Broccoli (Brassica oleracea) is a popular vegetable known for its high nutrient content. It is low in calories and a good source of vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, C, K, potassium, iron, and manganese (*).
Broccoli resembles cauliflower and is related to other cruciferous vegetables such as brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, cabbage, and kale.
It can be enjoyed raw or cooked. It is also easy to prepare into a variety of dishes with different cooking methods, from steaming or boiling, stir-frying, roasting, etc.
Just like what most people do, you probably do grocery shopping every several days or even 1-2 weeks. Of course, you want to keep your veggies fresh as long as possible. Next to that, most of the time your recipe doesn’t call for a whole bunch of broccoli, leaving you with leftover to store.
Either way, you might start wondering: until when does broccoli last in the refrigerator? What is the proper storage of broccoli? What should you do when broccoli turns yellow? How do you tell if broccoli goes bad?
No worries, we got you covered! In this article, we take a closer look at broccoli’s shelf life, storage methods, and most importantly how to know if broccoli goes bad. Let’s read along!
How To Store Broccoli
Broccoli can be quite tricky to keep if you don’t know the tricks. It can go from fresh green broccoli into yellowish, unappealing one in just a few days.
If you don’t want to waste this nutritious vegetable before its time, the key is proper storage. It won’t only keep your broccoli fresh, but also safe to eat.
Vegetables are so diverse and each type has different ideal storage conditions to allow them to last longer. Broccoli is best stored at temperatures 32 – 36ºF/ 0 – 2 ºC.
Like most vegetables, broccoli is high in water content, therefore, higher relative humidity will keep it fresh longer (*). With these being said, the ideal place to keep broccoli is in the fridge, more precisely the crisper drawer.
Separate vegetables from fruits. Some fruits such as apples and pear release ethylene gas. While ethylene is useful to accelerate the ripening process in under-ripened fruits (like the old trick for ripening avocado by placing it with an apple in a sealed paper bag), this gas is a real enemy for many vegetables.
With vegetables, including broccoli, exposure to ethylene means compromising the quality and shelf life by speeding up wilting, yellowing, softening, discoloration, stem detachment, and causing bitterness (*).
Here are the tips to store broccoli! If you have a whole broccoli head (florets with stalk), simply keep it in the fridge. Wrap the broccoli in a damp paper towel or in a plastic bag. No need to wash it as excess moisture will support mold growth.
Cut broccoli (store-bought or cut at home) always needs refrigeration. Keep the cut florets in a sealed airtight container. Store-bought cut broccoli can be kept as it is. After opening, transfer the leftover into a sealed container.
If you have cooked broccoli, whether it is boiled, steamed, or cooked into a dish, let it cool down before storing it in the fridge. Keep it in a sealed airtight container.
Can You Freeze Broccoli?
Definitely, yes! That’s why we find frozen vegetables at the supermarket, right?
To freeze broccoli, there are a few steps to follow.
1. Cut broccoli into florets or bite-size pieces
Don’t waste the stalk. Simply trim the stalk, remove the hard outer skin, and cut into smaller pieces. Wash the broccoli in cold water to remove any dirt or bugs.
2. Boil water and blanch the broccoli
Quickly cool the blanched broccoli in ice water to stop the blanching process. Once cool, drain and remove excess water.
3. Put the broccoli in a freezer bag per portion size and freeze it
Don’t forget to label with name and date.
If you prefer to buy frozen cut broccoli, quickly put it back into the freezer when you’re home. Frozen broccoli is great for many recipes from stir-fry, soup, or casserole.
When it comes to defrosting frozen broccoli, there are a few methods depending on your situation and how you want to use it. If you have time, simply move it into the fridge and leave it overnight. If you’re short in time, use a microwave.
In some cases, defrosting is not necessary, for example, if you will steam or boil it, and use it for soup.
How Long Does Broccoli Last?
To start with, there’s no point if you store broccoli that’s already in bad condition. Only buy good quality ones that look fresh, vibrant deep green, firm, and don’t have yellowish or dark spots.
If you leave broccoli at room temperature, it won’t last longer than 2 days. It will start to wilt and turn yellow very soon.
When properly stored in the fridge, good quality broccoli should stay fresh for at least 3 to 5 days, but can be longer up to a week or two. This period can vary depending on many other things, such as the quality, how long since it’s picked, and storage condition.
Cut broccoli lasts shorter than a whole one. Use it within 1 to 3 days after cutting before it loses its freshness. Store-bought cut broccoli should be consumed before the “use by” date stamped on the label. It’s possible to consume it past the date, but it may have lost its quality.
Boiled, steamed, or cooked broccoli should be consumed within 3 – 5 days. When prepared into a dish, you can also look at the other ingredients that go bad fastest to tell if the dish is still good or not.
Frozen broccoli can last up to a year, but after a while, it will start to lose its quality. Store-bought frozen broccoli comes with a “best before” or “best use by” date. It is suggested to consume the vegetables before this date, although it is possible that the product stays good even after passing the date. Use your judgment to decide.
How To Tell If Broccoli Goes Bad
Unless frozen, consume broccoli as soon as possible as it will start to lose its quality and finally goes bad.
Fresh broccoli is firm and green. After a while, the florets will start to turn yellow from the edge. This happens even faster when broccoli is left at room temperature.
If broccoli turns yellow, discard the affected part and use the remaining. But if the whole head turns yellow, it is better to discard it.
Broccoli also loses its texture quite soon. If the florets are soft or limp, they are safe to consume but the texture may not make you happy. It is your call to keep it or toss it.
The same thing goes for dark or brown spots. Remove the bad parts. But if you see molds, large dark spots or rotten parts, or other unwanted visual changes, off-smell, throw away the vegetable for safety reasons.
When it comes to cooked broccoli, the signs of spoilage are quite apparent. If you see the presence of molds or off-smell, there’s no other better option than to discard it.
If nothing suspicious is found, you can taste a tiny amount to decide. If cooked broccoli has been in the fridge for too long, say longer than a week, discard it for safety reasons.
First, it won’t taste great. Second, consuming bad or spoiled broccoli may give you food poisoning. Broccoli and other vegetables are prone to bacterial contamination from the environment. If the bacteria are pathogenic, they will make you sick.
Symptoms of food poisoning widely vary, from upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and more severe symptoms. Consult this CDC website to know if you need to go to the doctor immediately.
Yellow broccoli is more of a quality than a safety concern. It is fine to consume, but you won’t be happy with the bitter taste. Better to cut the yellow part and save the rest. But if the whole head is yellow, better to discard it.
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables (such as cauliflowers, cabbage, kale) are high in sulphuric compounds. They emit a distinct, pungent odor when they start to spoil. Some people say it smells like a fart, poop, or rotten eggs. You won’t miss the smell.
Broccoli is a good source of nutrients. Unfortunately, broccoli loses its quality quite soon before eventually going bad. If you don’t plan to use it within a week or two, consider freezing to benefit for much longer shelf life.
The signs of broccoli going bad are quite obvious. If broccoli turns yellow or darker, remove the affected part and use the remaining. If the discoloration occurs all over the head, discard it. The same is true for broccoli with molds, smells awful, and rotten.