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Does It Matter Which Garlic Powder You Buy?

Published September 2021

How we tested

We love garlic in all its forms, including garlic powder. Compared with fresh garlic, garlic powder is time-saving and longer-lasting, but it’s more than just a shortcut or an alternative to fresh garlic. We prefer to see it as a separate ingredient. In recipes where it’s the only source of garlic, garlic powder adds sweet, warm flavor without the piquant tingle and punch of fresh garlic. It’s ideal for dry rubs and breadings because it’s in powdered form. When used in conjunction with fresh cloves, garlic powder provides extra depth and complexity. 

Garlic powder likely developed out of a centuries-old tradition of drying garlic for preservation. While native to central Asia, garlic is now cultivated all over the world. In commercial garlic powder production, garlic bulbs are separated into cloves and peeled. Some manufacturers crush or slice the cloves before dehydrating them, while others leave them whole. The dehydrated garlic is then ground either to a fine powder or into slightly larger pieces for granulated garlic. While garlic powder and granulated garlic are often used interchangeably in recipes, we focused on garlic powder for this tasting because more brands offer it and because we call for it more often in our recipes. We purchased nine garlic powders, including some higher-end mail-order products, and tried them in two recipes: Chive Sour Cream, which calls for garlic powder, and Really Good Garlic Bread, which calls for both fresh garlic and garlic powder.

Tasting Garlic Powder

We use garlic powder to flavor dipping sauces and barbecue sauces; in breading for fried chicken; and in spice rubs, mashed potatoes, and even frittatas. Frequently used in combination with other flavorful spices, garlic powder is typically called for in small quantities. Before holding a tasting with a broader panel, we played around with the garlic powders to figure out the best way to taste them. When we made test batches of the sour cream dip and garlic bread, we could taste the garlic, but it was incredibly subtle. To help our tasters home in on each garlic powder’s flavor, we increased the amount of garlic powder in both recipes and cut back or eliminated other bold ingredients such as onion powder. In the Chive Sour Cream, we actually tripled the amount of garlic powder to really bring it to the forefront.

Even with these adjustments, once we got to the broader tasting, many tasters had a hard time telling the samples apart. One product stood out slightly: Tasters liked that it was “on the sharper side.” While a few garlic powders were especially “sweet” or “floral,” our tasters mostly noticed slight variations in strength: Some were mellow, while others were slightly punchier. Tasters liked the higher-end mail-order products, but they were no more nuanced or powerful than the supermarket samples in our lineup. 

Any Garlic Powder Will Do

The great news is that every garlic powder in our lineup delivered warm, nutty, spicy-sweet garlic flavor, and we recommend all of them. Our tasters did note a slight preference for the "punchy, spicy, and sweet" flavor of Morton & Bassett Garlic Powder. The garlic bread made with it was "really delicious" and had "lots of garlic flavor." If you see Morton & Bassett in the store, we suggest picking it up. However, we’re confident you’ll be happy with every other product we tasted, too.

Methodology

  • Taste nine products, priced from about $0.90 to about $5.50 per ounce, purchased online and in Boston-area supermarkets
  • Sample in Chive Sour Cream
  • Sample in Really Good Garlic Bread
  • Samples were randomized to eliminate bias

The Results

Winner
Recommended

Skippy Peanut Butter

In a contest that hinged on texture, tasters thought this "smooth, "creamy" sample was "swell" and gave it top honors, both plain and baked into cookies. Its rave reviews even compensated for a slightly "weak" nut flavor that didn't come through as well as that of other brands in the pungent satay sauce.

$2.39 for 16.3-oz. jar (15 cents per oz.)*
Recommended

Jif Natural Peanut Butter Spread

The big favorite in satay sauce, this peanut butter's "dark, roasted flavor"—helped by the addition of molasses—stood out particularly well against the other heady ingredients, and it made cookies with "nice sweet-salty balance." Plus, as the top-rated palm oil-based sample, it was "creamy," "thick," and better emulsified than other "natural" contenders.

$2.29 for 18-oz. jar (13 cents per oz.)*

Reese's Peanut Butter

This is what peanut butter should be like, " declared one happy taster, noting specifically this product's "good," "thick" texture and "powerful peanut flavor." In satay sauce, however, some tasters felt that heavier body made for a "pasty" end result.

$2.59 for 18-oz. jar (14 cents per oz.)*

Skippy Natural Peanut Butter Spread

The only other palm oil-based peanut butter to make the "recommended" cut, this contender had a "looser" texture than its winning sibling but still won fans for being "super-smooth." Tasters thought it made an especially "well-balanced," "complex" peanut sauce.

$2.39 for 15-oz. jar (16 cents per oz.)*
Recommended with Reservations

Peanut Butter & Co. No-Stir Natural Smooth Operator

Though it says "no-stir" on the label, this "stiff" palm-oil enriched peanut butter was "weeping oil" and came across as "greasy" to some tasters. However, it turned out a respectable batch of cookies—"chewy in the center, crisp and short at the edge"—and made "perfectly good" satay sauce.

$4.49 for 18-oz. jar (25 cents per oz.)*

Maranatha Organic No Stir Peanut Butter

On the one hand, this organic peanut butter produced cookies that were "soft and sturdy" yet "moist," with "knockout peanut flavor." On the other hand, eating it straight from the jar was nearly impossible; its "loose," "liquid-y," and "dribbly" consistency had one taster wonder if it was "peanut soup."

$5.69 for 16-oz. jar (36 cents per oz.)*
Not Recommended

Smart Balance All Natural Rich Roast Peanut Butter

Besides being unpalatably "tacky" and "sludgy," this "natural" peanut butter suffered from an awful "fishy" flavor with a "weird acidic aftertaste" that tasters noted in all three applications. Our best guess as to the culprit? The inclusion of flax seed oil, an unsaturated fat that's highly susceptible to rancidity.

$3.59 for 16-oz. jar (22 cents per oz.)*

Smucker's Natural Peanut Butter

With its only additive a negligible amount of salt, the only truly natural peanut butter in the lineup elicited comments ranging from mild dissatisfaction ("needs enhancement with salt and sugar") to outright disgust ("slithery," "chalky," "inedible"). Cookies were "dry and crumbly" with a "hockey puck" texture, and the satay sauce was "stiff," "gritty," and "gloopy."

$2.69 for 16-oz. jar (17 cents per oz.)*