is an excellent way to extend its shelf life even longer. Whole bulbs can be frozen for 4-6 months.

To freeze garlic bulbs:

  • Make sure bulbs are fresh and intact, not dried out
  • Do not wash before freezing, simply brush off dirt
  • Place bulbs in freezer bag or airtight container
  • Remove as much air as possible
  • Freeze for up to 6 months

To use frozen garlic, allow bulbs to thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using. The cloves may become slightly softened and loose when thawed.

What Happens If You Eat Bad Garlic?

Eating spoiled garlic is not recommended. Garlic that has gone bad can contain potentially harmful bacteria like salmonella or E. coli. Bad garlic may also have a higher concentration of allicin, which can cause digestive issues in some people.

Signs you may experience after eating bad garlic include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Dizziness or headaches
  • Fever

In severe cases, food poisoning from garlic can cause dehydration, bloody stools, and require hospitalization. If you experience concerning symptoms after eating garlic, see a doctor.

How To Tell If Garlic Has Gone Bad?

Being able to identify bad garlic can prevent foodborne illness. Here are some foolproof ways to tell if your garlic has spoiled:

  • Appearance: Mold, sliminess, drying out, or spotting are signs garlic has spoiled.
  • Odor: Rancid, musty, or bitter smells mean garlic should be discarded.
  • Texture: Soft, mushy, or papery cloves are past their prime.
  • Taste: Strong, biting flavor or immediate heat signal overage garlic.

When inspecting garlic, look closely at each clove and bulb. One spoiled section means the whole head should be thrown out.

Can You Use Sprouted Garlic?

It’s common for garlic bulbs left too long to start sprouting green shoots through their papery skins. This is the plant’s natural effort to keep growing. Sprouted garlic is still usable if the sprouts are small.

To use sprouted garlic:

  • Break open the bulb and inspect thoroughly for signs of spoilage.
  • Trim off any sprouts or green portions.
  • Remove and discard outermost papery layers.
  • Separate unblemished cloves from the bulb.
  • Use cloves immediately or preserve in oil or vinegar.

Garlic with sprouts longer than 1/2 inch should be avoided, as should bulbs with excess moisture or fungal growth.

How To Prevent Garlic From Going Bad

It’s easy to prevent garlic from going bad with proper storage habits:

  • Buy only fresh, firm bulbs. Check for mold and moisture.
  • Use garlic soon after purchasing. Don’t let it sit out for extended periods.
  • Refrigerate immediately. Don’t leave garlic at room temp before cooling.
  • Store loose, not bundled. Allow air circulation between bulbs.
  • Use breathable storage containers. No plastic bags or airtight containers.
  • Watch for early sprouting. Consume sprouted garlic quickly.
  • Freeze for long-term storage. Frozen garlic keeps for 4-6 months.

With attentive storage habits, garlic can stay fresh for months past its purchase date.


Unpeeled garlic can eventually go bad in the refrigerator after several weeks. Signs of spoilage include sprouting, mold, bad odor, and texture changes. To maximize shelf life, store bulbs loose in breathable containers around 40°F. Freezing also extends the lifespan of unpeeled garlic. Consume immediately if garlic appears or smells spoiled, as bacteria can cause foodborne illness. With proper storage, unpeeled garlic can stay fresh for up to 2-3 months refrigerated.

Storage Method Shelf Life
Room temperature 2-3 weeks
Refrigerated 4-5 weeks
Frozen 4-6 months

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *