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Carrot Shelf Life: How to Tell If Carrots Are Bad

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Ditch the doubt and discover the signs of spoiled carrots! Keep your kitchen fresh and your meals tasty with our expert guide.

Carrots are one of the most versatile and healthy vegetables you can include in your diet.

Rich in fiber, vitamins C and B2, and several minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and potassium, there’s good reason why carrots are a staple ingredient in many recipes and dishes.

However, like any other food product, carrots have a shelf life, and if not consumed in time, they can go bad. In this article, we will explore the different ways to tell if carrots are bad and how to properly store carrots to keep them fresh for longer.

How to Tell If Carrots Have Gone Bad

Fresh carrots are crisp and crunchy. They should feel firm, heavy for their size, and have a bright orange color. They should not be soft, rubbery, or have any wrinkled or brownish spots.1University of Georgia (n.d.). Explore the Store: Carrots. University Health Center. Retrieved May 22, 2023, from https://healthcenter.uga.edu/explore-the-store-carrots/

To tell if your carrots have gone bad, look for signs of spoilage. Carrots are past their prime if they appear wilted, feel soft and mushy, and give off a bad smell. Don’t eat bad carrots, as they may also be overgrown with harmful bacteria that can make you sick.

If you’re unsure whether your carrots are going bad, complete the four checks below.

Do the Carrots Smell Bad?

One way to know if carrots have gone bad is to use your sense of smell.

Hold the carrots to your nose and give them a quick sniff. Does anything smell off? A bad smell is always a sign that carrots are no longer good. This should ring alarm bells in your head and cast doubt whether the carrots are still safe to eat.

Has the Texture of the Carrots Deteriorated?

If the texture of your carrots has changed from firm to soft, or if they are rubbery or slimy to the touch, these are clear signs that they’ve gone bad.

Discard carrots that feel hollow or that contain cracks or holes. Not only are they no longer fresh, but they may also no longer be safe to eat and may be better suited for the compost pile.

Do You See Browning or Black Spots on the Carrots’ Surface?

If your carrots have lost their vibrant orange color or have started to brown or develop dark spots, these are indications that they may have gone bad. Discard them immediately.

Yes, carrots are root vegetables and some discoloration on them is normal, especially at the tips. However, extensive discoloration can be — and often is — a sign of spoilage. Those spots are sometimes caused by the fungus Alternaria, which can also be an allergen.2The University of Adelaide (n.d.). Alternaria. Mycology. Retrieved May 22, 2023, from https://www.adelaide.edu.au/mycology/fungal-descriptions-and-antifungal-susceptibility/hyphomycetes-conidial-moulds/alternaria

Is Mold Growing Anywhere on the Carrots?

Another visible sign of spoilage is the presence of mold on the carrots. If you notice any black, green, or white spots on the surface of the carrots, it is a clear indication that they are no longer fresh and safe to eat.

Mold can grow on carrots if the soil was too wet when they were still in the ground, or if the carrots were stored in too humid a place at too warm a temperature.

How to Store Whole Carrots

In the Fridge

The best way to store fresh carrots is in the refrigerator, with their tops removed.3University of Maine (2020, May 18). How do I store carrots long term in my basement? Cooperative Extension: Garden and Yard. Retrieved May 22, 2023, from https://extension.umaine.edu/gardening/2020/05/18/storing-carrots-long-term/

Twist or cut off the tops, then place the carrots in a perforated plastic bag and store them in the crisper drawer, where they will last for several weeks.4McGarry, J. (2014, December 8). Michigan Fresh: Using, Storing, and Preserving Carrots (HNI15). MSU Extension. Retrieved May 22, 2023, from https://www.canr.msu.edu/resources/michigan_fresh_carrots

This will help to maintain their freshness and extend their shelf life. However, be sure not to wash the carrots before storing them, as the excess moisture can accelerate spoilage.

In a Basement or Root Cellar

If you have a cold basement to a root cellar, you can store fresh carrots there for several weeks.

The temperature and humidity in the root cellar are perfect for maintaining the freshness of the carrots. Twist or cut off the tops, then store in a perforated plastic bag or an open container.

Do not wash the carrots before storing them in the basement or root cellar. It’s more than enough to brush off the dirt gently with a vegetable brush.

In the Freezer

If you have an abundance of carrots and want to store them for a more extended period of time, freezing is the only option other than canning.

Blanch the carrots for a few minutes in boiling water before transferring them to a freezer bag, squeezing out the air, and storing them in the freezer.

Frozen carrots can keep their best quality for 10 to 12 months and are perfect for use in soups, stews, braises, and casseroles.5FoodSafety.gov (2019, April 26). Carrots Parsnips. FoodKeeper App. Retrieved May 22, 2023, from https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep-food-safe/foodkeeper-app

The carrots will stay safe to eat beyond this time window, but their taste and texture will start to degrade.6U.S. Department of Agriculture (2013, June 15). Freezing and Food Safety. Food Safety and Inspection Service. Retrieved May 22, 2023, from https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/freezing-and-food-safety

How to Store Sliced Carrots

Sliced carrots are a perishable food item, and you should treat them as such.

Once the carrots are cut, store them in the fridge within 1 to 2 hours or freeze them for up to 1 year. Don’t let sliced carrots sit out for long periods of time, as they may become overgrown with bacteria and make you sick.

Store your sliced carrots in the refrigerator, in a plastic bag, a bowl covered with plastic wrap, or an airtight food storage container.

Sources differ on the exact shelf life of sliced carrots. Provided that the carrots are properly refrigerated, the Glad Products Company puts their shelf life at 2 to 3 weeks from the date of refrigeration.

Tips for Buying Fresh Carrots

Buying fresh, high-quality carrots is crucial to ensure that they last longer and provide you with maximum nutritional value.

Below are some of our best tips to consider when shopping for fresh carrots:

Selecting Carrots at the Grocery Store

When shopping for carrots at the grocery store, look for those that are firm, smooth, and have a vibrant orange color. Avoid carrots that have soft spots, mushy texture, or are discolored.

Additionally, choose carrots that have their tops intact, as this indicates that they are fresh and have not been sitting on the shelf for too long.

Buying Carrots from Farmers’ Markets

If you have access to farmers’ markets, this is an excellent place to buy fresh, locally grown carrots. They are usually harvested fresh and do not sit on the shelf for too long, ensuring that you get high-quality produce.

Farmers’ markets offer a wide range of carrot varieties that you may not find in grocery stores.

The Takeaways

Knowing how to tell if your carrots have gone bad is essential to ensure that you are using fresh, high-quality ingredients in your cooking.

Fresh carrots are crisp, crunchy, and bright orange in color. If the carrots are wilted, browned, or have dark spots, and if they feel slimy, rubberly, or soft and mushy, then they have probably gone bad and must be discarded.

Store the carrots in a root cellar or perforated plastic bag in the fridge, where they will keep for several weeks. Once cut, carrots should be refrigerated within 1 to 2 hours, and they will keep for 2 to 3 weeks in the fridge.

With these tips, you can enjoy nutritious, delicious carrots in your recipes for longer periods.



Dim is a food writer, cookbook author, and the editor of Home Cook World. His first book, Cooking Methods & Techniques, was published in 2022. He is a certified food handler with Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates in Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering, and a trained chef with a Level 3 Professional Chef Diploma.

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