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Demystifing Black Garlic

By Cook's Illustrated Published July 2010

Packages of black garlic are popping up in the produce sections of grocery stores, but what exactly is it?

Aged, fermented “black” garlic was introduced to the Korean market in 2007. The version we’ve recently found in American supermarkets is from the Black Garlic Co. in Hayward, Calif., which ferments the bulbs in a temperature- and humidity-controlled machine for 30 days, followed by 10 days of air-drying. The resulting bulbs have loose-fitting, gray-purple skin and opaque black cloves. Straight from the bag, the cloves have a sticky, chewy texture and a concentrated, notably sweet flavor reminiscent of molasses or reduced balsamic vinegar, with a mild garlic aftertaste.

To evaluate the product in everyday cooking applications, we finely minced two black garlic cloves and added them to a simple vinaigrette. We also sliced and roughly chopped the cloves and used them to garnish pasta, risotto, and pizza. In the acidic vinaigrette, the black garlic’s flavor was hard to detect, save for subtly sweet undertones. If the garlic was left in larger pieces, its flavor was more pronounced, adding complexity to pasta, risotto, and pizza. Still, while black garlic might be worth trying, it’s no substitute for the potent taste of ordinary garlic.

THE NEW BLACKThe one-of-a-kind taste of black garlic ($5.99 for two bulbs) virtually disappears if the cloves are finely minced. Slice or roughly chop instead.