Many fresh, edible things last longer in your fridge than in your pantry — but that fact doesn't hold true for onions and garlic.
While fruits and veggies can last for weeks in your refrigerator when stored properly, onions and garlic aren't technically vegetables — they're alliums — and they really don't like a chilly environment.
"Onions absorb more moisture in the fridge, so they spoil faster," says Kristen Farmer Hall, executive chef and co-owner of the Essential and Bandit Patisserie in Birmingham, Alabama. "The starches also turn to sugar faster in a cold, moist environment, so they get weepy."
For garlic, the reasoning is slightly different: Storing garlic in the fridge will stimulate sprouting, according to the University of California. And while sprouted garlic isn't harmful or unhealthy, it's an indication that the garlic is past its peak quality.
How to Store Onions and Garlic
Instead of popping them in the fridge, store whole onions in a cool, dry, well-ventilated space, according to the National Onion Association.
Moisture or a lack of air movement will accelerate their spoilage, and sunlight will cause them to sprout. When they're stored properly, whole onions have a nice, long shelf life of about 30 days, according to USDA.
Garlic should be stored the same way: in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place, per the University of California. It will last longer than onions, though — about 3 to 5 months in these conditions.
How to Store Peeled, Sliced and Diced Onions
These onions should be stored differently from how you store whole onions. Peeled, yet still whole, onions (when the outer tough thin layer of skin is removed) should be refrigerated and have a shelf life of about 10 to 14 days, per the USDA.
You also want to store peeled and sliced or diced onions in the refrigerator. Their shelf life is a little shorter: around 7 to 10 days, according to the USDA.
How to Store Peeled Garlic
Peeled or peeled, chopped garlic can both be stored in the freezer — you just want to wrap it tightly so that it's as airtight as possible.
Garlic can also be peeled and pureed with some oil until it forms a thick paste. The resulting garlic-oil paste must then be frozen in an airtight container.
It’s extremely important that garlic puree isn’t held at room temperature because that can easily encourage the growth of Clostridium botulinum — a toxic bacterium that can be deadly, per the University of California. Freeze it immediately.
How to Pick Onions and Garlic
At the grocery store, look for onions with dry outer skins, no blemishes or spots. Ideally, the onion should be heavy for its size and have no scent.
With garlic, you also want the clove to be heavy for its size (light-for-their-size heads usually indicate some cloves are decayed or shriveled). Select a clove that has no visible mold or sprouting. And, ideally, the clove will be clean and firm with unbroken skins.