Food For Thought: Black Garlic is More Than Flavorful

Posted by Annette Bellisari on

Black Garlic is More Than Flavorful

Bellisari's Balsamic Shallot and Black Garlic Spread in front of mixed fresh cut veggies

Lately, black garlic can be found on menus everywhere, but this unique ingredient isn’t anything new. It’s been around and in use for centuries. Its origins are unclear, but it started in Asia well before it became mainstream in the United States. One reason for its popularity is that black garlic, like fresh raw garlic, has antioxidants and other key nutrients that can help to improve your health and prevent serious health issues. It has been used for flavor and traditional medicinal purposes and in a variety of Asian cuisines for centuries. 

Black garlic is, simply put, the product of aging regular garlic bulbs over the course of weeks or months, a process which produces a phenomenon called the Maillard reaction. It requires strictly regulated temperature and humidity to achieve its sticky consistency.

Black garlic is made when heads of raw garlic are aged under specialized conditions until the cloves turn inky black and develop a sticky date-like texture. Fortunately, this produces a flavor with an out of this world sweet, earthy, minus garlic’s characteristic heat—think of it as garlic's umami-packed shadow.

With a softer, molasses-like flavor, it is a more delicate option than the raw bulb. Maybe the best thing about black garlic is its versatility; it can be swapped out for regular garlic in most recipes. It is a beautiful addition to any cheese plate, bruschetta, chicken dish, or even as a pizza topper. It also gives that extra something to a homemade vinaigrette. Keep in mind that its flavor is milder, so we recommend, as always, to taste as you add.

The process of making black garlic is less difficult than it is long. It can be aged for up to 60 days but will be ready to use after three weeks.

As an additional warning, you will have that strong garlic smell wafting in your kitchen for the entire cooking process. When planning where to place the cooker, think about the best spot to minimize the odor.

There are quite a few DIY methods such as using a dehydrator, but the best approach without additional specialized kitchenware is to age your bulbs in a slow cooker or rice cooker. The process is easy but takes patience to achieve that supersweet result.

If you use a dehydrator:

  1. Wrap a head of garlic in plastic, then in several layers of tinfoil.
  2. Cover the garlic to trap moisture and keep the cloves from drying out.
  3. Set the packet in the dehydrator.
  4. Set the temperature to 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Wait three weeks for your black garlic to be ready.

In the slow cooker or rice cooker, the garlic will go through many transformations, and it can be difficult to know when it's done. Within the first week or so, you may notice that the bottom of the bulbs become charred and the skin browned; this is the effect of the heat on the papery skin. Around 14 days, the cloves will be black and rock hard, but let it go longer. At some point within the next week, the cloves will begin to shrivel so the paper feels loose. This is when you want to check for doneness: Press your finger firmly against one clove to feel if it's softening. When you feel that, pull one clove from the bulb and remove it from the paper for a closer examination. Black garlic is done when it's almost spongy-soft and chewy—similar to a dried date or fig. Some of the inner cloves may not quite be ready, so leaving it for a few extra days is a good idea.

While black garlic has less of the active compound allicin than its fresh raw counterpart, the fermentation process changes the concentrations.

Black garlic boasts higher concentrations of many nutrients, antioxidants, and other beneficial compounds. These higher concentrations may be at least partly responsible for the many health benefits that black garlic provides: 

  • Blood sugar control – Like fresh raw garlic, black garlic can help to regulate blood sugar levels. Reducing high blood sugar helps prevent serious health issues, such as diabetes symptoms, kidney dysfunction, and more. Higher antioxidant levels in black garlic may also help to prevent complications related to diabetes.
  • Heart protection – Fresh raw garlic is known for its ability to help improve heart health. Black garlic may provide the same protective effects. Black garlic can also help lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, which in turn reduces your risk of heart disease.
  • Fights some cancers – Many studies show that the antioxidant properties of black garlic can help to fight against cancer. One study found that it could help reduce the growth of colon cancer cells. Compounds in aged black garlic can also block free radicals in the body. This property reduces cell damage and can help to limit the growth and potential spread of cancer cells in the body. 
  • Brain health – With its antioxidants, black garlic can help reduce inflammation in the body and prevent cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. It may also help to improve memory and other parts of cognitive function.
  • Increased immunity – By reducing inflammation, the antioxidants in black garlic can help boost your immune system. The antioxidants fight free radicals and prevent oxidative stress that lead to cell damage. A healthy immune system means that your body is able to fight infections and bacteria more effectively. 
  • Liver health – Black garlic may help improve the health of your liver. Some research shows that the food can help to lower markers of liver injury following liver damage, decrease fatty deposits in the liver, and rebalance liver cell size.

Black garlic contains more antioxidants than regular garlic. It also has more of a compound called S-Allylcysteine (SAC). SAC helps the body to absorb allicin. With a greater concentration, black garlic may be more effective at helping your body get the benefits that allicin provides. 

Although black garlic is not as common as fresh raw garlic, some stores do carry it. Online stores feature the product as well.

You can use black garlic in various ways and for different tasty recipes:

  • Enjoy the sweet black garlic on its own.
  • Spread it on toast and top it with an egg.
  • Add black garlic to a charcuterie board or cheese platter for some fun and delicious pairings.
  • Process it with shallots, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and some salt for a marinade.
  • Blend it with chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, and salt for a new spin on garlic hummus.
  • Mash black garlic in with potatoes.
  • Use black garlic as a substitute for regular garlic in your favorite recipes for a mellower, smokier flavor.

Now that you’ve learned how healthy and tasty black garlic is and that it might not be right on your grocer’s shelves, you’ve also learned that making it at home is possible, but it is a lengthy process. Instead of making your own, Bellisari’s award-winning Balsamic, Shallot & Black Garlic Spread is your answer to easily incorporating black garlic into recipes and into your healthy lifestyle. This is “Bellisari’s gourmet convenience” at its finest! Type black garlic into the search option on our site and you will find pages of delicious recipes and ways to use our award-winning Balsamic, Shallot & Black Garlic Spread. Enjoy!



Shop Now

Share With Friends