If you’ve never had the pleasure of tasting pickled garlic, let me be the first to introduce you to this delicious treat. You pour a simple hot brine over peeled, fresh garlic cloves and stash the jar in the fridge.
Over the course of a week or two, the brine takes away the garlic’s raw, pungent bite and leaves behind sweet, tangy cloves that are as at home on a cheese plate as they are in sauces and salsas.
Pickled garlic is a true quick pickle with no need for canning. In fact, we don’t recommend it, since home canning techniques don’t bring the temperature up high enough to eliminate the risk of botulism when stored at room temperature. Luckily, pickled garlic will keep for about 3 months in the fridge.
Enjoy pickled garlic as a snack, add it to sandwich spreads, dips, salad dressings, and sauces, or include it on your next cheese plate. I like to mix them with fancy olives for a tasty appetizer. You can also use the brine in dressings, Bloody Marys, or dirty martinis.
Using Pre-Peeled Garlic
While you may be tempted to use pre-peeled garlic for this recipe—it certainly saves time and effort—I don’t recommend it. Fresh garlic will give you by far the best flavor and is less likely to turn green or blue (more on that later!).
That being said, you certainly can use pre-peeled garlic in this recipe, the results just don’t be as flavorful.
What’s the Best Way to Peel Garlic?
There are plenty of hacks online for the best way to peel garlic fast and, frankly, most of them don’t work. The only method I’ve found to be effective is smashing cloves with a knife, but that isn’t a good fit for this particular recipe since we want the cloves intact.
Here’s my method: Give each head of garlic a good whack on the table using the heel of your hand or the side of a knife to separate the cloves. Trim the very ends from each clove. Often times, the peel will easily pull away as you do this.
I don’t mind the meditative practice of peeling the garlic, and tend to do it while listening to a podcast. It’s a satisfying chore once you see the pile of clean, peeled cloves on the counter.
For any stubborn cloves (or for those of you less patient than I), stick them all in a large jar and screw on the lid. Shake hard to loosen the peel.
Why Did My Garlic Turn Blue?
If you notice several of your garlic cloves turning a greenish or bluish hue as they pickle, don’t panic. It’s still safe to eat. This happens from time to time when garlic and acidic ingredients like vinegar combine. Why? No one really knows.
Sometimes, enzymes in garlic have a reaction in acidic environments, turning the cloves green or blue. This is a common issue in pickling and can be tricky to avoid. While home cooks have theories like interactions with trace metals in tap water, in my experience it’s mostly random. Sometimes my garlic turns blue and sometimes it doesn’t.
To decrease your chances of colorful garlic, use very fresh garlic, not bulbs that have been sitting around for weeks. I’ve found pre-peeled garlic is more likely to turn colors, too.
Even if your cloves turn an unusual shade, they’re perfectly safe to eat and taste exactly the same as plain old, regular-looking pickled garlic.
Beyond the basic brine of vinegar and water, this recipe is easy to play around with. You can increase or decrease the salt and sugar to taste, as well as swap out dried spices, add herbs, and more.
- Herbs: Add a few sprigs of fresh dill for a classic pickle flavor profile, or toss in a sprig or two of rosemary or a bay leaf for an herbal brine.
- Spices: Try other dried spices like celery seeds and red pepper flakes, or use a pickling spice blend.
- Vinegars: Distilled white vinegar always works well for pickling, but apple cider vinegar is a good choice if you’d like a bit more flavor. I like to use a mix of 1/2 a cup each.
- Spicy: Add thin slices of hot chile peppers like jalapeños or serranos to the jar before adding the hot brine.
More Refrigerator Pickles
We don’t recommend canning this recipe, since home canning techniques don’t bring the temperature up high enough to eliminate the risk of botulism when the pickled garlic is stored at room temperature.
6 medium heads garlic (or 2 cups peeled cloves)
1 cup white or apple cider vinegar (5% acidity)
1 cup filtered water
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon pickling, sea, or kosher salt, or to taste (not iodized)
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, optional
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds, optional
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, optional
- 1 pint jar
Peel the garlic:
Give each head of garlic a whack on the counter using the heel of your hand or the side of a chef’s knife, separating the cloves. Trim the brown, tough bottoms from each clove using a paring knife and peel them.
If your cloves are hard to peel or you’d like to save a little time, add them to a large jar with a lid. The jar should be half full or less, so work in batches if needed. Screw on the lid and shake the garlic vigorously for a minute or more, or until the peels are loose and easy to remove.
Pack the peeled garlic cloves into a 1-pint jar or 2 half-pint jars, leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace.
Make the brine:
Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, peppercorns, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, and cumin seeds (if using) in a medium saucepan.
Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Let come to a boil and turn off the heat. Pour the hot brine over the garlic cloves, submerging all of the cloves.
If you have extra brine, you can discard it or use it to pickle something else. If you don’t have enough brine, add equal parts distilled water and vinegar to the jar until the cloves are covered.
Cool and store:
Screw on a plastic cap or top the jar(s) with a clean lid and screw on a metal band. Let cool on the counter until room temperature, about 1 hour.
Once cool, store in the fridge. For the best favor, wait a week or more before enjoying.
Pickled garlic will keep for about 3 months in a sealed jar in the fridge. If the garlic develops an unpleasant smell, grows mold, or the brine becomes cloudy, discard.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 2g||2%|
|Saturated Fat 1g||3%|
|Total Carbohydrate 9g||3%|
|Dietary Fiber 4g||16%|
|Total Sugars 1g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|