Black Garlic is More Treat Than Trick

October 24, 2015

Yes, those garlic cloves (1, below) are really black.

That is real garlic you're looking at, and no, it's not a specific variety nor is it good garlic gone bad

Black Garlic

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Instead, it's black garlic. Though often described as “fermented garlic,” that’s not entirely accurate. The change the garlic undergoes isn’t due to fermentation but rather the Maillard reaction. 

If you want to geek out on the non-microbial chemical and biochemical transformations that garlic undergoes when turning black, Lucky Peach is here for you; otherwise, the important takeaway is that the Maillard reaction—responsible for making "browned" foods like seared steak, dulce de leche, and perhaps our favorite, toast—is at work here, too.

(Are you thinking tasty, browned foods sound like caramelization? You’re right of course, but they are two distinct processes—caramelization doesn’t involve a reaction with amino acids like the Maillard reaction does.)

More: All of this caramelization talk making you hungry? Time for caramel cake.

Black Garlic

If you buy black garlic (try a well-stocked grocery store), it will have cooked for a month or so (that’s not a typo) in a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment. When it's finished, the cloves will be dark brown or black, and the papery husks will be slightly darker as well (3 versus 2, above). If you’re patient, you can try making it yourself at home, either in a rice cooker, slow cooker, or dehydrator.

In an unopened package, black garlic can be stored at room temperature, but once opened, our friends at Frieda’s recommend storing it in the refrigerator for up to one month. 

Black garlic has a soft, slightly chewy texture and a sweet—and unique—flavor. It’s described as tasting like all sorts of things: figs, dates, molasses, balsamic, beef bouillon, and garlic, too, of course. Whatever you think it tastes like, one thing is for sure: Black garlic is an umami bomb that you’ll want to start adding to all sorts of dishes. 

Slice it and use it to top everything from salad, pizza, and pasta to meat and fish. Use it in dips and spreads like hummus and tapenade. Purée it and use it in aioli, vinaigrettes, and marinades. Follow Amanda Hesser's lead and turn it into a savory crumble for sprinkling over roasted vegetables.

Tell us: How do you like to use black garlic?

First two photos by Bobbi Lin, third photo by Mark Weinberg


diane July 11, 2018
Hi Has anyone attempted to freeze the bulbs? and the outcome?
Hatt M. October 26, 2015
shame, thought there'd be a recipe of how to blacken garlic at the bottom of the article.
Author Comment
Lindsay-Jean H. October 27, 2015
There are a couple of links above that will walk you how to make black garlic in either a rice cooker, slow cooker, or dehydrator.
Bella B. October 24, 2015
Black Garlic is something I haven't used before but I love all the ideas, it will be on my list of new ingredients for sure!<br /><br />xoxoBella |
Donna October 24, 2015
Take a look at my recipe for black garlic compound butter, it's a great way to add a boost of flavor to all sorts of foods.