Can Carrots Go Bad?

You went to the farmer’s market and found a great deal on carrots. You’re eating carrots regularly, so you didn’t hesitate and bought a whole bunch. Happy about saving money, you went home. When you got there, you opened the bag and realized you’ve bought way too many. Can carrots go bad?

You sure know that carrots do go bad. What you’re really asking is how to store them, so that they last as long as possible. And how long is that exactly?

This guide covers precisely that: signs of spoilage, shelf life, and ways to store carrots. In case you’re interested, we cover freezing those root veggies too. After going through this piece you will know what to do with the bunch you’ve purchased, so not a single carrot will go to waste.

For starters, let’s talk about signs of spoilage.

Can Carrots Go Bad? How To Tell If a Carrot Is Bad?

We all know carrots go bad. They can go bad in the traditional way (rot, mold), but they can also deteriorate in terms of quality to the point they’re not usable.

When it comes to the former, the sign of a spoiled carrot can be rot setting in (the skin and flesh going black) or the presence of mold (white fuzz). If only a part of a carrot is affected, you can just cut it off and use the rest, just like you do with potatoes and other veggies.

For the latter, carrots tend to dehydrate over time. They become limp, rubbery, and easy to bend. Such carrots aren’t unsafe to eat by any means, but peeling them is a huge pain, and they don’t taste that good. You can either discard them or use in a cooked dish, where the lack of firmness won’t be that noticeable. If the carrot is only slightly soft, it’s still good enough for salads and eating it raw.

How Long Do Carrots Last?

When it comes to the shelf life of carrots, it all depends on where and how do you store them.

In the pantry or anywhere else that’s near room temperature or slightly below, the carrots usually last between 4 to 7 days. If they are fresh, they maybe can last up to 10 days ([CM]). Temperature affects the shelf life significantly, so if it’s the middle of a hot summer, expect that period to be shorter, like 3 to 5 days (if you don’t have air conditioning).

When it comes to the fridge, carrots last between a month ([SOF]) and 2 months ([CM]), depending on how you store them.

For cut or cooked carrots, they usually last up to a week in the fridge.

How To Store Carrots?

First, if your carrots came with the greens intact, cut them off ([SOF][CM]). The greens pull moisture from the root (the carrot), so cutting them off is a must if you don’t want the carrots to dry out quickly. If you want to use the greens, pul them in the fridge wrapped in a damp paper towel ([SOF]).

Second, no matter if the carrots end up in the pantry or the fridge, keep them away from fruits and veggies that produce ethylene, such as apples or bananas. That gas speeds up ripening, so you don’t want it anywhere near the carrots.

Third, postpone washing the veggies until you’re ready to use it.

A bunch of carrots with cut-off greens
(credit: Mink Mingle)

Now it’s time to talk about moisture. If you keep the carrots at room temp, they should be in a well-ventilated place, so the moisture doesn’t build-up, and cause the carrots to rot. A veggie basket on a shelf (not in sunlight) or in a cabinet that you open every day should work just fine.

When it comes to storing carrots in the refrigerator, there are two options. Either you make sure they stay dry or submerge them in water.

The former means you put them loose in the veggie drawer (these are shaped to draw moisture to a single place), or at the very least you make some holes in the plastic bag so that the water can get out. For bonus points, you can wrap the carrots in paper towels that will absorb the moisture ([SOF][CM]). If you go with that, check on the carrots every couple of days, and switch the paper towels if the current ones are wet. You can dry out the damp paper towels and reuse them later.

For the latter, you pick an airtight container, place all carrots in it, and add water, so that it covers the produce completely ([SOF][CM]). Seal the container and keep it in the fridge. Change water every 3 to 4 days, or whenever it gets cloudy.

Both storage methods should help you make the carrots last for between a month and two months in the fridge. If that’s too little for your needs, think about freezing the carrots.

If you have cut or cooked carrots, throw them in an airtight container and keep refrigerated. That’s all they need.

Can You Freeze Carrots?

Freezing carrots is definitely an option, although it takes some time to do it properly. That’s because they, like most veggies, need blanching before you put them in the freezer ([CM]). Blanching helps the carrots retain texture, flavor, and color. The whole process of freezing looks like this ([CM]):

  1. Peel the carrots and cut into pieces in needed. If you already know how you’re going to use the frozen carrots, you can cut them up now, so they are ready to go without any further prep.
  2. Bring a pot of water to a boil.
  3. Submerge the carrots in the water, and bring it to a boil if it stopped. Whole carrots need about 5 minutes in boiling water, cut ones or baby carrots require about 2 to 3 minutes, depending on size. You can use a blanching basket if you have one on hand, a strainer, or anything else that can get the job done.
  4. Once that time passes, transfer the carrots in a pot of cold water to stop the cooking process. Use ice cubes to speed things up.
  5. Now it’s time to dry the cooled carrots. Lay them out on kitchen towel for a couple of minutes, then get rid of any remaining moisture with more towels.
  6. Portion the carrots and package in freezer bags. If you already know how much carrots you need for a dish, pack as much in a single bag. This way, thawing is as simple as taking the bag from the freezer. If you find them helpful, label the bags with name and date. Remember to remove air before you seal them tightly.
  7. Put the bags in the freezer.

Please note that there’s no need to blanch all carrots at once. You can do that in batches. Just make sure each time the water is boiling and the cooling water is actually cold.

Frozen carrots can last months in the freezer. When you decide to defrost them, do it overnight in the fridge. If you’re in a hurry, you can thaw them in a bowl of cold water, too. Last but not least, in many cases, you can throw in your frozen carrots into the dish you’re cooking, the same way you do with frozen veggies you buy in the supermarket.

In a Nutshell

  • If mold or rot sets in, discard the carrot or cut off the infected part if it’s a small one.
  • Carrots dehydrate over time and become limp and rubbery. They are safe to eat but definitely won’t work in salads and raw dishes. If you don’t want to throw them out, use them in cooked dishes.
  • Carrots usually last up to a week in the pantry, and between a month and two in the fridge.
  • Cooked or cut carrots last about a week in the fridge.
  • Before you put the carrots in storage, make sure you cut off the greens (if present), and omit washing the produce. You can do that right before peeling.
  • If you keep the carrots in the pantry, make sure they’re well ventilated. If they’re in the fridge, either make sure there’s no moisture build-up or keep them submerged in water.
  • If that month (or even more) in the refrigerator is not enough, freeze the carrots.