Not only does it look a bit, well, crazy but black garlic is also crazy-good for you.

By Jessica Cording, MS, RD, CDN
February 03, 2020

Have you spotted black garlic at your supermarket? The fermented food is one of the big new trends to make waves in the culinary industry, and it's a healthy, flavorful way to make your meal way more satisfying. And no, black garlic is not simply a dyed version of the typical white garlic you're used to. Here's how to use the versatile ingredient (even if you don't like white garlic), and the benefits you score with each bite of black garlic. 

What is black garlic, exactly?

Regular garlic heads are aged until the cloves turn black and develop a smooth, sticky texture that's similar to roasted garlic. This happens by allowing the bulbs to sit for a few weeks in a humid setting at a low temperature, which facilitates flavor-creating chemical reactions as the amino acids and naturally-present sugars ferment. The distinct black color comes from the production of a compound called melanoidin. As for the flavor of black garlic? You can expect an earthy, umami-packed flavor that's more mellow than raw or cooked garlic—meaning you may like it even if the traditional variety typically turns you away.

If you want to make your own black garlic, DIY experts suggest making use of the rice cooker languishing in the back of the cabinet—here's a quick tutorial. (Instant Pot aficionados, your multicooker has a rice cooker setting, too.) But if you don't have time for that, you can also just buy it at a local specialty store like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. Look for it near the onions, shallots, and (duh) garlic. (See also: 12 Healthy Spices and Herbs You Need in Your Kitchen)

What are the health benefits of black garlic?

Rich in phytonutrients and other disease-fighting compounds, garlic has been noted for a variety of health benefits, including its anti-inflammatory effects, immune system support, and improved cardiovascular function. It's also been studied for its cancer-fighting potential. While black garlic is lower in allicin, a powerful compound that gives garlic many of its health-promoting properties, it's still packed with antioxidants. With about 35 calories per serving, it's a great way to amp up flavor and add depth to your healthy dinner recipe without tacking on tons of extra calories. (Related: Cooking Hacks That Help You Make Dinner In 30 Minutes or Less)

So, how do I use black garlic?

Black garlic is an extremely versatile ingredient. Try it...

  • On toast: Top it with an egg for an extra protein kick, or use it on a crostini topped with white anchovies or prosciutto for a sweet-and-salty take.
  • With cheese: The subtly sweet tang of black garlic works well with robust cheeses. Put a few bulbs on a charcuterie or cheese plate for your next party. (Related: The Healthiest Cheeses on the Planet)
  • In a burger: Chop up some bulbs and mix in with ground meat or beans and spices to make burgers. You could also spread it directly on the bun or on top of the burger to replace butter, mayo, or other condiments.
  • In a slow-cooker recipe: Black garlic is perfect for infusing flavor into slow cooker recipes. Here's how to use it when making chicken or pork to add to soups, salads, and entrees.
  • In a spice rub or marinade: In a food processor, pulse black garlic with shallot, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a little sea salt. Use as a marinade for beef, pork, or chicken.
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