What Is Black Garlic: Learn About The Benefits Of Black Garlic

black garlic Walter Genutis 1
black garlic Walter Genutis 1
(Image credit: Gardening Know How, via Walter Genutis)

A few years ago I was shopping at my favorite grocers and noticed they had something new in the produce department. It looked a bit like garlic, or rather a whole clove of roasted garlic, only blacker in color. I had to inquire and asked the nearest clerk what this stuff was. Turns out, it is black garlic. Never heard of it? Read on to find out how to make black garlic and other fascinating black garlic information.

What is Black Garlic?

Black garlic isn’t a new product. It has been consumed in South Korea, Japan, and Thailand for centuries. Finally, it’s made its way to North America, better late than never because this stuff is fabulous! So what is it? It is, indeed, garlic that has undergone a process that renders it unlike any other garlic. It achieves a heightened flavor and aroma that is in no way reminiscent of the almost acrid odor and intense flavor of raw garlic. It elevates everything it’s added to. It is rather like the umami (savory taste) of garlic adding that magical something to a dish which sends it over the top.

Black Garlic Information

Since its garlic, you may be thinking about growing black garlic, but no, it doesn’t work that way. Black garlic is garlic that has been fermented for a period of time at high temperatures under a controlled humidity of 80 to 90%. During this process, the enzymes that give garlic its strong aroma and flavor break down. In other words, black garlic undergoes the Maillard reaction. If you didn’t know, the Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that give browned, toasted, roasted, and seared foods their amazing flavor. Anyone who’s eaten a seared steak, some fried onions, or a toasted marshmallow can appreciate this reaction. At any rate, growing black garlic isn’t a possibility, but if you keep reading, you’ll find out how to make black garlic of your own.

How to Make Black Garlic

Black garlic can be purchased at many stores or online, but some folks want to try to make it themselves. To these people, I salute you. Black garlic isn’t difficult to make per se, but it does require time and precision. First, select clean, unblemished whole garlic. If the garlic needs to be washed, allow it to dry completely for six hours or so. Next, you can purchase a black garlic fermenting machine or make it in a slow cooker. A rice cooker works pretty well too. In a fermenting box, set the temp to 122 to 140 degrees F. (50-60 C.). Place the fresh garlic into the box and set the humidity to 60 to 80% for ten hours. After that time has elapsed, change the setting to 106 degrees F. (41 C.) and the humidity to 90% for 30 hours. After the 30 hours are up, change the setting again to 180 degrees F. (82 C.) and a humidity of 95% for 200 hours. If you do not wish to purchase a fermenting machine, then try to follow the same temperature setting with your rice cooker. At the end of this last phase, black garlic gold will be yours and ready to incorporate into marinades, rub on meat, smear on crostini or bread, stir into risotto, or just lick it off your fingers. It really is that good!

Benefits of Black Garlic

The major benefit of black garlic is its heavenly flavor, but nutritionally it has all the same benefits of fresh garlic. It is high in antioxidants, those cancer fighting compounds, which makes it a healthy additive to almost everything, although I’m not sure about black garlic ice cream. Black garlic also ages well and, in fact, gets sweeter the longer it is stored. Store black garlic for up to three months in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.