Your Guide to Black Garlic, the Aged Fresh Garlic with a Tangy, Molasses-Like Flavor

Black garlic is aged fresh garlic with a smooth, soft texture and a rich, sweet taste that can be used to enhance the flavor of many savory (and some sweet!) recipes.

Three heads of black garlic on a plate.
Lori Rice

Have you ever tried black garlic? If you’re curious about it, here’s what you should know. (And no, it’s not the same thing as roasted garlic!)

What is Black Garlic?

Black garlic is fresh, white garlic that has been aged by warming the garlic bulbs at about 140˚ to 190˚ F in high humidity for an extended period of time (often a month or more) until the cloves become tender and black in color.

Some black garlic is also aged through yeast-fermentation under the same conditions.

During the aging process the cloves undergo the Maillard reaction as the heat creates changes in the amino acids and sugars in the garlic. This reaction is what gives black garlic its rich, tangy, molasses-like flavor and black color.

(One common myth about black garlic is that it’s fermented; it is not. By definition, fermentation is a chemical breakdown of a substance by bacteria, yeasts, or microorganisms, and it is a process often used in the production of foods like sauerkraut and beer. In contrast, the changes in the color and flavor that occur in white garlic in order to make black garlic are all due to the Maillard reaction.)

Black garlic cloves can be easily chopped, smashed, or pureed and are ideal for stirring into soups, stews, pastas, and sauteed vegetables.

Cloves of black garlic on a white plate with a whole head and a sliced head of garlic behind it.
Lori Rice

Black Garlic vs. Roasted Garlic

Black garlic and roasted garlic are not the same thing!

As explained above, black garlic is made by letting garlic cloves rest at low heat for weeks at a time. Roasted garlic is achieved by baking garlic at high heat until it’s very soft, about one hour.

Black garlic cloves are tender and a bit sticky but firm enough to slice or mince. They are also slightly tangy and sweet with savory, mild hints of the fresh garlic they’re made from.

Roasted garlic cloves are browned with a sweet, caramelized flavor. They are very tender to the point of being mushy and are easily stirred into salad dressings and mashed potatoes.

Varieties

Whole bulbs of black garlic come in two varieties: multi-clove garlic and solo clove garlic.

The multi-clove is the same garlic you are likely already familiar with. Each clove is separated by skin and must be peeled. 

Solo clove, also called single-clove, garlic is smaller in size and round. There is no separation from skins inside the bulb once you cut into it. It’s just one large, single, round clove.

Three heads of black garlic on a plate.
Lori Rice

What Does Black Garlic Taste Like?

The flavor of black garlic has the slight tang of tamarind or balsamic vinegar and a mild sweetness that resembles rich molasses with the complexity and umami notes of soy sauce.

Its cloves are much softer than fresh garlic, and stickier. The cloves dry slightly during the aging process resulting in a slightly chewy but tender texture.

Where to Buy

Black garlic is widely available online from large and small producers and can often be found in specialty supermarkets or health food stores.

You can find aged black garlic and fermented black garlic sold as whole bulbs, peeled cloves, as a puree, or dried and granulated.

If you want to use black garlic in recipes as you would regular raw or roasted garlic, look for bulbs, cloves, or purees. In stores, it’s most common to see smaller jars or bags with two to five bulbs of black garlic.

To purchase black garlic in bulk, your best option is an online retailer. And while you can make black garlic at home by placing full bulbs in a slow cooker or rice cooker on the low setting, it will take two to six weeks for the garlic to fully mature.

How to Store

Whole bulbs of unpeeled black garlic can be stored in their packaging at room temperature until opened. Once opened the package should be stored in the refrigerator until the best-by or use-by date. Black garlic will usually last up to one month in the refrigerator.

Peeled whole or diced black garlic cloves and purees should be stored in airtight containers or glass jars in the refrigerator and used by the date indicated on the packaging.

Follow package directions for other versions (like granulated black garlic), but in general they’re best stored in an airtight container or jar in a cool, dry place.

Three heads of black garlic on a plate with one of them sliced to show the cloves.
Lori Rice

How to Use Black Garlic in Recipes

Just like fresh garlic, black garlic can be eaten raw or cooked.

If you purchase whole bulbs of black garlic you will need to peel the cloves before using, but this takes much less time than peeling fresh garlic. The cloves should easily pull away from the skins. Once peeled black garlic can be sliced, minced, or mashed and added to any recipe that uses fresh garlic.

Keep in mind, however, that black garlic does not have the pungent flavor of fresh garlic, so its flavor can be overwhelmed by other ingredients. You may need to use more black garlic than you would fresh or use it in recipes with simple flavors to let its uniqueness really stand out.

Here are a few ways to use black garlic:

  • Blend it into condiments (like mayonnaise!) and dress potato salad or top a burger
  • Stir it into salsas, pasta sauces, soups, and stews
  • Use it to top pizzas and flatbreads
  • It can even work well in experimental desserts such as ice cream and brownies

Black garlic can be used in any recipe where garlic is an ingredient. Try substituting black garlic for the raw garlic in these recipes: