January 18, 2020

Which vegetable do you find the tastiest? For me, roasted fresh broccoli (with parmesan cheese) is one of my favorite side dishes. And it is rather hardy when kept refrigerated, but fresh broccoli can and does go bad after a while. Many people don’t know how long does broccoli last, can broccoli be stored after cooking, or how to keep the freshness of broccoli intact. Here’s what we found out.

What is broccoli?

Broccoli is a green vegetable that bears striking resemblance to a miniature tree. [i] It comes from a plant called Brassica oleracea. On a broader scale, it is a cruciferous vegetable.  

How long does broccoli last?

Without the use of any artificial storage methods, broccoli has a short shelf life compared to other veggies like potatoes. Raw broccoli is probably safe to eat for 2 to 5 days if kept at room temperature that doesn’t exceed 72F, loosely covered so it can breathe. [ii] However, storing broccoli in a fridge or freezer can increase its life. 

How long does broccoli last in the fridge?

Raw or fresh broccoli can last for around a week in most cases. However, depending on how soon it was distributed to the grocery store after harvest, it can remain fresh for two weeks. Here’s our list of highly rated produce keepers on Amazon (aff).

Bonsu tip: You can also trim at least ½ inch from bottoms of a fresh head of broccoli and keep it in a shallow cup of cold water in your fridge, almost like a bouquet of flowers. Cover the cup and head loosely with cling film so it can breathe (this keeps it from drying out) and stand it up in an out of the way area in the fridge. This can keep broc fresh for an additional 3 days. 

How long does broccoli last in the freezer?

If you want to maintain the freshness of broccoli for several months, then you must place it in a freezer. When broccoli is stored with proper care, it can last for a year, even 18 months. However, you cannot maintain this condition with a conventional household refrigerator. 

How long does cooked broccoli last?

Cooked broccoli does not last as long as its raw counterpart. The former barely lasts for 1-3 days. Therefore, it is best to eat it as soon as possible. In the fridge, cooked broccoli can last for 3-4 days whereas you can extend its lifespan by 10-12 months by placing it in a freezer. [iii] Avoid leaving cooked broccoli out on the counter overnight if you plan to eat it.

How to tell if your broccoli has gone bad

Broccoli contains lots of vitamins. [iv] It has high fiber content and is also rich in folic acid. That being said, only fresh broccoli offers these benefits. When broccoli is spoiled, it becomes devoid of these nutrients and it may even pose a health risk.  Follow these tips to assess whether your broccoli stock has gone bad or not.

  1. The color indicates the freshness of broccoli. The typical broccoli color is green, but when the florets adopt a yellowish hue, then it is permanently stale. At its best, broccoli maintains a dark green color.
  2. Mold is a common reason for spoiled broccoli. Examine the broccoli carefully and look for signs of mold, like yellow or gray patches of soft leaves or stems). If your broccoli has mold in it, throw it away.
  3. If the broccoli is white or has a slimy texture, then it is going through the process of decay. Make sure no one eats it and dispose of it.
  4. Good broccoli is distinguishable by smell. Really old, inedible broccoli usually gives off a truly offensive odor. 
  5. Check the stem of your broccoli. Fresh broccoli is supposed to have a stiff stem or trunk. I’ve cooked and eaten plenty of rubbery broccoli, but it wasn’t good raw. It discolors to a yellow when it’s too far gone.
  6. Here are more produce safety tips from the CDC.

How to Pick Fresh Broccoli

Follow these steps to choose fresh broccoli for your recipes.

  1. Find broccoli with bright green heads. (The head of the broccoli is also called a curd. Bet you didn’t know that!)
  2. Select the broccoli florets that have tightly compact clusters.
  3. Choose broccoli with firm stalks and stems.
  4. If the stem feels woody, then avoid it.
  5. As explained before, a yellow color means broccoli is on its way out.
  6. If you find flowered broccoli, then you can still use it in.
  7. Put your broccoli in an dry plastic bag or produce keeper and store it in the refrigerator.
  8. BONUS: What about bags of broccoli in the cold case of my store’s produce section? Buying pre-cut, bagged fresh broccoli has become very popular. It’s a time-saver for sure, but cut broccoli has been processed even more than the big heads, so more time has passed since it was harvested. You can’t really give it a sniff test, but here’s our suggestion. Always look at the use-by date, of course, but sometimes you have give the bag a good squeeze. Do you see a lot of off-color, oozy moisture surrounding the florets inside the bag? Are the florets separating so that the little heads don’t look compact anymore? Too much moisture, gray patches, and too many very pale green to yellow florets are a sign to look for a fresher bag. I spend a lot of time picking and choosing produce, especially because markets aren’t watching for expiration dates as well as they used to. It’s now to-each-his-own out there, and buyer beware.

Fun Fact: President George Bush Sr. banned broccoli from being served on Air Force One in 1990. Now’s that’s a true dislike!

Final Thoughts

Broccoli is pretty versatile and while it does have its own distinct strong flavor, it picks up from a lot of the dishes it mingles with: stir fries, broccoli & cheddar soup, broccoli & rice casserole, and more. Here’s a blackened broccoli recipe we LOVE. 

We recommend taking some time to plan meals ahead and learning when and how to buy the freshest broccoli for your needs.

About the author

Meet Go-Go-Gadget Renee'. Her passion for #kitchen gadgets is matched only by her love for tech. A real #foodie, she's all heart for red wine and delicious meals. #CookingChewTribe

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