Can you use enormous “elephant garlic” just like regular garlic?
Despite the name, elephant garlic is not actually garlic. Though both aromatics are part of the allium genus, they belong to different species. Elephant garlic belongs to ampeloprasum, the same species as leeks; garlic is from the species sativum. And while at first glance elephant garlic might look like garlic on steroids (it’s two to three times larger), closer examination reveals some differences. Conventional garlic heads can boast as many as 20 cloves, but elephant garlic never has more than about six, and its cloves have a yellowish cast.
To see how their tastes compared, we made aïoli and garlic-potato soup, using regular garlic in one batch and the same amount of elephant garlic in another. Raw in aïoli, the elephant garlic had a mild, garlicky onion flavor. This weak flavor virtually disappeared when it was simmered in soup. Tasters much preferred the sharper, more pungent taste of regular garlic in both recipes. It turns out that elephant garlic produces the same flavor compounds as regular garlic when it’s crushed—as well as those produced by onions and leeks—just less of each type. The upshot is that elephant garlic doesn’t taste as potent as its allium cousins.
In short: Elephant garlic is not a substitute for true garlic. If you want milder garlic flavor, use less of the real stuff.