Will Cooking with Sprouted Garlic Ruin Your Recipe?

Rats! Your garlic has sprouted. But you might be able to use it—here's how.

You definitely had the best intentions when you bought that beautiful head of garlic a while back. You were going to surprise the family with some Garlic Lover’s Chicken for Sunday dinner. Or maybe some Linguine with Garlic for your vampire movie marathon. But somehow, they never happened. Now that poor, neglected garlic has sprouted unsightly green shoots. Should you still use the sprouted garlic?

Do the Sniff Test

Rashanda Cobbins, food editor for Taste of Home, says spouted garlic is perfectly safe to consume. In fact, a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that garlic that’s been sprouted for five days has significantly higher antioxidant levels than fresher garlic.

“It’s a personal preference whether or not you utilize spouted garlic cloves in cooking,” Cobbins says.

So what’s a cook to do?

Just like you would sniff and smell other items that have been hanging out in your pantry or fridge, do the same with garlic. If it has an off odor or looks squishy or discolored, simply discard it. Don’t be afraid to give the sprouted garlic a taste, too. Here are 6 more handy tips for identifying spoiled food.

It Might Be Bitter

Even if the cloves look and smell okay, you may have some bitterness issues with the green bits in the garlic.

“Some say sprouted garlic has a sharper, spicier or bitter flavor, although it likely can go undetected in most dishes,” Cobbins says. “If the sprouts are removed and the remainder of the clove used, I believe the bitterness will be undetectable.”

You’ll want to be careful when you’re using the garlic raw or where garlic is prominently flavoring the dish.

Pick the Right Recipe

The bitterness is rarely going to be a plus, but there are recipes where it’ll be a non-issue.

“Most recipes will tolerate it and the flavor likely will not be noticeable. Think pasta sauce, pot roast…things that may simmer for a while for the flavor to mellow out or have other prominent flavors,” Cobbins says.

In Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, for instance, the garlic will be cooked in a slow cooker along with ground beef, onion, tomatoes and seasonings until it’s tender.

For other recipes, where the garlic isn’t cooked for a long period of time (like a quick stir-fry), or a fresh salsa where the garlic will be used raw, you’ll definitely want to purchase a fresh bulb of garlic.

Just make sure you store it in an easy-to-reach place this time—maybe near the wine or the chocolate?

Recipes for Garlic Lovers
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Cathryn Jakicic
Cathy Jakicic has written about everything from business and bacteria to beads and baking in her career —but she greatly prefers the last two. She is a baker and a crafter and loves to try new recipes for both.