Maximizing shelf life: Learn how to store garlic

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Learning how to store garlic transforms it from a humble bulb into a culinary superstar, infusing recipes with flavor and zest. With proper storage, garlic can stay as fresh as the day it was brought home.

Two cloves of garlic on a wooden table.
Photo credit: YayImages.

Temperature, humidity and air circulation are the most important factors to consider when storing garlic. By getting all of these elements just right, garlic will stay fresh and delicious for months.

Beyond its rich flavor, garlic is a nutritional powerhouse. It has antioxidant properties, is high in collagen and can contribute to a healthier lifestyle. This makes proper garlic storage even more crucial to get the most out of its nutritional benefits and flavor.

How to store garlic: Whole and unpeeled cloves

The simplest way to store garlic is as a whole bulb or unpeeled cloves. Garlic prefers a dark, cool and well-ventilated place. A kitchen pantry or on the counter away from direct sunlight works well.

Choose a suitable storage container. Mesh bags, paper bags, a wire basket, a ceramic garlic keeper or a small bowl with holes work well. These containers allow air circulation, helping to preserve the cloves. Avoid using plastic bags or airtight containers as they promote mold growth.

Whole garlic bulbs will last 3 to 5 months when stored properly. Unpeeled cloves will last for 1 to 2 months. Inspect the stored garlic periodically and remove any spoiled or sprouted cloves. This helps preserve the quality and freshness of the remaining garlic.

“I store garlic in a small ceramic garlic keeper on my counter. If the garlic is getting old and won’t last for much longer, I’ll roast it and store the cloves in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 6 months.”

— Gen La Rocca, Two Cloves Kitchen
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How to store garlic: Peeled cloves

Place peeled individual cloves in a small glass or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid or a zippered bag. Then, follow these simple steps.

  1. Dry the cloves: Pat the peeled garlic cloves with a clean paper towel to remove excess moisture.
  2. Add a small piece of paper towel: Place a small, folded piece of paper towel at the bottom of the container to absorb any extra moisture that may be present.
  3. Seal and store: Place the lid on the container and securely seal it. Store the container in the refrigerator.

When stored this way, peeled garlic cloves will stay fresh for about a week. Peeling damages the protective layers and exposes the garlic to air, reducing its shelf life. So, it is best to keep them unpeeled until ready to use.

A person cutting garlic on a wooden cutting board.
Photo credit: YayImages.

How to store garlic: Minced garlic

Properly stored minced garlic will last for about a week. Having minced garlic on hand can be very useful when meal prepping or preparing food for a big event. Here are the steps to store it.

  1. Place the minced garlic in an airtight container. Use a glass jar or a small plastic container.
  2. Add a small layer of olive oil on top of the minced garlic. This helps preserve the flavor and keeps it moist.
  3. Consume the refrigerated minced garlic within 1 week.

Roasting garlic

Beyond basic storage, garlic can be transformed through roasting or preserving, unlocking new flavors and textures. Roasted garlic is mellower with less pungency and has a sweet, caramelized profile, perfect for spreads.

How to freeze garlic

Freezing garlic is a fantastic way to keep peeled or minced garlic fresh for an extended period. It’s an easy process and can help prevent wasting any leftover garlic cloves. First, decide how to freeze the garlic — as whole cloves or chopped. Here’s a quick overview of each method:

  • Whole cloves: Place peeled cloves on a baking sheet and freeze them for about an hour. Once solid, transfer them to an airtight container or freezer bag and place them back in the freezer.
  • Chopped garlic: Finely chop the peeled cloves, place them in an ice cube tray, cover them with olive oil and freeze. Once frozen, move the frozen cubes to a freezer-safe bag or container.

Label the container with the date and store it in the freezer. Frozen garlic can last up to 12 months but may lose some of its potency after 6 months.

When a garlic craving strikes, take out the required amount and let it thaw for a few moments before using it in a recipe. Frozen garlic is used like fresh garlic, although the texture will differ after being frozen.

“I store garlic in a cool place in my kitchen in a small bowl. I will also chop several heads of garlic, place one teaspoon in a small ice cube tray, pour olive oil over it and then freeze. This makes it easy to add to soups and casseroles.”

— Jere’ Cassidy, One Hot Oven
Garlic on a cutting board with a wooden spoon.
Photo credit: YayImages.

Choosing the right garlic

Picking a fresh and healthy head of garlic is crucial in how long it will last in storage. Here’s what to keep in mind.

  • Look for firm heads of garlic with tightly closed cloves. The cloves should feel compact and heavy for their size.
  • Observe the color and texture. The outer skin should be dry, thin and silky. Avoid heads with damp or soft spots.
  • Fresh garlic will have a mild, pleasant aroma. Stay away from any with an unpleasant or acrid smell.

Common mistakes

Avoiding these common mistakes will prolong garlic’s shelf life. This will allow enjoyment of its delicious flavor for as long as possible!

  • Storing garlic in plastic bags or containers: Unpeeled garlic needs to breathe. A plastic bag traps moisture and leads to mold or sprouting. Instead, store garlic in a mesh bag or an open bowl.
  • Refrigeration: Never store unpeeled garlic in the fridge. Don’t store peeled or minced garlic cloves in the refrigerator for over a week.
  • Storing close to other produce: Garlic spreads its smell around, which can affect the taste of other foods. Keep garlic away from potatoes, onions and other produce that could absorb the odor.

Summing up

Storing garlic properly reaps flavorful rewards. Whether kept as whole garlic heads, minced or preserved, understanding the nuances of garlic storage is vital to maintaining its integrity and potency so that garlic can continue to be the star ingredient in many recipes. Indulge in the rich, aromatic flavors of homemade garlic knots, savor the classic comfort of garlic bread or enjoy mouth-watering honey garlic chicken

Anne Jolly is the creator of the food blog Upstate Ramblings. She loves to cook with gadgets like an air fryer, sous vide or pressure cooker. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, reading, knitting and spending time with her three kids.

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