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

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • carol
  • Thom Foote
    Thom Foote
  • diane
  • Hatt Manley
    Hatt Manley
  • Bella B
    Bella B
I like esoteric facts about vegetables. Author of the IACP Award-nominated cookbook, Cooking with Scraps.


carol March 18, 2020
We've been making our own BG for about a year - besides just popping in my mouth like gummy bears or spread on toast- we love it on pizza with brie, roasted tomatoes, and topped with arugula.
Thom F. February 12, 2019
I make black garlic. While the traditional method does take a month to produce, you can buy black garlic cookers for as little as $50. These produce 2 lbs every 9 days that are perfect. They can be frozen with no ill effects to the cloves. You can blend 5 heads with 1C of water and 1/2C of olive oil to make a mixture that can be added to salad dressing and added to rice while it is cooking. While it is "cooking", it will fill your house with a sweet garlic smell that some people will not like. I love it.
diane July 11, 2018
Hi Has anyone attempted to freeze the bulbs? and the outcome?
carol March 18, 2020
yes, with great success
Hatt M. October 26, 2015
shame, thought there'd be a recipe of how to blacken garlic at the bottom of the article.
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.
Thom F. February 12, 2019
I tried rice cookers and they will not maintain the proper humidity levels. I also tried slow cookers but they will not maintain the proper temperature (74C) for long enough. Dehydrators dry them out.
PoopSandwich February 4, 2021
When using a rice cooker I line the bottom with a tea towel to keep the garlic from burning, and seal the "bowl" of the rice cooker with foil and plastic wrap to maintain humidity. When using a dehydrator you will need to wrap the bulbs in foil, then plastic wrap, then foil again. OR you can simply vacuum seal the bulbs. I had the best results from the rice cooker as long as you rotate the bulbs every 7 days. This article said to cook the garlic for a month or more, but I have never needed more than 3 weeks of cook time. Some batches were done in as little as 12 days!
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!

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.
Thom F. February 12, 2019
Black garlic is highly nutritious and has many medicinal uses not the least of which is in the treatment of some cancers.
Tanya V. November 10, 2019
I made this twice now and it turned out hard inside. Is it overdone?
Terre November 16, 2019
Yes..most likely.
I cook at 70°C for 10 days........but previously, in a slow cooker, it would have been hard by then.
Try a couple days less.....and/or add a small open container of water to up the humidity.