Help me make foods taste more garlicky.
April 24, 2016 10:04 AM   Subscribe

I made a white bean/collard green soup in my pressure cooker yesterday. The recipe called for six cloves of garlic, and I used eight. The soup was good, but I couldn't taste the garlic. I used to make a 40-garlic chicken that I loved, but now I'm eating a vegan diet for Reasons, and I haven't figured out how to make my life more garlicky. (More inside - and please, no anti-vegan comments.)

For the soup, I just added the garlic at the beginning, which is easier. Would it be better to add a lot more garlic or to roast the garlic separately? If the latter, what are your tips for roasting garlic? (I have a history of burning it.) Are special, garlic roasters worthwhile? I already own a garlic press. I'd also like to make some garlicky hummus - and would be happy to hear of any other garlicky, vegan-friendly foods. Also, any tips for buying garlic? I used bulbs that I bought yesterday, and when I cut them, the garlic smell seemed kind of weak.
posted by FencingGal to Food & Drink (31 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Don't buy the bright white Chinese garlic. It looks pretty but has very little flavour. Buy the ugly pinkish European (or whatever is local or relevant to you) garlic that has an actual smell that you can detect in the store even through the skin. Then you'll have some flavour in your food.

The right garlic is most of the battle in my experience. If it smells weak or bland before going into the food then it's not going to taste very much at the other end. Roasting it will make it a bit sweeter, but won't increase the intensity of flavour.
posted by shelleycat at 10:08 AM on April 24, 2016 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Assuming you're using some sort of oil in the soup, heat that on the stove in a small pan. When the oil starts to shimmer, lower the heat and throw the garlic in. Swirl that around until the garlic is golden. Let it cool, and use that oil and garlic in your soup. The garlic will impart the oil with its flavor, and that will distribute itself through your soup much better.

Serious Eats has a few good posts on garlic. How you prep it makes dramatic differences in how it expresses itself in your dish:

* On Developing Garlic Flavor
* The Best Way to Mince Garlic
* The Science of Garlic Flavor
posted by AaRdVarK at 10:16 AM on April 24, 2016 [25 favorites]

Best answer: I never roast to get the flavours out, I cook the garlic either at the beginning in the one pot, or on the side and add it a bit later. (heat oil in pan, medium warm; take pan off stove; put garlic bits in, add to soup when lightly golden) Just putting garlic in the soup raw like that doesn't usually work for me unless it's going to be cooking for a while.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:22 AM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

There's also garlic powder or granulated garlic.
posted by lathrop at 10:28 AM on April 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I came here to link those Serious Eats articles. Garlic is both chemistry and molecular physics.

Something I have noticed in the pressure cooker in particular is that the heat and pressure basically destroy the chemicals that make garlic garlicy. You'll notice something missing if you leave it out, but in PC recipes you for sure want to layer your garlic - some in the pot during cooking, some immediately after to cook in the still-real-hot-but-not-pressurized-hot liquid, and layer again a third and maybe fourth time with an oil-based delivery (your own infused oil, Thai-style fried garlic, roasted garlic) plus garlic chili sauce or similar at serving time.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:29 AM on April 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

Make sure your garlic is fresh (not dry or sprouting).

Powdered garlic is delicious but the taste is very different than fresh so use caution when substituting.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:31 AM on April 24, 2016

Best answer: Garlic--all alliums really--is one of my favourite things.

Basically, all the flavour is carried in the liquid in each clove. The finer you mince it, the more liquid is released, meaning a more garlicky flavour. So that's one way to increase (or moderate) the flavour. At the other end of the spectrum, a classic Italian technique is to sautee a whole clove or two in whatever oil you're using to cook the rest of the dish. Toast until golden, then remove.

Are special, garlic roasters worthwhile?

No. To roast garlic, you have two options:

1) Whole bulb. Slice off the top until all the cloves are exposed. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Wrap in tinfoil and roast at 350-400F for an hour-ish. (Exact time will depend on your oven and the size of the bulbs). When done, cool and then squeeze out.

2) Restaurant shortcut. Many restaurants buy bags of already peeled cloves. Dump a bajillion cloves into a roasting dish, cover with olive or veg oil, put lid or tinfoil on, and roast as above.

I already own a garlic press

Honestly, I find those really fiddly and annoying. This technique is faster for large amounts, with zero waste and less annoying cleanup.

I'd also like to make some garlicky hummus - and would be happy to hear of any other garlicky, vegan-friendly foods.

For hummus, just use raw garlic. Add as much as you think per whatever recipe. Taste, if not garlicky enough then mince more and stir it in. Hummus is usually best after it has been left to sit for a few hours. Any kind of bean works just as well--white beans are particularly nice, and if you really want to jazz it up add a little orange zest (say, 1/4 of an orange worth) and some basil or tarragon.

One safety note: garlic often carries botulism. If you want to infuse oils or similar, you must use fully cooked garlic. Infusing raw garlic in e.g. olive oil, unless you're using it all up that day, is flirting with disaster.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:35 AM on April 24, 2016 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, noting also: roasted garlic has a much less intense/punchy garlic flavour. The actual flavour is more intense, but lacks the punch of vampire repellent that I think you're going for.

(I really do understand your obsession. The other day I had toast that I spread roasted garlic on with a little butter. Divine.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:37 AM on April 24, 2016

Best answer: I add garlic at the beginning and then again at the end. The beginning is to add flavour to the onions/etc. The end is to add garlic flavour.
posted by guster4lovers at 10:43 AM on April 24, 2016

Best answer: I would sauté some minced garlic for 30 seconds in hot oil, then stir that in the soup right before serving.

Also add more salt.
posted by Nelson at 10:50 AM on April 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Also: vegan toum, the addictive Mediterranean/Middle-eastern raw garlic paste. It's basically the texture of mayonnaise, and if you eat enough of it (or the right amount, if you're me) it'll come out in your sweat.

Note that because of the molecular physics, how you actually cut or smash the cell walls changes the flavor of garlic - slice half a garlic and fine-mince the rest, and then compare those tastes with a pressed clove, they're all slightly different and then different again after cooking. I don't like presses for that reason, preferring either cuts with a sharp knife or smashing with the flat of the blade.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:51 AM on April 24, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Roasted garlic spread on toasted bread (or a good baguette) with a bit of raspberry jam or mango chutney.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:54 AM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yes read the Serious Eats articles: they are great.
Upshot is that raw garlic has a much stronger flavour than roasted. Roasted is nutty and mellow; raw is sharp. I often put garlic into a recipe both at the very beginning and also the end, to get both. If you dice or smash or press it first, you can mix the resulting pulp with lemon juice to tone down the sharpness while keeping the strong flavour. Or, pan fry it briefly in butter or oil, and then add salt and bread crumbs or toasted sliced almonds: that will give you a nice crunchy garlicky mess that you can throw on top of (or swirl into) soup or stew or fish or whatever, giving you textural as well as flavour contrast.

Also, if the garlic has a green shoot in the centre, remove and discard it. It won't hurt you, but has a slightly bitter taste.
posted by Susan PG at 11:30 AM on April 24, 2016

Best answer: 1) Seconding: try to find better garlic; always taste it, discard what tastes funky, or not at all.

2) Long-cooked garlic loses its sting. It does remain in the dish, in a much more subtle way. Matter of preference. So "which is easier" is ok, but you've been doing it yourself...

3) Roast garlic: do it while you actually concentrate on what you're doing, which is really easy because it goes so fast (is likely why you have a reputation of burning the stuff. I have that reputation, too). You chop the desired amount of garlic fine. You heat a tablespoon of olive oil or clarified butter/ghee in a medium-sized heavy frying pan/skillet until a bit of garlic would just sizzle. Put in all the chopped garlic. Take a wooden spatula and stir constantly. When golden, transfer the garlic fast to a cold dish or directly into whatever you need to be more garlicky.

4) Last-minute fix is always (presupposing you have good garlic, see above) to press some garlic right into whatever you're eating. If you need more garlic taste, combine techniques 2, 3 and 4.
posted by Namlit at 11:31 AM on April 24, 2016

Seconding snickerdoodle on growing your own. I don't, but a friend does, and it's potent.
posted by SemiSalt at 11:34 AM on April 24, 2016

Best answer: Oh and when buying garlic. Don't buy the huge bulbs (elephant garlic?) -- they always seem to me less flavourful. But the most important thing is to buy garlic that is firm and heavy, not dessicated. If it yields to your touch or makes a crinkly, papery noise it is too dehydrated and won't have a lot of flavour. I have found that slightly smaller bulbs are usually stronger-tasting than larger ones.
posted by Susan PG at 11:35 AM on April 24, 2016

Best answer: For a vegetable soup, adding the garlic at the end can give it more kick. I got this from the Syrian Red Lentil Soup on the Herbivoracious food blog:

Cook the soup without salt, and when it is nearly done
"grind the garlic*, coriander seed** and salt*** in a mortar and pestle or a small food processor into a coarse paste. Fry this paste in the olive oil**** for about 1 minute, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add to the soup and let simmer a bit longer."
*6 cloves
**coriander is great in the lentil soup, but might not work in others
***1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
****2 tablespoons olive oil

Lentil soup can be a bit bland but I love this version, which to me tastes nicely garlicky.
posted by Azara at 12:01 PM on April 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Pressure cooking generally takes the bite and the expected flavor out of garlic and onions. In the case you mentioned, along with adding however much garlic is called for in the recipe before pressure cooking, I would use the garlic press and lightly saute some additional crushed garlic in oil while the soup is pressure cooking, and then add it to the soup after releasing pressure. You could also try adding raw crushed garlic to the hot soup at this point and see what you like.

I haven't tried this, but here's a technique for roasting garlic using a pressure cooker and broiler: Hip Pressure Cooking - perfectly roasted garlic in 20 minutes
posted by bananana at 12:31 PM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Buy garlic which is grown close to you.

Otherwise use the method Azara describes.
posted by mumimor at 12:33 PM on April 24, 2016

Response by poster: Lots of great answers - lots of things to try. Thanks everyone!
posted by FencingGal at 1:52 PM on April 24, 2016

For some reason I have found I nearly always have to double or triple the amount of garlic that recipes call for to get any taste at all. Two cloves, are you kidding me? Maybe I am just buying weak garlic. Anyway, don't be shy about putting in more!
posted by PercussivePaul at 3:12 PM on April 24, 2016

My roommate just brought home a spray bottle of cold-pressed garlic juice. It's *super* strong. I usually put it on last, and it really ramps up the flavor.
posted by ananci at 3:55 PM on April 24, 2016

Best answer: A thing that I enjoy doing if I am using raw garlic and want the flavor to pop is to take the peeled cloves, put them in a mortar, and pound them with about 1/4 tsp. salt per clove. The resulting paste will be as strong as you can get garlic from those particular cloves, because the flavor is carried in the liquid, and salt pulls liquid out of the cells of the garlic so that you get a juicier mash than you would if you simply pounded them by themselves.

The paste can be stirred raw into hummus or tomato sauce, pounded more with raw grated ginger to form one of the basic components of Chinese stir-fry (note: you can buy ginger-garlic-salt paste in jars in most Asian markets if you don't want to make it yourself), plastered onto meat, chicken, or fish as a marinade and baked (add some crushed peppercorns), and whisked into soup during the final simmer. I'd suggest having a mortar that you use mostly for this, as the garlic juices will seep into the walls and eventually produce a garlic edge to anything you pound in there-- although honestly unless I'm making, like, a chai spice mix I do not find this to be a problem. I have a 'sweet spices' mortar and a 'things that don't mind garlic' mortar and that works fine.
posted by Rush-That-Speaks at 4:22 PM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Skordalia!
This is the garlickiest dish I know! It's so garlicky it kinda burns my mouth. The link is an approximation of an imprecise recipe - you can add more garlic if you like and you can use almonds or walnuts. Though you want to be careful not to over-process, I've always made mine in the blender/ food processor rather than by hand. It will keep for a while in the fridge and can be used as you would hummus.
I grew up with the almond version, but apparently the potato version is more common.

This lentil soup has cooked garlic and fresh added towards the end (with some lemon juice, too), so it has a nice, mellow garlic flavor.
posted by queseyo at 4:42 PM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Another ditto on the quality of garlic. The garlic we get in our CSA is always more aromatic and pungent --- just better -- than the white, mild garlic you can get year round in supermarkets.
posted by dis_integration at 5:21 PM on April 24, 2016

By the way, standard advice is the that the finer you chop the garlic, the stronger the garlic taste.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:05 PM on April 24, 2016

Too lazy to read the whole thread, but if I want a garlic punch I'll add some fresh at or near the end of cooking, to replace some of the assertiveness that's been cooked out. I'll either slice it super thin or use a garlic press, depending on how much I feel like cleaning the garlic press.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 6:44 PM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Raw garlic will pack more punch. If you do roasted garlic at the beginning, add a small amount of raw at the end for more garlic taste. Also, like others said, you want to pulverize the shit out of it. Crush it with the side of your knife until it is a sticky paste.

If you want an easy way to add a ton of garlic to a dish, make roasted garlic and roasted garlic oil together. Put peeled cloves in a deep, narrow pan and add oil until the cloves are covered. Roast in the oven until the cloves turn a nice brown roasted garlic color. Save the garlicky oil and smash the roasted cloves into a paste that you store in the freezer. Both are now ready to doctor dishes that don't turn out as garlicky as you want.
posted by Foam Pants at 10:53 PM on April 24, 2016

This broccoli with fried garlic recipe is so garlicky and so, so delicious (and vegan!).
posted by saladin at 7:17 AM on April 25, 2016

Add the garlic near the end of cooking. When it cooks for a long time you lover a lot of flavor.
posted by J. Wilson at 12:20 PM on April 25, 2016

I use a microplane to grate fresh garlic. I'm a big fan of using my garlic raw as much as possible. Right now my favorites are adding grated raw garlic to mashed avocado spread on toast, to a tahini sauce (along with raw grated turmeric) that I spoon over baked sweet potatoes. I'll also finish any dish, such as sauteed dark leafy greens, with grated raw garlic. I pretty much don't cook my garlic anymore.
posted by vivzan at 12:43 PM on February 24, 2017

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