Are you curious about black garlic but not sure what to expect in terms of flavor? You’re in luck.
This article will go over all the details, from the health benefits of black garlic to its unique taste.
Discover all you need to know about this unusual food.
What is Black Garlic?
Black garlic is a unique culinary ingredient that has become popular in recent years.
This variety of garlic is made by fermenting whole bulbs of regular garlic over the course of several weeks, resulting in a soft, blackish-brown product with a pronounced flavor and sweetness.
Black garlic has intrigued chefs around the world for its unique texture and flavor.
The cloves have an intense fragrance and taste that can be either sweet or savory, depending on how it’s cooked.
While some may describe the flavor as complex, others note an umami quality similar to that found in dried mushrooms.
Additionally, black garlic commonly contains trace elements of sugar, protein and amino acids which contribute to its taste, odor and nutritional profile.
In addition to being flavorful and fragrant on its own merits, black garlic pairs well with both sweet (like bacon) and savory dishes (such as pork).
It can be used raw or cooked, making it a versatile ingredient for recipes like sauces, marinades or pasta mixes.
For the health conscious chef looking for something new in the kitchen, black garlic could provide just the kick your recipes need.
What Does Black Garlic Taste Like?
Black garlic has a surprisingly soft, mellow flavor that can be quite difficult to describe.
Most liken it to a sweet and savory combination of balsamic vinegar and dark caramelized sugar, with a smoky taste of apples and prunes, as well as a hint of garlic.
Depending on how long the garlic is fermented, it can have anywhere from sweet to savory scents and tastes.
It’s often used in roasted, broiled or grilled dishes to help bring out their natural flavors without overpowering them.
The uniqueness of black garlic comes from the Maillard reaction that happens during the fermentation process.
This reaction creates an almost chemical reaction between heat and natural sugars or proteins — in this case, with the sugars found in regular raw garlic cloves — resulting in complex flavor molecules which can not be achieved using other methods of cooking or flavoring.
People use black garlic as an alternative to regular cooked garlic for dishes such as stir fries, crostini, salads, vinaigrettes and pasta sauces.
Its subtle but complex flavor adds depth to any dish you decide to use it for.
In Asian cuisine, many dishes are flavoured with a combination of black cracked pepper and finely diced black garlic for an earthy kick that lingers on your palate — it is truly worth trying if you haven’t already.
Factors that Affect the Taste of Black Garlic
When discussing the flavor profile of black garlic, it’s important to consider the various factors that affect its taste and aroma.
One factor is the type of garlic used to make it; different types of garlic have varied levels of sweetness, spiciness, and bitterness.
Another factor is the age at which the garlic is harvested; some will be more flavorful than others because they have had more time to fully mature.
Additionally, where the garlic was grown can influence its flavor.
For example, black garlic produced in a warm environment may have a mild sweet flavor or earthy notes while those harvested from colder climates tend to be slightly spicier.
Also, different roasting temperatures can give black garlic unique characteristics such as smokiness and depth in taste profile.
Lastly, how long it is left fermenting before bottling can also add complexity to its taste; prolonged fermentation times will bring out even more depth and richness in flavor.
1 – Age and Fermentation
Age and fermentation play an important role in the development of black garlic’s flavor.
Black garlic is produced through a process known as a “ferment-aging” method.
In this process, the cloves are heated slowly over several weeks at around 140 to 170℉ (60 to 77℃) while at the same time being subjected to high levels of humidity.
This ferment-aging effectively encourages the breakdown of proteins into amino acids, as well as the conversion of sugars into various compounds that produce funkier and more complex flavor molecules.
This slow heat and humidity breakdown makes for a sweeter, mellower garlic taste with a deeper complexity that isn’t present in fresher cloves.
The resulting flavor has been described as sweet, with balsamic notes and underlying umami tones that reveal themselves on your tongue after chewing.
Overall, black garlic has a unique taste profile not easily replicated with other ingredients or cooking methods — which may be why it’s such an increasingly popular ingredient for chefs around the world.
2 – Cooking Methods
There are a variety of ways to cook with black garlic and enjoy its unique flavor.
It can be used both fresh, as a whole bulb, or in its powder form.
Whether you’re looking for a subtle addition to your favorite dishes or a more pungent experience, the following methods will give you plenty of options.
Whole Bulb Cooking with a whole black garlic bulb is easier than you may think.
Simply cut off the bottom and top of the bulb and then peel off the individual cloves from their paper-like husks.
Roasting is one of the most popular cooking techniques for whole black garlic bulbs as it truly brings out their flavors, making them perfect complements to many dishes.
To roast whole bulbs at home, preheat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius and place them in an oven dish lined with parchment paper.
Roast them until they become fragrant and browned – usually about 20 minutes.
Once done, let them cool before adding them to your favorite dishes like salads or soups.
To finish off any dish made with roasted black garlic cloves, sprinkle some lemon juice on top for extra zest.
Powder Ground up black garlic also adds powerful flavor to any meal – just look at hummus.
The easiest way to make it is by blending together one head of peeled fresh garlic cloves and 2 tablespoons of sugar until you get a fine paste.
Alternatively, you can buy ready-made powder from your local specialty grocery store or store-bought spices sections — just look for products that say “black garlic powder” on their labels.
Add some salt and pepper if desired before stirring into savory dishes like risottos or sprinkling onto desserts like ice cream or cake for an unmistakable kick.
3 – Storage
When it comes to storing black garlic, you want to keep it in a cool, dry place.
The best approach is to store it in an airtight container at room temperature since the garlic has already been dehydrated from the fermentation process.
You should store it away from direct sunlight, as the light can affect its flavor and freshness.
You’ll also want to check on your garlic every once in a while and make sure that there isn’t any mold or bacteria growth.
If at any point you start detecting an off smell from your black garlic, discard it immediately and purchase a new one.
Culinary Uses and Health Benefits of Black Garlic
Black garlic has become a popular alternative to regular garlic in recent years, touted for its sweeter flavor and greater nutrition.
It is made by fermenting garlic at a low heat over an extended period of time, which results in the sugars and enzymes breaking down into a complex, but sweet-tasting garlic with many remarkable health benefits.
As a culinary ingredient, black garlic is ideal for adding depth of flavor to dishes from around the world.
Its unique sweet-savory taste makes it ideal for sauces, soups, stews, meats and other dishes.
It also can be enjoyed whole or spread over bread as a flavored condiment.
Even after it’s been cooked or sautéed, black garlic retains a mellow umami flavor that adds an extra layer of complexity to your recipes.
In addition to its taste properties, black garlic is becoming increasingly celebrated for its health benefits — specifically anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
Studies have linked regular consumption of black garlic to reduced blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as improvement in overall immune system functioning.
Additionally, it contains high levels of the carotenoid allicin found naturally in all forms of garlic–a compound linked to fighting against certain types of cancer.
Overall, including black garlic in your diet can be seen as something akin to getting a double dose of nutrition–deliciousness plus health benefits.
How to Use Black Garlic in Cooking?
One of the main benefits of using black garlic in your cooking is that it requires less time and effort than traditional garlic.
Black garlic has a unique sweet and smoky flavor, and it is a great way to add depth and complexity to your dishes.
It also has a mellower taste than raw garlic, so it can be used in a variety of recipes without overpowering them.
Black garlic can be used in both savory dishes as well as baked goods.
Its complex, slightly sweet flavor pairs well with proteins like beef, chicken, pork or fish.
You can also incorporate black garlic into marinades for meats or vegetables, use it as an ingredient in chutneys or jams, or even whisk it into vinaigrettes for salads.
When cooking with black garlic, it’s important to remember that you don’t need to use as much as traditional garlic due to its more concentrated flavors.
Therefore, if you would normally use two cloves of regular garlic in a recipe, you can usually get away with using one clove of black garlic instead.
Depending on the recipe you’re making, you may need more or less depending on the desired intensity of flavor.
For example, if making pizza sauce that needs more intense flavor balance throughout the entire dish then you would likely want to add some regular minced garlic along with the black version for more zestiness.
When baking with black garlic try adding some minced pieces and pieces they will retain their deep flavor when baked into breads and cakes too.
Many chefs view this ingredient as an essential component when finishing sauces too since its unsweetened molasses-like color adds complexity to common browned butter sauces for pastas or sautéed veggies such mashed potatoes and squash medley dishes.
Where to Buy Black Garlic and How to Store It?
You can buy black garlic in various forms, such as fresh bulbs, fermented cloves, or even pre-made preparations.
It is most easily found in Asian markets and some specialty gourmet stores.
Look for firm heads of garlic with dark, rather than purple-hued skin and feel for firm cloves within.
It is best to store black garlic in a cool, dry place.
If you purchased the cloves unpeeled, it can be stored in a paper bag out of direct heat and light at room temperature for up to two months.
A glass jar or plastic container can also work, but always wrap up the cloves to avoid any light exposure if needed.
Once peeled, wrap the clove tightly in plastic wrap and store it in an airproof container in the refrigerator.
Pre-made preparations often come packaged in vacuum sealed bags which should be kept refrigerated until use.
Black garlic will keep much longer than regular garlic; up to nine months under proper storage conditions.
In conclusion, black garlic is a unique and flavorful ingredient with a complex flavor profile.
It has the sweetness of caramelized sugar with a nutty and umami finish.
The best way to enjoy it is to pair it with other complementary ingredients such as olive oil, butter, garlic, ginger, and other herbs and spices.
Many people enjoy adding it to their favorite recipes to give them an extra boost of flavor.
Black garlic also makes an excellent addition in many dishes like soups, salads, sauces and marinades.
With its increasing popularity worldwide and its versatility in the kitchen, it’s no surprise that black garlic is becoming more widely available for home cooks.
Carrie is a food writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience. She has worked for some of the biggest names in the food industry, including Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, and Martha Stewart Living.
As the Editor in Chief of IntroChicago.com, Carrie oversees all of the content on the site. She also manages the team of contributing writers and editors, who help to create delicious recipes, helpful tips, and informative articles that you’ll find on the site.
A native of the Chicago area, Carrie is passionate about all things food. She loves trying new restaurants and experimenting with new recipes in her kitchen. She’s also a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, so she knows a thing or two about food!