Black garlic is a unique and flavorful ingredient that can elevate any dish. It is made by aging whole heads of garlic in low temperatures and high humidity for several weeks. This turns the cloves into a dark, black color and transforms the taste into a sweet and savory flavor.
Not only does it taste great, but it also has many health benefits. Black garlic contains high levels of antioxidants and has been shown to help with blood pressure, cholesterol, and immune function. It may even help protect against cancers!
Making black garlic at home is surprisingly easy and can be done using a dehydrator, rice cooker, Instant Pot, or black garlic fermenter. All of these methods will produce black garlic, but the time and temperature are different depending on the method you choose. Each one has its own set of pros and cons.
Together, we will go through the process of making black garlic using each of these methods, with tips and tricks to help you achieve the perfect consistency and flavor. We will also review the many health benefits of black garlic and show you some delicious ways to incorporate it into your cooking.
The process may take a little bit of time, but the end result is so worth the wait!
On this page… (JUMP TO)
- What is black garlic?
- Health benefits of black garlic
- Comparing methods for making black garlic
- What you’ll need to make black garlic
- Step 1: Clean garlic bulbs
- Step 2: Wrap or package the garlic
- Step 3: Make black garlic
- Step 4: Store black garlic
- How to check black garlic as it’s processing
- How to know when black garlic is ready?
- Tips and tricks for achieving the perfect black garlic
- Is black garlic safe to make at home?
- Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
- Recipe card (printable)
What is black garlic?
Black garlic is a unique and flavorful ingredient that is made by aging whole heads of garlic at a low temperature and high humidity for several weeks.
While there is a chemical change happening during the process of making black garlic, fermentation is not the main process. The process of making black garlic does not involve traditional fermentation with microorganisms like yeast or bacteria, but is still referred to as “black garlic fermentation.”
This heated aging process naturally converts sugars and amino acids in the garlic into other compounds that give black garlic its unique flavor, color, and texture.
It turns the cloves into a pitch-black color and transforms the taste into a sweet and savory flavor that is unlike regular garlic. The texture of black garlic is soft and jelly-like. It’s almost molasses-like, with a bit of balsamic-like goodness and a slightly sticky date-like texture.
It’s a perfect addition to main dishes, marinades, dressings, soups, sauces, and more. It has been used in Asian cuisine for centuries, but its popularity has only recently spread to western cuisine. Luckily for us, it also has incredible health benefits.
Health benefits of black garlic
Not only does black garlic taste great but it is nutrient-rich and has many health benefits, including being high in antioxidants, having anti-inflammatory properties, improving cardiovascular health, supporting the immune system, and containing high levels of S-allylcysteine, an anticarcinogen.
Overall, both raw garlic and black garlic are both highly nutritious and can help protect cells from damage and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. They both help boost the immune system and lower blood pressure.
However, the compound “allicin” found in raw garlic, which is responsible for its strong odor and many of its health benefits, may not be present in the same amounts in black garlic. Instead, black garlic will have higher levels of antioxidants (up to twice the amount) and S-Allycysteine, an anti-carcinogen, when compared to raw garlic. This means black garlic may be extra beneficial for heart health and even cancer!
Comparing methods for making black garlic
To decide on your preferred method, there are two factors to consider: the equipment used and the moisture-retaining technique applied.
When it comes to equipment, you have a total of 5 options with varying times:
- Dehydrator: 3-4 weeks
- Rice cooker, slow cooker, or instant pot: 2-4 weeks
- Black garlic fermenter: 7-12 days
Different moisture-retaining techniques also have their pros and cons:
- Plastic wrap & tin foil: Heating plastic (even food-grade) may release small amounts of microplastics into our food. The FDA suggests these levels are harmless but it’s something to consider.
- Airtight mason jar with lid: This method avoids plastic but can take longer to fully age black garlic.
- Oven bags: Similar to plastic wrap, microplastics may be released into the garlic. Though the small levels are suspected not to be harmful, more testing is still needed.
RELATED: Once you have your black garlic, you’ll love turning it into a black garlic paste to add to so many different dishes!
What you’ll need to make black garlic
- Fresh garlic heads
Choose fresh garlic with a firm head. Avoid any bulbs that have soft spots, or mold, are already sprouted, or seem to have dried out.
- Plastic wrap and aluminum foil OR airtight mason jar with lid OR oven bags
Needed to keep in moisture through the garlic aging process.
- Rice cooker, slow cooker, instant pot, dehydrator, OR black garlic fermenter
All of these can create a temperature-controlled environment.
- A well-ventilated space
Outdoor space (that’s covered from the elements), a garage, or a room with a window that can be closed off from the rest of your home to avoid unwanted lingering garlic smells.
Step 1: Clean garlic bulbs
Start by removing any dirt or debris that’s stuck to the outside of your garlic bulbs. Do not use water or remove the papery husks/peel as this helps the bulbs and cloves maintain ideal moisture levels.
Step 2: Wrap or package the garlic
If you are using a black garlic fermenter, skip this step. Otherwise, prepare your garlic by wrapping or packaging them:
- Using plastic wrap and aluminum foil: Wrap each whole garlic bulb tightly in one layer of plastic wrap before adding a layer of aluminum foil over top. Be sure there are no holes or openings.
- Using mason jar(s): Place garlic cloves into a sealed wide-mouth canning jar that best fits the device you will use. If at any point while making black garlic you notice standing water in the bottom of your jar (from garlic heads juicing), empty the water out for best results.
- Using oven bags: Pack all of your garlic heads into an oven bag and tie the end to seal them in.
Step 3: Make black garlic
Making black garlic, while simple, is a lengthy process. The process is very hands-off but requires a minimum of 2 weeks and sometimes up to 2 months before it’s completely ready.
Aging garlic between 70-80°C (158 – 176°F) offers the fastest results without sacrificing flavor.
How to make black garlic in a dehydrator
- Place the garlic prepared with the method of your choice (foil-wrapped, mason jarred, or oven-bag-packed) into the dehydrator.
- Set the dehydrator to 60-80°C (140-175°F). Set the humidity setting to 70% if available.
- Check the garlic heads every few days to check that the temperature is still within range and the bulbs aren’t too dry (see below). If the garlic appears to be too dry, decrease the temperature by 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit while keeping within the ideal temp range, or close the air vents more if your machine has this as a feature.
- Once the garlic is ready (details below), remove it from the dehydrator and let it cool.
How to make black garlic in a rice cooker, slow cooker, or Instant Pot
- Place a rack in the basin to keep the garlic from resting directly against the bottom.
- Add the foil-wrapped, mason jarred, or oven-bag-packed garlic to the basin and seal with the lid.
- Turn the setting to “keep warm.”
- If needed, set the timer to the longest setting before starting. If your machine auto shuts off, make sure to turn it on again when needed.
- Check your machine every few days to make sure the temperature is still within range. With less garlic, it tends to warm up more, and too much heat will ruin them (see below for how to test).
- After 14 days, start checking the garlic for readiness every 2-3 days. Once the garlic is ready (details below), remove it from the machine and allow it to cool completely.
NOTE: Always check that the “keep warm” setting on your machine fits within the temperature range of 60-80°C (140-175°F). If another setting is more suitable, use that. What’s most important is consistently maintaining this temperature range throughout the whole process.
How to make black garlic in a black garlic fermenter
Always follow your machine’s manual and instructions. Below are generalized instructions.
- Load the cleaned garlic heads (no wrapping or packing necessary) into the tiered wire rack that comes with your black garlic fermenter.
- Select the appropriate setting for the type of garlic you are using (either with cloves or single garlic)
- Run for the length of time recommended or automatically set by your machine. Typically it’s 9-12 days but this can vary by machine.
Step 4: Store black garlic
Though you can separate the cloves, keeping them whole will help them last longer when stored in my experience. My preference is to store them whole and remove/peel the cloves as I need them!
At room temperature, you can store them in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
Refrigerate them in full bulbs inside an airtight container for up to 6 months.
Freeze them by wrapping them tightly in plastic wrap and using them within 12 months.
How to check black garlic as it’s processing
The best way to check the garlic as it is being processed is by monitoring its look, feel, and texture. You can gently squeeze the garlic head to check for firmness and dryness. You can also identify one bulb as your official testing bulb and peel a clove from it to check for color and texture changes throughout the process. It’s best to check the garlic every few days for signs of over-drying and to adjust the temperature or airflow if necessary.
Is the garlic too dry?
Your garlic is too dry through the process if:
- The cloves have shrunk significantly (some shrinkage is to be expected).
- The cloves are not becoming softer when pressed or feel hard or crunchy.
- The cloves have dark spots or appear dry and withered.
What to do: When garlic is developing too dry, lower the temperature by 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit while keeping it above 140°F (60°C).
Is the garlic too humid?
Your garlic is too humid through the process if:
- The cloves are slimy or have a slippery texture.
- The cloves have developed a white or gray film on the surface.
- Garlic has a sour, musty, or moldy smell.
- The garlic has started to sprout.
What to do: These signs can lead to mold. Fix this by introducing more airflow and adjusting humidity levels to around 60-70%. If mold has already formed, it should be thrown away.
Testing the temperature
To test for temperature, a thermometer can be placed inside your preferred machine to measure the temperature at different stages of the process. Make sure it remains within the ideal temperature range, which is typically between 140°F to 170°F.
RELATED: Have you heard of bone broth hot chocolate? It’s an incredibly nutricious and decadent treat to try out!
How to know when black garlic is ready?
- Identify one bulb as your official testing bulb to use each time you check on your garlic.
- Unwrap it and pull off one clove of garlic. Remove the papery skin to check on the progress.
- You want to see very black cloves, not dark brown, with a soft texture (between molasses and dates) and a sweet, tangy, balsamic-like taste. It also has a distinctive and slightly pungent aroma.
- If not ready, rewrap the bulb and put it back in with the other garlic.
Tips and tricks for achieving the perfect black garlic
Here are a few tips and tricks for achieving the perfect consistency and flavor:
- Start with fresh, high-quality garlic: Using fresh, high-quality garlic will ensure that the final product has the best flavor and texture.
- Strictly control the temperature: Inconsistent or incorrect temperatures during the aging process will ruin the final product, so it’s important to confirm the temperature and monitor closely and to keep it within the desired range of 120°F to 190°F.
- Seal in moisture: Do your best to seal in moisture. Though I do recommend checking in on the garlic, don’t do it too often as you release moisture each time, which may extend the aging process. High moisture (in the 60-80% range) is important!
- Taste as you go: Taste the garlic at regular intervals throughout the aging process to ensure that the flavor and consistency are developing as desired.
- Experiment with different methods: Different methods of making it will result in different flavors and textures. Try different methods and see which one you prefer!
- Make it outdoors or in your garage: Trust me, it smells very intensely of garlic as it’s processing and it lingers. Keeping a window open inside your home likely won’t give you the ventilation that you need unless you have multiple windows.
Is black garlic safe to make at home?
As long as basic food safety guidelines are followed, making black garlic at home is generally considered safe! Be sure to use fresh, clean garlic and keep your equipment and work area clean and sanitized.
It’s super important to monitor the temperature and humidity throughout the process. Make sure that the garlic is not exposed to temperatures that are too high, which can cause the garlic to spoil, or too low, which can prevent the right process from taking place. Garlic that is too dry will result in hard, crumbly black garlic, whereas too much humidity will result in mold developing.
Also, make sure that mold or other signs of spoilage are not forming through processing. If you notice any mold or other signs of spoilage, it’s best to throw away the garlic and start again using a higher heat setting (while remaining in the recommended range) or more airflow.
There is no standardization on how black garlic is made, so It’s important to be aware of this when buying commercially or making it at home.
There are no known significant risks or interactions with black garlic. However, it contains high levels of antioxidants, which can potentially interact with certain medications, like blood thinners, by reducing their effectiveness. Talk to your doctor if you are taking any medication and want to include it in your diet.
Also, those who are allergic to garlic should check if consuming black garlic causes any allergic reaction.
Remember, black garlic is not a substitute for any medical treatment and should be consumed as part of a balanced diet.
The only other potential issue worth noting is the lingering garlic smell. I will reiterate that you should really do this in a well-ventilated space! The smell is intense throughout the process and could seep into your furniture and equipment.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Is using plastic wrap in a heated aging process like this safe?
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said that the amount of microplastics that are likely to transfer to food from plastic wrap is very small and is not considered a safety concern. However, more research is needed. If you’re worried about microplastics infusing into the garlic, a mason jar eliminates the use of plastic wrap and tin foil in this process! It may just take a little longer.
Can I skip using plastic wrap and only use tin foil?
If you’ve decided on wrapping each bulb as your moisture-retaining technique, you do not want to skip the plastic wrap. Using aluminum foil instead of plastic wrap for making black garlic may not provide the airtight seal that is necessary for this fermenting process. This could result in inconsistent texture, flavor, and color.
I love this. My husband has been fermenting things lately and I’m going to print this out for him as he may give it a try!
Wow. I’d never heard of black garlic before. I love the flavour garlic brings to even the simplest of dishes so I wouldn’t mind trying this out. Thanks.
Not familiar with black garlic. Very interesting. Sharing with my BIL who loves trying out new things and grows regular garlic in his garden. 🙂