What Is Black Garlic?

Black Garlic

The Spruce / Nyssa Tanner

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 504 hrs
Total: 504 hrs 10 mins
Yields: 6 to 7 bulbs

Black garlic can be found on menus everywhere, but this unique ingredient isn’t anything new. It has been used for flavor and medicinal purposes and in a variety of Asian cuisines for centuries. Black garlic is, simply put, the product of aging regular garlic bulbs over the course of weeks or months. It requires strictly regulated temperature and humidity to achieve its sticky consistency.

With a softer, molasses-like flavor, it is a more delicate option than the raw bulb. It also has added health benefits, including twice the amount of antioxidants than in its regular form. What’s the best part? It’s versatile and can be swapped out for regular garlic in most recipes. It is a beautiful addition to any cheese plate, bruschetta, chicken dishes, or even as a pizza topper. It also gives that extra something to a homemade vinaigrette. Keep in mind it is milder in flavor so we recommend, as always, to taste as you add.

The process of making black garlic is less difficult than it is long. It can be aged for up to 60 days but will be ready to use after three weeks.

There are quite a few DIY methods. If you plan on making black garlic frequently, the purchase of a fermenting box can be a great investment. However, the best approach without additional kitchenware is to age your bulbs in a slow cooker or rice cooker. The process is easy but takes patience to achieve that super sweet result.

As an additional warning, you will have that delicious garlic smell wafting in your kitchen for the entire cooking process. So be prepared to have your tummy grumbling.

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Ingredients

  • 6 to 7 bulbs garlic (whole, unpeeled)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    garlic in a bowl, black garlic ingredients

    The Spruce / Nyssa Tanner

  2. Remove any dirt from the garlic bulbs by scrubbing the bulbs gently with the rough side of a clean, unused sponge. Do not remove the cloves from the bulb and do not wash or wet the bulbs as this will disrupt the aging process. 

    clean garlic gently with sponge

    The Spruce / Nyssa Tanner

  3. Set your slow cooker or rice cooker to warm (not low). The warm setting provides just the right temperature and humidity for aging without cooking.

    rice cooker set to the keep warm setting

    The Spruce / Nyssa Tanner

  4. Place whole, unpeeled, scrubbed garlic bulbs into the cooker. Do not overcrowd the bulbs. Leave enough space between the bulbs so they that do not touch. Cover.

    garlic in a rice cooker

    The Spruce / Nyssa Tanner

  5. Allow the bulbs to sit uninterrupted on the "warm" setting until the cloves are soft and black (2 to 3 weeks). Check the slow cooker occasionally to make sure the setting is still on "warm" not "low" and that it hasn't switched off.

    rice cooker aging the garlic

    The Spruce / Nyssa Tanner

  6. When ready, store the bulbs whole in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Squeeze out cloves, as needed.

    Black Garlic in a jar

    The Spruce / Nyssa Tanner

Tip

Even though the garlic isn't cooking, there will be a strong garlic odor throughout the process. It's especially pungent during the first few days then diminishes significantly. If possible, set up the slow cooker in a ventilated area, such as the garage, to avoid overwhelming your home with the smell of garlic.

How to Tell When Black Garlic Is Done

In the slow cooker or rice cooker, the garlic will go through many transformations and it can be difficult to know when it's done. Within the first week or so, you may notice that the bottom of the bulbs become charred and the skin browned; this is the effect of the heat on the papery skin. Around 14 days, the cloves will be black and rock hard, but let it go longer. At some point within the next week, the cloves will begin to shrivel so the paper feels loose. This is when you want to check for doneness: Press your finger firmly against one clove to feel if it's softening. When you feel that, pull one clove from the bulb and remove it from the paper for a closer examination. Black garlic is done when it's almost spongy-soft and chewy—similar to a dried date or fig. Some of the inner cloves may not quite be ready, so leaving it for a few extra days is a good idea.