How to Tell If Broccoli Has Gone Bad

Not sure if your broccoli is still usable? Find out how long broccoli lasts in the fridge and how to tell if it's OK to eat.

Broccoli on a wood surface
Photo: Helen Norman

Have you ever opened your refrigerator's crisper drawer to find a forgotten head of broccoli—and you're unsure if it's still OK to use? You're not alone! We all have let the occasional piece of produce linger just a little too long in the fridge, and figuring out if it's still good to eat can be tricky. So if you have doubts about a questionable piece of broccoli, read on to learn how to tell if your broccoli has gone bad.

How to Tell If Broccoli Is Bad

Learning about how to store broccoli properly is one easy way to prevent your broccoli from spoiling in the first place. Broccoli can be stored in the fridge or freezer, whole or cut into florets and can last anywhere from 3 to 5 days. But just in case you've lost track of time, here are three factors to look for to determine if your broccoli is OK to eat.


First, check the color of the florets. They should be a bright, uniform green. If they have any yellow or brown spots, that's a sign your broccoli is starting to spoil. If you notice fuzzy white or black patches growing on the florets or the stem, that tells you that mold is starting to form, and it's time to toss it.


If you open the crisper drawer and an unpleasant odor emerges, that may mean your broccoli is starting to spoil. Whole broccoli crowns should smell fresh and slightly vegetal. Broccoli cut into florets releases sulforaphane—a compound found in many cruciferous vegetables that can give off a strong odor. If the odor is mild, your broccoli is still probably OK. Any odors that smell especially strong are a sign that the broccoli is past its peak.


When it comes to broccoli, texture is important. The broccoli stem should be firm. A soft stem is an indicator of spoilage. The stalk should also look fresh, not cracked or dried out. If the bottom of the stalk looks dry, you may be able to cut off the dry part and still consume the broccoli provided there are no other indicators of spoilage. If the stem or florets look wilted, they have lost too much moisture and should be tossed.

If your broccoli doesn't pass all three of these checks, it's time to say goodbye. But if your broccoli looks, smells and feels fresh, it's still OK to cook with! Learn how to cook broccoli properly in recipes like Chicken & Broccoli Casserole and Smoked Gouda-Broccoli Soup with your super-fresh broccoli!

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