How does fresh raw garlic compare to its processed cousins, such as peeled garlic, minced garlic, and garlic powder? Using Garlic Bread as a case study, Alex & I test whether you can tell the difference in flavors if you cook with garlic substitutes.
How did one man transform the entire vegetable industry?
In 1986, farmer Mike Yurosek was frustrated with throwing out half of his carrot harvest because his misshapen carrots were too ugly for the grocery store. After much experimentation, Mike carved his first carrot into the smooth, uniform, 2-inch “baby cut” carrots that most Americans know and love today.
Since Mike’s discovery, the average American has doubled her consumption of carrots. Baby carrots now account for over half of all supermarket sales of fresh-cut vegetables.
The surge in popularity of baby carrots is largely thanks to their convenience. You simply open a package, and they’re ready to eat. This factor of convenience is the same reason that many people prefer to use garlic powder and minced garlic over fresh garlic. Ready-to-use garlic doesn’t require preparation.
Let’s dive into why you should even care about garlic substitutes.
What are the different forms of garlic?
There are countless forms of garlic you can purchase at most grocery stores in the U.S. Here are five common varieties that you can purchase from most regular grocery stores, including Trader Joe’s (where we bought our samples), Safeway, and Whole Foods.
Fresh Garlic Bulb
What is fresh raw garlic?
When you think garlic, you’re probably picturing a fresh bulb of raw garlic in your mind. Beyond drying and aging, fresh garlic hasn’t been processed. And there are many different varieties of garlic to enjoy.
How do you use fresh garlic?
To use fresh garlic, you separate out the cloves, peel them, and chop/press/mince according to your needs. If roasting garlic or stuffing whole cloves, you can peel them and use accordingly.
RELATED: You can use fresh raw garlic in a dish like Robin’s Garlic Sweet Potatoes recipe
How long does fresh garlic last?
A garlic bulb can last for months in a cool, dry cupboard or pantry out of direct sunlight.
Fresh Peeled Garlic Cloves
What are fresh peeled garlic cloves?
Peeled garlic is fresh raw garlic with the paper-thin skin removed. It comes in a plastic ziplock bag (like at Costco) and may be further packaged into smaller baggies (like at Trader Joe’s), or on a styrofoam tray (like at a Korean supermarket).
How do you use fresh peeled garlic cloves?
To use peeled garlic, you simply chop/press/mince according to your needs. If roasting garlic or stuffing whole cloves, you use the peeled cloves without extra preparation.
RELATED: Peeled garlic works great in a dish like Garlic Cucumber Noodle Salad recipe
How long do fresh peeled garlic cloves last?
Refrigerated peeled garlic lasts about 2 weeks before signs of mold if you put your germy hand directly into the bag to grab a handful of cloves. Trader Joe’s bag of peeled garlic shows a “best before date” about 2 weeks from our date of purchase.
Christopher Ranch claims that their peeled garlic can last as long as 7 weeks.
Grouping the peeled cloves into individual packets like Trader Joe’s does helps keep the garlic from going moldy prematurely compared to Costco’s approach where the peeled cloves float free in a 3-pound bag.
Protip: If buying the Costco bulk peeled garlic, put a small portion of the garlic cloves into a glass container for immediate use. Freeze the rest in the bag and defrost as needed to avoid your garlic spoiling.
Frozen Crushed Garlic
What is frozen crushed garlic?
Frozen crushed garlic is made from fresh cloves that have been peeled, crushed, and frozen into ice cube-style plastic trays. We know that allicin is activated when garlic is crushed, so there may be a concern that crushed garlic will lose its flavor. Will freezing help crushed garlic retain its desired flavor? See the results below to find out.
How do you use frozen crushed garlic?
To use, you push on the tray to eject a cube of garlic, much like how you pop an ice cube out of its tray. You’ll need to do conversion calculations. The lid’s instructions say 1 cube is the equivalent to 1 regular clove of garlic. After defrosting, the garlic is ready to use. You can defrost it in the microwave if your dish doesn’t require cooking. Otherwise, put it directly in the soup pot, sauce pan, or baking tray.
The main downside is that you cannot roast frozen crushed garlic or use it in a recipe that calls for whole cloves, like Chicken With 40 Cloves of Garlic from the NYTimes or Alton Brown’s 40-Clove Chicken Recipe.
RELATED: Frozen crushed garlic can be used in a dish like Thai Green Curry with Sweet Potatoes and Green Beans recipe
How long does frozen crushed garlic last?
Frozen crushed garlic lasts a long time in the freezer, especially thanks to its carefully sealed packaging and therefore protection from freezer burn. The package of crushed garlic we purchased in 2019 has an expiration date of 2021.
What are the ingredients in frozen crushed garlic?
The ingredients of Dorot Gardens crushed garlic are garlic, water, canola oil, and sea salt.
Minced Garlic In Water
What is minced garlic in water?
Minced garlic is fresh garlic that has been coarsely or finely chopped. You can find minced garlic in water or oil. Trader Joe’s minced garlic comes in water with citric acid as a preservative. The minced garlic is stored in a glass jar and should live in the fridge after opening.
How do you use minced garlic?
To use, you simply measure out the quantity your recipe calls for, doing quick conversion calculations. Trader Joe’s version suggests that 1/2 teaspoon equals 1 clove of garlic. No peeling, defrosting, or even chopping required. (You can see why Katharina relies on minced garlic. Who wouldn’t?)
How long does minced garlic last?
The main downside of minced garlic is the same as frozen crushed garlic with the additional problem of the citric acid. It adds an extra “sharpness”, according to Alex. Let’s see if he can distinguish the minced garlic in the garlic bread.
A jar of minced garlic lasts longer than peeled garlic or probably even fresh garlic thanks to the citric acid preservatives.
The ingredients of my Trader Joe’s minced garlic are garlic, water, and citric acid.
What is garlic powder?
Finally, the lazy cook’s best friend. Garlic powder requires no preparation other than measuring the quantity required. It is made from garlic that has been dehydrated and crushed until it becomes a fine powder. I’ve always considered garlic powder in its own category. It smells sweeter, like caramelized garlic. It’s just as flavorful as fresh garlic, but I’ve never considered using them interchangeably.
How do you use garlic powder?
To use, you simply measure out the quantity you need, like minced garlic. The spice jar’s instructors say 1/2 teaspoon is equivalent to 1 clove of garlic.
RELATED: Check out the 5-Minute Stress-free Garlic Bread Recipe with Garlic Powder recipe and the Instant Pot Vegan Ratatouille recipe using Garlic Powder
How long does garlic powder last?
The biggest upside to garlic powder is that it requires the least amount of effort and preparation compared to the other 4 forms of garlic covered in this article. Its downside is that it doesn’t taste the same as the other garlic forms, and therefore it may not be a direct substitute in recipes. Another way to think about garlic powder is that you can use it in your recipe, just don’t expect the same flavor as fresh garlic. It will be just as fragrant, but it’s a different flavor.
Another advantage to garlic powder is its lack of water, compared to frozen crushed garlic or minced garlic. Garlic powder can blend with other spices to make a dry rub and homemade spice blends.
Note: I don’t remember growing up with these many forms of garlic in New Zealand. Maybe the U.S. has more ready-to-use forms of garlic compared to other countries due to the pressure for convenience.
As a recap, here’s the list of garlic types from the most effort to the least effort required to use:
- Fresh garlic bulb
- Peeled garlic
- Frozen crushed garlic
- Minced garlic
- Garlic powder
Note: There are many more forms of garlic, including chopped garlic in oil, chopped roasted garlic, and crushed garlic in oil. We focused on the above five types of garlic because they are available in most grocery stores. Plus, I’m confident that minced garlic in a jar will generalize to chopped garlic in a jar.
What is the downside of fresh garlic?
My friend Katharina is no slouch in the kitchen. She bakes Tartine-style bread and makes fluffy German potato dumplings all from scratch.
With almost every recipe on the Internet shaming you into using fresh garlic, it’s no surprise that Kat feels a bit sheepish about using minced garlic.
As you know, getting dinner ready in 30 minutes or less is hard enough. Strict requirements like only use fresh garlic and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano explains why many millennials prefer eating take out after a long, hard-working day at the office.
RELATED: Learn about meal planning to reduce the stress of cooking.
“I don’t like using fresh garlic because peeling it is annoying,” Katharina told me. Even though there are videos online teaching you how to peel it using the bowls and shaking technique, Katharina has never found it to work well. Plus, she doesn’t like her fingers smelling garlicky.
This article is dedicated to you, Katharina. Let’s jump in to answer her question: Should you feel guilty about using fresh garlic substitutes?
Case Study Of Garlic Substitutes: Garlic Bread
Why do a taste test?
Conventional wisdom says that it’s always better to use fresh garlic. But there’s not any evidence to back it up. Instead of falling prey to an old wives’ tale, let’s run a taste test to discern the differences between the five forms of garlic.
To determine whether you can tell the difference, we picked garlic bread as our case study. Why?
Garlic bread features garlic as the dominant ingredient. Therefore, it should be easier to discern a difference in garlic flavors versus a recipe where garlic is one of many ingredients.
NOTE: If there’s enough interest from you dear readers, we may try another experiment in the future where garlic is one of many ingredients, like in a soup or stew. Leave a comment below to let us know.
(In reality, we picked garlic bread because we love it. We’re going to have to eat so much of the same food for the experiment, so we prioritized our taste buds, of course)
How are we running the taste test?
There are 5 different garlic butters under consideration.
The “recipe” for garlic bread follows a pared-down version of the 5-Minute Garlic Bread recipe (the fresh garlic version and the garlic powder version). I avoided cilantro and parmesan to avoid mixing strong flavors that may obfuscate the subtlety of garlic (if you can call garlic subtle).
Who is in the taste test?
Alex + me.
What was the process for testing?
We tasted garlic breads side by side in a blind taste test where we didn’t know which garlic butter we were sampling.
Protip: If you have a second helper, consider running a double-blind taste test.
What are the results of the taste test?
Our preference by ranking:
Alex’s ranking from most to least favorite garlic bread (including comments from the taste test):
- Fresh garlic bulb: Really good what I expect from garlic bread.
Fresh garlic shapes
- Minced garlic: Very similar to D (garlic powder). Maybe I like it a little better
- Garlic powder: Closer to A (fresh garlic) not quite as fresh
- Peeled garlic: Tastes fresher than B but no sharp fresh garlic flavor
- Frozen crushed garlic: Definitely garlic flavor. Less fresh flavor
Anna’s ranking from most to least favorite garlic bread (including comments from the taste test):
- Fresh garlic bulb: Very bold garlic flavor with a touch of pungent “garlickiness”. It had a creaminess that the others lacked. I’m guessing this was the fresh garlic.
- Garlic powder: Garlic was pretty strong. Tastes like something on the fresher side. I’m guessing either the peeled garlic or the frozen crushed garlic
- Peeled garlic: Garlic flavor was less pungent. It still had plenty of garlic flavor but it was missing the creaminess I expect from fresh garlic. I’m guessing it’s the frozen crushed garlic
- Frozen crushed garlic: Tastes like garlic powder. Has the sweetness and fragrance of garlic powder. It lacks the punch I expect from garlic.
I guess garlic powder
- Minced garlic: Strong citric acid, sour lemony taste that overpowers the garlic. I still taste garlic. Guess it is the minced garlic
What did we conclude from the garlic bread taste test?
Alex & I choose fresh garlic as our favorite form of garlic. We were both surprised by how close garlic powder tasted to fresh garlic. It was a close second best.
The fresh garlic had a pungent punch and a creaminess that the other forms of garlic lacked.
My least favorite was the minced garlic, which turned out to be Alex’s second-most favorite. I didn’t like how “lemony” the minced garlic tasted whereas Alex found the citric acid enhanced the flavors. The added “brightness” made him liked it second best. (I didn’t get it until I began reading Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat a few days ago. I know, I’m late to the game.)
My second-favorite was garlic powder (despite my bias against garlic powder). Before the taste test, I thought garlic powder had a different flavor – sweeter and caramelized. Yet, I admit that the garlic powder tasted almost as flavorful as the fresh garlic. This means I’ll likely use garlic powder more frequently as a direct substitute for fresh garlic.
Finally, neither of us cared for the frozen crushed garlic. It was Alex’s least-favorite pick. For me, it tasted like a different product. It had a duller garlic flavor. Could it be the additional canola oil that reduced the bite from the garlic?
Other than flavor, what factors did we evaluate?
In addition to taste, we wanted to rank the appearance, time, and hassle involved in the different forms of garlic. Alex believes that the time and inconvenience involved in preparing the ingredient should contribute to our likelihood of using that form of garlic.
The side-by-side view of the garlic butters indicates that fresh garlic, peeled garlic, and frozen crushed garlic look almost identical. The biggest difference is garlic powder which has a rich brown hue. Minced garlic is oxidized brown like a cut slice of apple sitting on the counter for too long. Minced garlic looks the least appetizing.
The fresh bulb of garlic was the most time-consuming to prepare. It required the most effort to peel the cloves. The garlic powder is the easiest to use, closely followed by minced garlic (unless I need a whole clove, in which case the peeled garlic was the most convenient).
That said, if you crush the garlic against your knife, fresh garlic is pretty quick to peel.
The frozen crushed garlic created the most hassle because it requires defrosting. That means frozen garlic could work well in a soup or stew because it can melt in the soup pot.
However, the frozen cube was a disaster in last night’s stir fry. The defrosting garlic cube purged water into the hot oil, causing hot oil to splatter all over the cooktop as well as my forearms. Using frozen garlic usually requires defrosting in the microwave, which is an extra step of inconvenience.
Bonus: Environmental Impact
I’d avoid the frozen garlic, and perhaps Trader Joe’s packaging of peeled, because of how wasteful the packaging is. It certainly produced a lot of plastic in the trash, without delivering a superior product.
What did we learn from our garlic taste testing experiment?
The most important lesson from this taste test is to ensure that your test buddy is well fed and watered. Otherwise, he will eat all the samples. Then, there will be no taste test to run.
The second most important lesson is discovering that fresh garlic was both Alex & my top choice. I conclude that you can tell the difference when using fresh garlic. It provides a superior flavor and texture the others lacked.
Does this mean we are eschewing all other types of garlic?
Probably not. We will likely continue using peeled garlic as a substitute for day-to-day stir fries because it’s faster. The peeled garlic, while not as flavorful, was still plenty pungent.
Not every dish needs to be the most optimized. But if I have time and am cooking a fancy meal, like Thanksgiving garlic mashed potatoes, then I’ll opt for the fresh garlic.
Now, you might think our findings are inconclusive because we have an n = 2, which makes the results very subjective. Fair enough. Maybe you would pick garlic powder as your top choice over the fresh garlic bulb. Do the taste test and share your results in the comments below.
If we can tell the differences in garlic bread, it’s likely that you could taste the difference in dishes like garlic popcorn and garlic noodles where garlic is the primary flavor. However, we should test to see if our preferences stay the same for dishes where garlic is one of many ingredients. Would fresh garlic still make a difference in ratatouille or shakshouka?
While there hasn’t been a baby-carrot-style transformation for the garlic industry, garlic comes in many forms to add convenience to our cooking process. And we plan on embracing that convenience, knowing the trade-off in time savings versus flavor sacrifice.
FAQs for garlic substitutes
What is garlic salt vs, garlic powder?
Garlic salt is usually made of salt, garlic powder, and an anti-caking agent.
When do I use garlic powder vs. garlic salt?
You can use garlic salt in a recipe that calls for garlic powder. Remember to reduce any extra salt called for in the recipe to make up for salt already in the garlic salt.
You can use garlic powder in place of garlic salt. Just add extra salt to make up for the missing salt in the garlic salt.
When do I use roasted garlic powder vs. garlic powder?
Roasted garlic powder can taste more caramelized. You can use roasted garlic powder and garlic powder interchangeably, with the same measurements.
When do I use garlic vs. garlic powder powder? Can I substitute garlic powder for garlic? Is garlic powder as good as raw garlic?
As our taste test shows, garlic powder tastes surprisingly similar to fresh garlic. You can use fresh garlic and garlic powder as substitutes for each other.
However, I would be careful when using garlic powder in stir fries. If you add the garlic powder to hot oil, it may burn easily. I would recommend fresh, peeled, or minced garlic for stir fries.
How much fresh garlic is equal to garlic powder?
Refer to the Garlic Substitutes Measurement Conversion Chart at the top of this story.
Knowing our findings, do you plan to abandon convenience and opt for fresh garlic in every dish you cook?