Make the most of your garlic by storing it the right way. 

By Corey Williams
April 09, 2021
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Storing garlic properly is an easy way to make sure it retains its quality, flavor, and pungency for as long as possible — and life is way too short to eat bad garlic. Here’s everything you need to know about the best way to store your whole, peeled, and minced bulbs: 

How Long Does Garlic Last? 

It depends on how you store it and whether or not it’s been peeled. A whole, unpeeled garlic head will last quite a while (about six months). An unpeeled clove that has been separated from the head, meanwhile, will stay good for about three weeks. 

Once you peel garlic, you’re going to want to use it within a week. Don’t even think about chopping or mincing the garlic unless you plan to use it ASAP — you’ll be lucky if it lasts 24 hours in the fridge.

How Do You Know When It’s Bad?

Give your unpeeled garlic head a gentle squeeze. If it’s firm, it’s probably good to go. If it’s soft, meanwhile, it may be past its prime

Another tell tale sign that your garlic is bad is its color: Peeled garlic cloves should be much closer to white than yellow. Discoloration is a sign of decay. 

Garlic Storage

three garlic heads
Credit: Debby Lewis-Harrison/Getty Images

How to Store Whole Garlic Heads

Keep the bulb intact for as long as possible. Again, once you start peeling, your garlic’s lifespan decreases much more rapidly. 

The best place for a whole head of garlic is somewhere cool, dry, and dark. Sound like the fridge? Think again. Instead of the fridge, opt for somewhere closer to room temperature. Ideally, garlic would be stored somewhere between 60° and 65°, but that’s not realistic for most households. Just use your best judgment. For most people, the pantry is the safest spot.

Also, if you can, choose somewhere that gets decent ventilation. Don't close your garlic in a small drawer or seal it up in a bag. If you must bag it up, paper or mesh materials are much more breathable than plastic.

garlic heads in a paper bag
Credit: Adão Gileno Carmo Dos Santos/EyeEm/Getty Images

How to Store Peeled Garlic

Peeled garlic is a different story. Whether you’ve separated and peeled the whole thing or you just a few exposed cloves, refrigeration is going to be your best bet. Seal it up in an airtight container or zip-top bag, then toss it in the fridge. Though it may start losing pungency after only a few days, it’ll be fine to use for about a week.  

How to Store Chopped or Minced Garlic 

Did you accidentally chop more garlic than you needed for a given recipe? You can toss it in a bit of olive oil, seal it in an airtight container, and stick it in the fridge to use within a day or two. Don’t try to keep it for longer than that: Fresh garlic in oil could develop botulism over time, according to the USDA (the pre-minced garlic you buy at the grocery store has been treated with preservatives that keep it safe-to-eat for longer).

Freezing Garlic

peeled garlic cloves
Credit: Melanie Hobson/EyeEm/Getty Images

Can You Freeze Garlic? 

Yes, you can absolutely freeze garlic. It’s a great way to make the most out of the bulbs you don’t plan to use in the immediate future. If you want it to keep its flavor and texture, though, you’ve got to follow a few simple steps. 

How to Freeze Garlic

Garlic freezes well whether it’s whole, peeled, or minced:

  • To freeze whole garlic heads: Place the heads into a freezer-safe bag, label with the date, and freeze.
  • To freeze peeled garlic cloves: Peel and separate all garlic cloves, then spread them evenly across a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap, then freeze overnight. Wrap the frozen cloves in foil, seal in a freezer-safe bag labeled with the date, then freeze again. 
  • To freeze chopped or minced garlic: Peel and separate all garlic cloves, then finely and evenly mince them (use a food processor if you’re freezing in bulk). Coat with oil, then spread the garlic paste over a lined baking sheet. Cover the baking sheet and freeze overnight. Cut the frozen sheet of garlic paste into evenly sized chunks, seal in a freezer-safe bag labeled with the date, then freeze again. 

Note: Freeze garlic mixed with oil immediately — don’t leave it hanging around at room temperature, as this could put you at risk for botulism. 

This story originally appeared on allrecipes.com