What Is Black Garlic and How Do You Use It?

Margaret Eby
What Is Black Garlic and How Do You Use It?

If you've never encountered black garlic before, it could seem pretty odd. Here's a garlic bulb that, from the outside, looks pretty similar to any one that you'd pick up at the grocery store. But when you cut it open, rather than the usual white cloves, the cloves are completely black. It's not garlic that's gone horribly rotten. It's garlic that has been cooked in humid, low-heat conditions for a long time until it has a texture and taste that's sweet and umami rich, without the typical heat of raw garlic. In Korea, it's a prized ingrredient for its perceived health benefits, but even if it does nothing at all for your wellness, it's taste is so distinctive that you might easily find a place for it in your own kitchen. It's like roasted garlic turned up to an 11. The texture is soft and jammy, making it easy to spread or to mush into a paste.

You can make black garlic at home but it'll take you a while—about five days to three weeks, in fact. If you can spare your Instant Pot or rice cooker for that long, by all means, go for it. All you need to do is wrap bulbs of garlic tighhtly in plastic wrap and then a layer of foil, put them in the bottom of your rice cooker or Instant Pot, and hit "warm," allowing the garlic to very slowly transform. If you don't have that kind of patience, which is fair enough, you can buy black garlic from Amazon, at online stores like Texas Black Gold Garlic, or some specialty stores. It'll be more expensive than normal garlic, but you should still be able to get your hands on some for under $10.

So you've got that black garlic in your hands. What do you do with it? If you've never tasted it by itself, it's worth doing. It's more like eating a spoonful of jam than biting into a clove of raw garlic, and once you taste it, you'll have a better idea of what you're working with. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Watch: What is black garlic?

Put It On a Cheese Board

Black garlic and a sharp cheddar cheese are an incredible match. Mash some black garlic and set it out with your cheese board, and you can experiment with different cheese combinations. The saltiness and fattiness of cheese makes for a naturally lovely pairing of black garlic's sweeter, almost balsamic vinegar-y notes.

Throw It In Pasta

Noodles are a great canvas for black garlic, particularly in combination with a sauce that's creamy, or a wine sauce. It wouldn't be my first instinct to add it to a tomato sauce but hey, try it if you want. Adding it to a pretty simple bechemel for lasagna or an alfredo sauce for fettucine would be delicious, too.

Put It In Soup

Black garlic gives a nice smokiness to everything it touches, which makes it a good flavor booster for soups and stews, too. Try out this Black Garlic Lentil Soup for a hearty dinner and see how it can work in your next stock pot creation.

Mash It Into an Aioli or Mayonnaise

Black Garlic makes a great spread all by itself, but it can also be amazing added into condiments or dips you already use. Mash it into hummus, or give it a whirl in the food processor with your next tahini sauce. Or just go for the simplest version of all—mix some into a cup of mayonnaise and use it as a sandwich spread or a killer dip for french fries or roasted potatoes.