How to Tell if Cauliflower Is Bad [Definitive Guide]

Sharing is caring!

Cauliflower is a nutrient dense, high fibre, antioxidant rich root vegetable and is a staple ingredient in diets across the world.

In this article, we will be looking at how to tell if cauliflower has gone bad and other common questions surrounding its storage.

Signs That Cauliflower is Bad

You can tell if cauliflower has gone bad based on its appearance, texture, and taste. Below, we’ve summarised the key signs of bad cauliflower.


The appearance of cauliflower will begin to deteriorate and change colour when it has gone bad. Black, slimy spots on the cauliflower are the main signs of decay.

Black spots appear when the cauliflower has been infested with mould spores. Spore colonies float in the air until they can find a suitable environment to reproduce on. A vegetable that is getting old, or that is placed in a damp, warm environment, is the perfect habitat to infest.

Once the spores have settled they begin to feast on the organic material. This process is visible to the human eye through mould, or black spots.

It is perfectly common for cauliflower to develop light brown spots when it has been stored for a couple of days. However, if you notice any black spots or areas on the cauliflower, it has begun to grow mould.

Brown spots on cauliflower occur through oxidation, whereas black marks are due to mould or other bacteria.

It is good to understand the difference between these two processes. Otherwise, you may mistakenly throw out cauliflower that is edible, or vice versa, you may keep cauliflower that has grown mould spores.

Mould will be textural and raised. It may have a fuzzy, or furry appearance.

Mould can also have a green tinge to it. It is common to see a single spot of mould. You should dispose of the whole cauliflower even if there are only tiny traces of mould.

This is because spores can be so minuscule you cannot see them with the naked eye. Spores will likely be spread throughout the cauliflower, even if they are only visible in an isolated area.


Texture is a key way to judge whether or not a cauliflower is still edible. Cauliflower can become soft and deflated once it has gone bad.

Dehydration is the main cause of dying cauliflower. The first sign your cauliflower is dehydrated is the development of a limp texture. This limpness will eventually progress into decay.

If your cauliflower has lost its texture and is going limp, in a couple of days it will need to be thrown out. Cauliflower is also susceptible to soft rot.

Bacteria eat the cauliflower from the inside out. The firm texture of the cauliflower begins to soften due to the bacteria. Soft rot is caused by pathogens that excrete enzymes.

These enzymes have the power to decompose the cell wall of the cauliflower. Ultimately, this process will result in the plant tissue becoming macerated.

A common symptom of soft rot is the cauliflower becoming watery and mushy. Any vegetable that has succumbed to soft rot should be thrown out immediately.


Cauliflower should have a fresh, nutty, semi-sweet taste. Cauliflower that has gone bad loses this delicious flavour. Bad cauliflower will taste bitter, sour, and dirty.

The taste of cauliflower can change when it has been left exposed for too long or has begun to deteriorate. A foul smell from the cauliflower is a good indication that it will also taste bad. You should not eat a small amount of the vegetable to check if it is edible.

Vegetables that taste or smell unusual could be contaminated with bacteria, parasites, or viruses.


Cauliflower is a vegetable without a distinctive smell. If you can smell a sour, pungent odour wafting from the cauliflower, your cauliflower has gone bad.

An overpowering smell from the cauliflower is a strong sign it has begun to decay. Decay can happen because the cauliflower has been infested with mould or bacteria.

Strong smells also can occur as a result of old age. A cauliflower that has been sitting in your fridge for too long will naturally start to deteriorate and smell foul. You should immediately dispose of any cauliflower that has begun to smell.

How to Tell if Cooked Cauliflower is Bad?

You can tell cooked cauliflower is bad if it has an unusual texture or smell. Mould, black spots, or foul smells will all withstand the cooking process.

If you notice these things after you have finished cooking you should not eat the cauliflower. Cooking does not always kill the bacteria that causes the problem. It is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to hygiene.

What if Cauliflower Smells Bad but Looks Good?

It is best to avoid cauliflower that smells bad but still looks normal. This is because there will most likely be signs of deterioration inside the vegetable.

A foul smell is one of the first indications that the cauliflower is rotting. Because of this, it is best to throw it away. However, it is also a good idea to check that there are no environmental factors that are contributing to the smell.

Your fridge may need a clean, or another vegetable close by might be causing the smell.

Is Soft Cauliflower Okay to Eat?

Soft cauliflower is absolutely safe to eat. However, cauliflower that appears to have shrunk significantly, or has lost all its firmness should not be consumed.

These are signs of soft rot, irreversible dehydration, or both.

Is it Okay to Eat Cauliflower With Brown Spots?

Brown spots are the result of oxidation. Oxidation is the chemical process that occurs when a substance or ingredient comes into contact with oxygen.

Polyphenol enzymes in the cauliflower interact with oxygen in the air. Oxidation is a common occurrence after vegetables have been cut.

Essentially, the cauliflower in your fridge is producing brown spots because it has been a little while since it was uprooted. Brown spots on your cauliflower do not mean it’s time to throw it out.

It is just a sign that it has been sitting around for a while. The cauliflower has passed its use by date when the brown spots start to turn a murky, dark brown. The best way to deal with brown spots is to shave the discolouration off with a cheese grater.

Underneath, your cauliflower will look brand new, if not a bit deformed.

What Happens When You Eat Bad Cauliflower?

Generally speaking, eating spoiled cauliflower will not cause an infection.

In exceptional circumstances, mould, soft rot, or other nasty bacteria can make you sick. It is possible you will develop symptoms like loss of breath, bowel problems, or an elevated temperature after consuming mould.

While it is not life threatening to consume bad cauliflower, it is definitely not advised. The smell or taste alone may make you feel nauseous.

Most people will be able to stomach a bad cauliflower. If you notice a bad cauliflower in your kitchen, it is best practice to throw it away.

How Long Does Cauliflower Last?

Cauliflower should last for around 4-7 days in the fridge. Refrigeration in a sealed bag or container is the best way to keep cauliflower fresh. Cold temperatures slow down the reproduction of bacteria.

Alternatively, you can store cauliflower in the cupboard or on a shelf for around 5 days. Cauliflower can also be frozen for up to 8 months.

Alternatives to Cauliflower

If you’re not a fan of cauliflower you can opt for other root vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, or courgettes. Broccoli is a great alternative. It has a very similar texture but is not as sweet as cauliflower.

Broccoli has more vitamins and minerals than cauliflower, although it does have more calories. Another great alternative is cabbage, especially if you want something completely different from cauliflower.

Eating cabbage regularly has so many health benefits. It decreases the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Finally, courgette is an amazing high protein, low calorie vegetable to eat instead of cauliflower.

To Sum Up

Cauliflower is a great vegetable to incorporate into your diet. Although, excessive amounts can disrupt your gut health. Cauliflower is safe to eat if it has brown spots or a slight softness to it.

These are both normal symptoms of ageing vegetables. Cauliflower should be disposed of if it starts to completely deteriorate or contract mould, black spots or a foul odour.