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How to Tell If Brussels Sprouts Are Bad?

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Brussels sprouts get a bad rap. For whatever reason, they’re depicted in movies and books as being gross, or at least on the bottom of the vegetable heap.

For people who know how to cook them, though, Brussels sprouts are super tasty! I mean, high-end steakhouses serve Brussels sprouts and bacon or Brussels sprouts cooked in butter with garlic cloves. They’re usually one of the most popular side dishes on the menu.

However, one tricky thing with sprouts is that it can be tough to know when they go bad. Obviously, you never want to eat rotten food, but you also don’t want to toss food while it’s still fresh.

How can you tell if Brussel sprouts are bad? Here are some clues.

Organic fresh raw brussels sprouts in a green bucket on gray background

Cooked vs. Raw Brussels Sprouts

Cooked and raw Brussels sprouts have general freshness expectancies. You never want to push things too far, so buying and eating fresh is essential.

The main issue you have when dealing with raw vs. cooked Brussels sprouts is knowing how long they’ve been sitting around.

Raw Sprouts

The main challenge is knowing how long they’ve been on the shelf or in transit for raw sprouts. Grocery stores do a good job of stocking fresh sprouts, and they keep them looking nice by spritzing them with water every so often. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if they’re bad with just the eye test.

How to guarantee good raw sprouts

  1. Buy them on the stem – do your best to buy sprouts still attached to the stem. Loose sprouts go bad faster.
  2. Check their color – flip them over, roll them around in your hands. Check to see there isn’t any yellow, brown, or very dark green on the sprouts. Fresh raw sprouts have a healthy, light green color to them.
  3. Keep them cold – buy sprouts in the refrigerated produce section and keep them in the fridge for them to last as long as possible.
  4. Buy firm sprouts – the leaves should be tight, and there shouldn’t be much give to them when you press on them.

Cooked Sprouts

When you’re stuffed at a nice restaurant or the kids don’t want to polish off the last of the sprouts, some eventually find their way into your refrigerator.

When that happens, it’s easy to lose them in the mix in the veggie drawer or behind your other leftovers.

How to guarantee good cooked sprouts

You never want to leave any food too long in the fridge, but many people let leftovers sit for weeks.

How long can Brussels sprouts last in the refrigerator?

Well, that depends on what you cook them with and if they’re in an air-tight container, etc., but generally, you don’t want them in there longer than a week.

At most, you can stretch them for two weeks. You’re pushing your luck with anything longer than that.

Questions and Answers About Brussels Sprouts

Do Brussels Sprouts Go Bad in the Fridge?

Absolutely! Just like any other product, your sprouts will only stay fresh for so long.

The best thing you can do is a meal plan, so you know when you’re cooking them. This will help you avoid wasting any food and keep your sprouts nice and fresh when you need to cook them.

Can Bad Brussels Sprouts Make You Sick?

Unfortunately, yes, anytime you eat bad or spoiled food, getting sick is a risk. Some people are more sensitive to different foods than others.

You might give your sprouts the sniff test and decide they still have some life in them. Even if they’ve turned a bit, you could eat them, and everything will be fine. Other people, though, will eat the same thing and get terribly sick.

Certainly, the best thing to do is avoid the risk and only eat food that smells, looks, and tastes fresh.

roasted brussels sprouts with spoon and fork on wooden table

Is It Normal for Brussels Sprouts to Smell?

Well, if you think about it, everything smells. Everything has a scent. The question should be whether Brussels sprouts should smell bad. That, of course, is also subjective.

In general, however, sprouts should give off a fresh, earthy smell. Think of what a garden or farm smells like. The smell should be similar to fresh cabbage or a carrot.

Anything sour, like vinegar, or stinky, is a big red flag. So stay away from any sprouts that smell off.

What Happens If You Eat Bad Brussels Sprouts?

There are going to be times when you smell a piece of chicken, a Brussels Sprout, or even a piece of pie and wonder whether it’s gone bad.

Anything sitting in the fridge for weeks is suspect. Sometimes, though, your sprouts will still be good for a couple of weeks after they’ve been in the fridge.

If you eat sprouts when they just start to turn, then you’re probably going to be okay. The longer the sprouts go, the higher the risk of food poisoning is.

Anyone who has had food poisoning knows it’s no fun. It’s hard to keep fluids down, and you’ll feel wrecked for a few days. You may lose your appetite and drop several pounds. Just stay safe and don’t eat anything that doesn’t smell, look, or taste right.

What to Do With Old Brussels Sprouts?

Should you just toss them in the trash? Will your dog eat your old Brussels Sprouts?

No, don’t feed them to any animals unless you’re on a farm, and don’t give them to the kids. Throw them away if you’re worried about whether they’ve gone bad.

If you compost, toss them in the compost pile and turn them into fertilizer. They’re not for human consumption.

In addition, moldy Brussels Sprouts are not to be eaten. Any obvious signs of rot like mold mean the whole container is not suitable. Toss them in the trash or take them back to the store if it’s been less than a week. Odds are you picked up some bad sprouts, and most grocery stores will happily switch them out for new ones.