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How To Tell If Broccoli Is Bad – The Ultimate Guide

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Broccoli is a healthy and nutritious vegetable that forms part of the cruciferous family, or cabbage family. As nutritious and healthy as broccoli is, it is a perishable food item and you do need to eat it while it is still fresh.

To ensure that you get to make the most of your broccoli and that you don’t eat it when it is bad, you need to be able to tell when it has gone past its expiration date.

How do you tell if broccoli is bad? The best way to tell if broccoli has gone bad is to look for signs of spoiling. This could be discoloration of the broccoli, wilting, or even mold. You could also try and see if you can detect any off odors, which is another sign that the broccoli has spoiled.

Keep reading to find out more on how to tell if broccoli is bad, how long broccoli usually lasts, and some handy storage tips!

Signs That Broccoli Is Bad

There are a few signs to look for that could indicate that broccoli has gone bad. The broccoli might just start to be going bad, and only show a few signs of spoiling, so it is worth looking for all of them just to be sure!

Here is what to look for to tell whether broccoli has gone bad:


One of the first signs that broccoli has gone bad is if the trunk of the broccoli is soft. The trunk of broccoli, when fresh, is firm and strong.

If it begins to soften, it shows that the broccoli is starting to go bad, or already has.


Fresh broccoli has beautiful dark green colored florets with a light bright green trunk holding it all together. This dark green color, along with the bright green trunk, shows that the broccoli is fresh and fine to eat.

However, once the broccoli starts to go bad, these colors change. The tip of the broccoli florets, which should be dark green, start to turn a yellow or light brown color.

If you notice this, your broccoli has either gone bad or already has, depending on how bad the discoloration is.

Signs Of Mold

If you notice any signs of mold on the broccoli, it is a definite sign that it has gone bad. Look all over the broccoli well to ensure that there is no mold hiding away.

Mold will present as white fuzzy spots on the broccoli florets, or black spots along the bright green trunk.

Some people choose to cut away some small spots of mold and continue to eat the broccoli if the mold has not spread too much, but this is up to you.

It is safer to just avoid eating broccoli if there is any mold present, as it could be hiding away in between the florets.


Broccoli should have a fresh smell, with a little bit of earthiness. If you notice a bad or bitter odor from the broccoli, it is best to not eat it, as this is a sign that it has gone off.

While broccoli does not always have the best smell, it will still smell fresh when it is ready to eat, and you should be able to determine if the smell is bad from the broccoli beginning to spoil.

If you can’t use smell on its own, look for some of the other signs listed above.

Why You Shouldn’t Eat Broccoli That Has Gone Bad

It is never recommended to eat food that has gone bad, or which has begun to spoil. It is always best to eat fresh food, especially when it comes to vegetables!

When broccoli begins to go bad, it loses many of its health benefits. In broccoli, there are some amazing vitamins, minerals, folic acid, and fiber.

The more the broccoli spoils, the more of these great health benefits you lose, and for most of us, the health benefits are what make broccoli so appealing!

The other problem with eating food that is going bad is that you risk picking up food poisoning or becoming sick from bacteria on the broccoli.

As broccoli goes bad, there will be more bacteria growth, and eating these bacteria could lead to foodborne illnesses.

Mold on bad broccoli can also make you considerably sick, so it is best to look for this before eating the broccoli.

Broccoli that has gone bad will also not taste appetizing at all, so there really is no reason to be chomping down on broccoli that it is past its expiration date!

How To Store Broccoli

Broccoli does well and stays fresher for longer if it is stored properly.

Knowing how to properly store broccoli will ensure that you can make the most of it before it starts to spoil, or hopefully it doesn’t even begin to go bad before you get to use it!

It is best to store broccoli in the vegetable crisper drawer of your refrigerator.

You should avoid cutting the florets or washing the head of the broccoli before placing it in the fridge for storage. This should only be done when you are going to be cooking or eating the broccoli.

Broccoli is one of the few vegetables that do well with a little bit of moisture.

By wrapping the head of the broccoli in a damp paper towel and leaving it in an open plastic bag (in the fridge with some circulation), it should last a little while longer.

Avoid leaving the broccoli out at room temperature, as this will cause it to go bad much quicker.

If you have bought pre-prepared broccoli which is cut up into florets already, you can leave it in the packaging, or in a plastic sealable bag, and keep it in the fridge for up to three days.

Once broccoli is cooked, it can be left in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Can You Freeze Broccoli?

For when you know you won’t be using the broccoli you bought any time soon, you can freeze it for extended storage.

Broccoli needs to be blanched before being frozen, as this stops enzymatic processes that might ruin the nutrients or the taste or texture of the broccoli.

If you do not blanch the broccoli before freezing it, then it will likely be quite mushy when thawed and will not taste as great as you would have hoped.

To blanch the broccoli, you should cut it up into individual florets, and place them in boiling water for 5 minutes.

Once the 5 minutes is up, you should remove the broccoli from the boiling water and immediately drain it and place it into an ice bath. This prevents the broccoli from cooking any further.

The broccoli will keep its beautiful green color, remain crisp, and hold on to its amazing nutrients while frozen.

Make sure the broccoli is dry before placing it into a plastic freezer container and squeezing out as much air as possible before sealing and labeling. 

Make sure to label the packaging with the date of freezing, as broccoli is best when used within 6 months of freezing. It will still be safe to eat after this, but the nutrient content, taste, and texture will begin to decline.

How Do I Choose Fresh Broccoli At The Store?

Choosing the freshest broccoli at the store does help to ensure that you buy broccoli that lasts for longer before spoiling.

Look for broccoli that has a head with tightly compacted, bluish-green to dark green florets. Do not choose broccoli that has a head that is spread out or with separate clusters, and which has yellowing or dried-out leaves.

The stems and the stalk of the broccoli should be firm and bright green, not soft and mushy. There should also be no bad odors coming from the broccoli.

The fresher the broccoli the better!

Related Questions

Now that we’ve gone over how to tell whether or not your broccoli has gone bad, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!

Can you eat broccoli that has turned yellow?

Broccoli that has turned slightly yellow is still fine to eat. This is a sign that it is on its way to going bad, not that it is bad already.

Just check to see that the stem of the broccoli is still firm and that there is no mold on the stem or the florets. Checking to see that the broccoli does not have an off odor is also a good idea!

Make sure to wash the broccoli well before use, and you can even cut off some of the yellow parts of the broccoli if there are still some dark green parts left.

What does it mean if broccoli turns purple?

You might be a bit perplexed to find that your once green head of broccoli is now turning a bluish-purple.

This is actually completely fine and is caused by the release of anthocyanin, which is a naturally occurring pigment with a bluish-purple color.

You are still able to eat broccoli that has started to turn purple, as long as there are no signs that it has gone bad.

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