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Can Broccoli Go Bad?

Including veggies in your diet is important, and broccoli is one of the better options out there. But let’s face it, a typical broccoli head is quite bulky, so unless you cook for a family of 4, you probably will use only a half of it at a time. How long will the leftover broccoli last?

Or there was this great sale on the farmer’s market, and you wanted to get as much value as you could. It was an impulse buy, and you didn’t think this through. You usually eat a single broccoli per week, and now somehow you have four broccoli heads in storage. Can broccoli go bad? How to store it, so it keeps fresh for the longest?

If you have these, or any other questions about storage, shelf life, and going bad of broccoli, you’re in the right place. This short article covers that and more.

Broccoli closeup
Broccoli closeup

Can Broccoli Go Bad? How To Tell If Broccoli Went Bad?

Like all veggies, broccoli goes bad; there’s no doubt about it. Let’s talk about possible signs of bad raw broccoli.

Mold is the first thing that comes to mind. Every now and then, if I store broccoli for too long, fuzzy white spots of mold appear on the florets. If there are only a couple of these, and they are small, I tend to cut them off (with some excess) and use the rest of the head. If they are all over the place, the veggie ends up in the garbage can. Do the same with any black or brown spots.

Broccoli creamy soup
Broccoli creamy soup

The second thing is color change. If that fresh deep green starts to turn yellowish, you’re running out of time. Yellow broccoli florets are perfectly safe to eat, but (in my opinion) they taste bitter and overall quite bad. Again, if only some of the florets are yellow, I cut them out. If the whole head has changed its color, I discard it.

The third thing is texture. Fresh broccoli is firm, so if it turns mushy or limp, you know something is wrong with it. In my experience, broccoli becomes yellow faster than it loses its firmness, therefore in most cases, you won’t get to this point. But if your broccoli is still green but not that firm, it’s up to you to decide what to do with it. I wouldn’t add it raw to a salad because of the texture, but it should be fine when cooked or steamed as a side dish.

When it comes to cooked broccoli, look for signs of mold. Sometimes, especially if you’re a bit careless, the broccoli can get contaminated before you get it to the fridge and it turns moldy within a few days.

Bunch of broccoli florets
Bunch of broccoli florets

How Long Does Broccoli Last?

Raw broccoli typically lasts for a week or two in the fridge. That’s not that long, and if you’re looking for a longer-lasting alternative, go with cauliflower.

I know that the 7 to 14 days period is quite vague, but it’s also the best I can come up with. Sometimes a broccoli head starts to grow mold or turn yellowish after a week, other times it’s still green and firm after two weeks. And even though I eat broccoli quite often, I still can’t tell which head will last those two weeks, and which won’t. In other words, do your best to use the broccoli within a week, and don’t count on it lasting those full two weeks.

When it comes to raw broccoli leftovers, try to finish them within 3 to 5 days. I usually plan two meals that include the broccoli within three days, so that I use the whole thing before it goes bad.

Last but not least, cooked broccoli. You can keep it in the fridge for 5 to 7 days. If you need it to last longer, freeze it.

(credit: Mae Mu)

How To Store Broccoli?

First thing you need to know is that you shouldn’t wash the broccoli head before you put it into storage. Leave it as is.

Broccoli likes to be chilled in the fridge. If you leave it at room temperature, it will turn yellow in a matter of days (been there, done that).

When it comes to how you should refrigerate it, there are a lot of conflicting opinions. Some say a plastic bag is the way to go, while others strongly disagree. Where I buy broccoli, they usually come wrapped in plastic, and I leave them this way. It works just fine.

Broccoli florets on a cutting board
(credit: Reinaldo Kevin)

If yours don’t come wrapped, place them in the vegetable drawer and see how things go. If they go moldy faster than expected, try putting them in a large resealable freezer bag. Don’t seal the bag completely, to allow for some (but not that much) air circulation.

For cooked broccoli, storage is super easy. Put the veggie or the dish in an airtight container, seal it tightly, and into the fridge it goes.

If the storage periods mentioned earlier are too short for your needs, you can always freeze your broccolis.

Broccoli seasoned with lime juice
(credit: Hessam Hojati)

Can You Freeze Broccoli?

You sure do. If it’s cooked broccoli or a cooked dish that broccoli is a part of, you can toss it into the freezer, and that’s it. If, however, the broccoli is raw, the freezing process is a bit more complicated and requires some hands-on work for best effects. And by hands-on work I mean you need to blanch the broccoli before you freeze it.

I find myself too lazy to blanch veggies before freezing, so in most cases, I cook them in bulk and freeze the leftovers. This saves me time, plus I don’t have to fiddle with cooking the veggies, cooling them down and removing excess water. If you have too much broccoli on hand, and can’t be bothered with blanching, consider doing the same.

Broccoli soup up close
Broccoli soup up close

Here’s how to freeze broccoli:

  1. Wash the veggie and cut it into florets and stalks (yes, those are edible too, just get rid of the firm outer layer). Prep the same way you would do for a meal, so when it’s thawed, it’s ready to go.
  2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and submerge the florets and stalks in it. Larger ones need about 5 minutes of boiling; smaller ones should be ready after 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Prepare a pot of cold water, possibly with some ice cubes.
  4. Once the mentioned period passes, transfer the cooked veggies into the ice bath to cool them down quickly.
  5. Cooled down vegetables are ready to be drained. Spread them on a kitchen towel and leave them to dry for like 10 to 15 minutes. Remove excess water with paper towels (you can let them dry and reuse later).
  6. Package the blanched veggies into freezer bags. Each bag should have as much broccoli as you need for a single dish. This allows for easy defrosting.
  7. Seal the bags tightly. Label the bags with name and date if you like.
  8. Put the bags in the freezer.

Thaw the broccoli in the fridge (overnight), in cold water, or throw it in frozen if it’s a soup or you’re making a stir-fry.

Broccoli and green bell pepper
(credit: Nandhini Kumar)

Summary

  • If moldy, or black spots are small, cut them off. If they are all over the broccoli head, discard it.
  • Yellow broccoli is okay to eat, but usually tastes bitter, and in most cases, you’d want to throw it out. If only some florets started to turn yellow, cut them out, and use the rest.
  • Raw broccoli lasts 7 to 14 days in the fridge. Cooked broccoli is good for about a week if you refrigerate it in an airtight container.
  • If the given storage periods are too short, you can always freeze the veggie.