What Is Black Garlic: Learn About The Benefits Of Black Garlic

A few years ago I was shopping at my favorite grocers and noticed they had something new in the produce department. It looked a bit like garlic, or rather a whole clove of roasted garlic, only blacker in color. I had to inquire and asked the nearest clerk what this stuff was. Turns out, it is black garlic. Never heard of it? Read on to find out how to make black garlic and other fascinating black garlic information.

What is Black Garlic?

Black garlic isn’t a new product. It has been consumed in South Korea, Japan and Thailand for centuries. Finally, it’s made its way to North America, better late than never because this stuff is fabulous!

So what is it? It is, indeed, garlic that has undergone a process that renders it unlike any other garlic. It achieves a heightened flavor and aroma that is in no way reminiscent of the almost acrid odor and intense flavor of raw garlic. It elevates everything it’s added to. It is rather like the umami (savory taste) of garlic adding that magical something to a dish which sends it over the top.

Black Garlic Information

Because its garlic, you may be thinking about growing black garlic, but no, it doesn’t work that way. Black garlic is garlic that has been fermented for a period of time at high temperatures under a controlled humidity of 80-90%. During this process, the enzymes that give garlic its strong aroma and flavor break down. In other words, black garlic undergoes the Maillard reaction.

If you didn’t know, the Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that give browned, toasted, roasted and seared foods their amazing flavor. Anyone who’s eaten a seared steak, some fried onions or a toasted marshmallow can appreciate this reaction. At any rate, growing black garlic isn’t a possibility, but if you keep reading, you’ll find out how to make black garlic of your own.

How to Make Black Garlic

Black garlic can be purchased at many stores or online, but some folks want to try to make it themselves. To these people, I salute you. Black garlic isn’t difficult to make per se, but it does require time and precision.

First, select clean, unblemished whole garlic. If the garlic needs to be washed, allow it to dry completely for 6 hours or so. Next, you can purchase a black garlic fermenting machine or make it in a slow cooker. And a rice cooker works pretty well too.

In a fermenting box, set the temp to 122-140 F. (50-60 C.). Place the fresh garlic into the box and set the humidity to 60-80% for 10 hours. After that time has elapsed, change the setting to 106 F. (41 C.) and the humidity to 90% for 30 hours. After the 30 hours are up, change the setting again to 180 F. (82 C.) and a humidity of 95% for 200 hours. If you do not wish to purchase a fermenting machine, then try to follow the same temperature setting with your rice cooker.

At the end of this last phase, black garlic gold will be yours and ready to incorporate into marinades, rub on meat, smear on crostini or bread, stir into risotto or just lick it off your fingers. It really is that good!

Benefits of Black Garlic

The major benefit of black garlic is its heavenly flavor, but nutritionally it has all the same benefits of fresh garlic. It is high in antioxidants, those cancer fighting compounds, which makes it a healthy additive to almost everything, although I’m not sure about black garlic ice cream.

Black garlic also ages well and, in fact, gets sweeter the longer it is stored. Store black garlic for up to three months in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

How To Make Your Own Black Garlic And It’s Incredible Health Benefits

How To Make Your Own Black Garlic

Studies show that black garlic has twice the antioxidants that regular white garlic has. And let me tell you, it’s oh so simple to make your own. All you really need is a rice cooker (make sure it has a lid that seals), some regular white garlic (either store bought, or home grown from your own garden) and some patience. Patience is a virtue!!

Now before we get started, I must warn you, garlic STINKS. It is recommended that you not do this inside your house, as the garlic odor will permeate everything you own. Not even kidding here. You can “cook” your garlic outside if the weather permits where you live, or consider using an unattached garage or shed. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get started.

Steps to Making Your Own Black Garlic

  1. Choose your garlic. It doesn’t need to be anything special. If you have some garlic preserved that your grew in your own garden, great. If not, store bought garlic will work just fine. Just make sure the garlic is not already cracked or sprouted.
  2. Clean the garlic gently with a damp paper towel.
  3. Place a rack in the bottom of your rice cooker. Suggestions include a bamboo mat or a sushi mat.
  4. Place a single paper towel over the top of your mat.
  5. Place your garlic on the paper towel. Place as much or as little garlic as you want. There is no right or wrong answer here. The choice is all yours.
  6. Cover the garlic with 1-2 more paper towel layers.
  7. Place the lid on your rice cooker and seal the deal.
  8. Place the cooker on “keep warm” setting only. Do not “cook” the garlic, only keep it warm. The black garlic does it’s magic when it is around 140°F for 10-14 days.

Now you just play the waiting game. While you are waiting, the magic is taking place, only you can’t see it. The warming garlic sets off a chemical reaction that converts the sugar in the garlic, thus turning it black. While you are waiting, if you are forgetful like me, either place a piece of tape on the outside of the cooker with the date that you fired the rice cooker up, or you can put it in the notes of your phone. Go another step further and put a reminder in your smartphone to alert you in 10 days to check your garlic.

continued on the next page – (This keeps the website blazing fast)

Steps for Making Black Garlic at Home

Patience will indeed be a good virtue when making this ingredient. Once you have that, it is pretty simple from then on. The only other things you need is a rice cooker and, of course, cloves of fresh garlic.

Below are the typical steps that you can follow to make this ingredient at home:

Step 1. Carefully Choose Your Garlic

The first thing you obviously want to do is select your fresh garlic. You can buy it at the store or use your own garden-grown garlic. Either way, though, you’ll want to be careful about the garlic that you use. Don’t just settle for any that you can lay your hands on. The particular bulbs of garlic you select will determine the quality of the final product. For example, garlic with higher sugar content tends to result in a sweeter black garlic end product.

It helps for the heads to be large and round. Make sure that these are intact and no cloves are coming off. If you notice any germination or rotting, throw that garlic away or cut around it and use it in another garlic recipe. It’s not ideal for making black garlic.

Step 2. Prepare the Garlic

Next, you want to make sure your fresh garlic is as clean as possible. It is a rather difficult and less effective task trying to get the final ingredient free of dirt. That’s because after passing through the production process, it becomes pulpy and you can easily squash it with your hands. Therefore, it’s best to make sure it’s clean enough to eat before you start the fermentation process.

Remove any long roots that may be on the bulb. Also, get rid of any debris on the skin. Some grocery stores do take care of these steps before selling the vegetable, but you’ll still want to wash it thoroughly.

Step 3. Wrap the Garlic in Foil

Get a sheet of aluminum foil and wrap bulbs of garlic in it – separately, that is. Make sure there is no tear in the foil you are using. Wrap the bulb tightly and completely, ensuring there are no exposed surfaces.

Although some argue that foiling is not necessary, this can be useful in preserving the moisture of the bulbs and ensuring that they do not dry out.

Step 4. Cook the Bulbs

Transfer all the garlic bulbs you wrapped in aluminum foil to your rice cooker. Plug the appliance into a socket and keep it in the “warm” mode. Do not press the button for rice cooking!

You may want to put some form of notice on the rice cooker to warn everyone else in your home not to unplug it or adjust the button for rice cooking.

The ideal temperature for making black garlic is about 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 5. Put Your Patience to Work

After setting up the conditions for making the ingredient, you now have to exercise patience while the production process runs its full course. This will take three or four weeks, partly dependent on how enduring you are.

Don’t do anything at all. Just wait. We know this may be difficult for some. There is that curious part that may be pushing you to check what is taking place in there.

Just cool it and don’t interrupt the Maillard reaction that is occurring on the inside of that foil.

You may want to note the date you placed the bulbs in the cooker somewhere to better monitor how long they have been there.

It is supposedly possible to produce the ingredient in less than two weeks, especially when using a fermenting box. But note that if you remove the bulbs too early during the processing, it may still have a noticeable flavor of the fresh vegetable form.

What’s the deal with black garlic?

One of the most fascinating, delicious and yet contradictory ingredients in the world is garlic.

On one end of the spectrum, there’s the garlic we're familiar with: our everyday white supermarket variety, used in a universal rainbow of international cuisines. On the other end: the exotic black garlic, sold in Australia for around $150 a kilo.

So how much difference is there between the two species (beyond the price tags, of course)?

Although white and black garlic offer contrasting flavour profiles and culinary uses, the fact is all black and white garlic start life as the same product.

“You don’t grow black garlic, as black garlic starts as normal white garlic,” says John Pye of Bredbo Black Garlic, who has been selling black garlic to the public for over five years.

“Nothing is added to it to turn white garlic black. What happens though, in simple terms, is that the white garlic goes into a machine – think of an oven. In this oven, there’s a constant and very specific temperature and humidity level. The white garlic we produce goes in there for various amounts of time and becomes black garlic.”

Pye says Bredbo’s black garlic is ‘fermented’ in the oven for 60 days. He uses the term ‘ferments’ loosely because, technically, nothing is added to the white garlic to turn it dark. Instead, there’s a chemical process called the Maillard reaction at play.

Just as you caramelise or brown food during cooking, the Maillard reaction that occurs in the creation of black garlic involves a chemical interaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that turns the cloves a different colour. “That is what makes it black.”

Pye explains another rarity used in the creation of black garlic. His company uses single cloves of white garlic – monobulbs, which do not contain any segments – in the production process.

“The reason I swung towards a solid bulb is that the chefs prefer it. It prevents them having to cut the garlic up and peeling each clove.”

Pye says monobulbs are often discarded by producers in the effort to create perfect-shaped garlic for supermarkets. But rather than see imperfect garlic go to waste, Pye value-adds to the product and makes them black.

Although white and black garlic offer contrasting flavour profiles and culinary uses, the fact is all black and white garlic start life as the same product.

“The monobulb is an anomaly. Sometimes it just occurs in nature and [farmers] won’t know why it occurs. You can have a crop where… half the produce is like that, while in another year, you’ll have a crop where there’s hardly any monobulbs."

“I source my monobulbs from a grower in NSW who deliberately tries to produce monobulbs for me. Another grower gives me whatever single bulbs of garlic he grows.” Currently, Bredbo produces around one tonne of black garlic a year.

Black garlic: the key ingredient in the Darker than Darkness ramen at Sydney's Rising Sun Workshop, created to help launch Young Henrys' new Motorcycle Oil beer.
Source: Young Henrys

And it tastes like … black garlic

So what does black garlic taste like?

“The best analogy to describe the flavour of black garlic is that it tastes like an ageing cheese,” says Richard Ko, who looks after the company’s marketing and product development.

“There’s a reason why you age cheese: to bring out its unique flavours. Well, we do the same with garlic, turning it black to bring out its taste. Black garlic has the texture of black jellybeans and flavours that linger like molasses and balsamic vinegar.

“It does not have the raw brute taste of raw garlic. It’s not overpowering. Black garlic has real sweetness to it.”

Black garlic is sweeter than its white counterpart – and a versatile ingredient.
Source: Getty Images

Popular in various Asian cuisines, black garlic likely originated in Korea where it was developed as a health product and manipulated so that people could experience the immunity benefits of garlic – its sweetness made it easier to consume raw.

Peter Kuruvita uses organic black garlic from Greenman Organics to make a dessert on his Coastal Kitchen Series 2, which is currently airing on SBS on Thursdays at 8pm. He infuses heirloom strawberries with black garlic slices in the saucepan. The sweet mix is then used with caramelised hazelnuts to top a chocolate mousse.

Ko advises that you eat black garlic raw, shaved or sliced and placed on your favourite dish to enhance its flavour.

“Black garlic should become the hero ingredient in a dish rather than being blended or fried like normal garlic because if you do, you won’t really be able to taste it.

“Instead, you can slice it up and have it, as you would serve relish, on a plate of cheese. Or you can toss it into a salad. My background is Chinese and I grew up on congee. So I just put slices of black garlic in my chicken congee to change the flavour profile of the dish.”

Black garlic can be eaten in so many ways. But, Pye adds, the main objective when adding black garlic to a dish is to respect the ingredient. Make sure you use it in a way where you can recognise and savour its unique flavours.

“We like to think of black garlic as the truffle of the garlic industry,” says Pye.

“It’s another ingredient that can be eaten on its own, just as you would do with cheese. Black garlic is unique. It’s not a substitute for any other food.”

Peter Kuruvita's Coastal Kitchen airs 8:30pm, Wednesdays on SBS Food or stream it on on SBS On Demand. Visit the program page for recipes, videos and more.

OMG, there are 7 times that I tried to make black garlic, but all are disappoint.
This time I hope I’ll be sucess. Let’s see. Hope see you again. Respecfully,

This is a great idea for the shear satisfaction of having produced it, (untested so no idea if it has a satisfactory result or not), but for economic reasons, surely it would be cheaper to buy than the increased electricity bill!

The cost of electricity for this would be about $5 over the time period.

“Black garlic has its roots in ancient Korea around 2004 AD.”

I checked the temp of slow cookers on low and it’s 180 to over 200. Warm is 140 to 175. Should I use warm or low? Thank you for sharing this.

Try it without garlic with your slow cooker on low and keeping an eye on your temperature controller for at least two days. You want your slow cooker at the lowest possible setting. The heating elements are at the bottom and they’ll get warmer than the rest of the pot. Be patient and if at the end of the two days, you’re unable to maintain the temperature — turn it up another notch and try again. Enjoy!

Use warm, for best results. Worked for me . Also use some bamboo at the bottom With some napkins and then cover the gloves with more napkins.

Use warm, for best results. Worked for me . Also use some bamboo at the bottom With some napkins and then cover the gloves with more napkins.

Hi any links to where or how I can make and connect a temp controller to a slow cooker? I want it to automatically turn off and on when it gets too hot.

Chris, look for a sou vide thermometer. It works with a traditional crock pot, not digital. Basically the thermometer is plugged in to the wall and the crock pot is plugged in to the thermometer. The thermometer sits in the crock pot and switches on and off the power to maintain temperature. This is why a newer digital crockpot won’t work, it won’t come back on when the power does. An old school one with a dial will automatically turn on when powered.

Can you supply a picture of this setup? I have a sous vide circulator. I looked on line for sous vide thermometer that accepts a plug. Any suggestions on where I can get one? Thanks.

Just read my own message. Let me clarify. I have a sous vide circulator and understand that process. But I have never, nor could find, a sous vide thermometer that accepts a plug. I cannot visualize the setup with the lid of a slow cooker in place. Thanks.

Hi James, sorry for the slow reply.

I made the controller myself. It’s a general purpose device that I’ve used to control propane turkey fryers, electric smokers and whatever else I’d like to plug in. You can find a decent off the shelf unit on amazon for about $30. They’re sold as temperature controllers, often for gardens. The cheaper ones only have P and I controls. The more expensive ones will give you D.

Do you peel the Cloves first or put in the entire bulb with the skin on?

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