While black garlic certainly doesn’t sound all that appetizing – in fact, you might envision it to simply be burned garlic, it’s actually made by “fermenting” whole bulbs of fresh garlic in a humidity-controlled environment in temperatures that range from 140 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit for 14 to 40 days. There are no additives, preservatives, or burning for that matter, of any kind.
Once it’s removed from the heat, the garlic bulbs are placed in a dry area at room temperature to oxidize for 10 to 14 days. The process results in garlic that is matte-black and gooey soft with a somewhat chewy texture and a flavor similar to balsamic vinegar – the normal pungency taste of garlic disappears, which means that even those that can’t stand garlic may like black garlic.
As the Nordic Food Lab describes it, “The process is not, strictly speaking, fermentative—the transformation is due not to microbial metabolism but in part to enzymatic breakdown (the heat denatures alliinase, the enzyme that converts non-volatile alliin into volatile allicin, the compound responsible for fresh garlic’s pungency) and in part to the Maillard Reaction, a cascade of chemical reactions that produce the dark colour and complex, caramelized flavor.”
In fact, food connoisseurs say that it’s a perfect “sweet meets savory” mix of molasses-like richness with slight tangy garlic undertones and a melt-in-your mouth consistency similar to soft, dried fruit. Its appearance on the “Top Chef” and “Iron Chef” reality TV shows put it into the spotlight as one of the latest and greatest true “superfoods.”
In Taoism mythology, black garlic was even rumored to grant immortality – and, while we certainly can’t guarantee that, there is little doubt that it offers a ton of health benefits. It’s packed with nearly twice the amount of antioxidants as raw garlic – researchers have found that the aging/fermenting process appears to double its antioxidants. And, not coincidentally, a 2009 study conducted in Japan found that it was more effective than fresh garlic for reducing the size of tumors.
Black garlic is also filled with a high concentration of sulfurous compounds. One of the compounds in particular, s-allylcycteine or SAC, has been scientifically found to offers numerous health benefits, including the inhibition of cholesterol synthesis – which in layman’s terms means that it can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
It can be eaten alone, on bread, or used in any of your favorite dishes, much as you would regular garlic – but you’ll enjoy even greater health benefits than you would from this already very powerful herb.
If that’s not enough reason to get you to consider getting creative in your kitchen and putting black garlic to work in your meals, these reasons are sure to get you inspired.
4 Reasons To Start Eating Black Garlic
1. Treat type 2 diabetes
Those who suffer from type 2 diabetes know that the condition can wreak havoc on your health due to the effects of oxidative stress. Uncontrolled diabetes may lead to serious complications like kidney disease, heart disease, nerve damage and vision problems – sometimes even blindness.
The potent antioxidants in black garlic specifically can lessen oxidative stress caused by increased blood sugar levels. Multiple studies have found that its high level of antioxidants exert an even stronger effect than regular garlic and could be even more helpful in preventing complications of diabetes.
2. Improve cholesterol levels
While “good” cholesterol, or HDL, is essential for survival, keeping LDL, or “bad” cholesterol in check is important for reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke and premature death. Although raw garlic has gotten most of the praise when it comes to heart healthy benefits, black garlic has recently been the subject of multiple studies, and as it has a slightly different phytochemical makeup compared to raw garlic, as mentioned, it offers even greater benefits for supporting the heart.
A 2014 study conducted at Chonbuk National University Hospital in South Korea found that participants who took black garlic extract daily for 12 weeks say an average increase in HDL (“good” cholesterol), as well as a decrease in allpoprotein B in blood lipids – something that’s considered to be a strong indicator of heart disease risk.
3. Allergy relief and more
Whether you suffer from nasal or skin allergies, black garlic can bring significant relief. Studies have found that it actually has the ability to turn off genes that cause inflammation and allergic reactions in the first place. It’s also known to strengthen the immune system, due to its abundance of antioxidants, which is important whether you have allergies or not.
In addition to warding off allergies, as garlic is considered a natural antibiotic it can even help to battle viruses and infections. A 2012 study conducted at Washington State University found that garlic was 100 times more effective than two top antibiotics for fighting a bacteria known as Campylobacter, which is responsible for many intestinal illnesses throughout the world. It’s been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years, include to help fight the plague in the 18th century.
Garlic has the ability to kill bacteria as well as viruses, fungus’s and pathogens without harming beneficial gut flora, unlike antibiotic drugs.
4. Help heal the liver from alcohol damage
The liver is one of the only organs that can heal itself from damage – if good habits are developed before it’s too late. Alcoholic liver disease occurs as a result of damage from oxidative stress, due to trying to break down the alcohol. That damages liver cells, which can lead to inflammation and scarring over time.
Scientists have found that black garlic can help reduce inflammation and even help reverse the damage of alcohol on the liver, as well as to remove fat that’s accumulated on the river, thanks to its potent antioxidant properties, once again.
How To Make Black Garlic
While black garlic-making machines can be purchased (such as this one on Amazon), you can easily make black garlic on your own without fancy contraptions by using a rice cooker – even if it does take some time!
We have instructions below for making your own black garlic, but if you can’t imagine waiting two weeks or more for your first batch of delicious black garlic, then you could instead purchase it online. This Amazon listing for award winning black garlic has been fermented for an incredible 120 days ensuring that the flavor and benefits are of supreme quality. You can take a look and get more information here.
Buying the right garlic. The first step is to choose the right garlic. It’s important to look for fresh, unblemished bulbs as any flavors of the garlic, including rotten spots, are intensified during the fermentation process. Basically, the higher quality raw garlic you use, the better your black garlic will be. As it’s quite a long process, it’s worth spending a little extra to get the best you can.
Word of warning. The smell of garlic during the fermentation process can be overwhelming. Place your rice cooker in a well-ventilated place, preferably outside of your home due to the powerful aroma it takes on when fermenting.
Fermenting the garlic into black garlic
- Place your garlic upright onto a paper towel into the inner cooking pan or steamer tray in the bottom of the rice cooker.
- Close the lid and then use the “Keep Warm” setting.
- Keep the garlic in the rice cooker on that setting, and leave it alone for at least 14 days. It can be left as long as 40 days if you desire a more intense, smoky flavor.
- When the garlic is ready to be removed, place it in a dry area at room temperature and allow it to sit for another 10 to 14 days before using.
- Place the black garlic into an airtight storage container and store in the refrigerator.
Black Garlic Recipes
There are many different uses and recipes involving black garlic – get started with some of these great ideas.
You can use the cloves just like you would roasted garlic such as pureeing them with olive oil and then smearing the mixture onto crostini, incorporate it into dressings or rub it onto chicken before baking.
You can also get inspired to use black garlic that’s called for in the recipes found at BlackGarlicNA.com, which has a host of fabulous black garlic recipes on its website, including a healthy and delicious main entree, ‘Overstuffed Black Garlic Peppers.’
For double superfood powers, you might want to try Black Garlic Kale, a great recipe to dressing up another one of the world’s most beneficial superfoods, kale – it’s easy to make, incredibly healthy and delicious too.
Renowned New York Chef Julian Medina offers the following advice for a black garlic confit:
“I love to confit black garlic—cook it over low heat for a long time with oil until it’s very soft—and then use it as a sauce or purée. One of my favorites is a black garlic and chili pasilla purée. Chili pasilla is also dark, with an earthy flavor, and the black garlic is mellow and compliments it very well. We use it for a fish, like with a wild striped bass or halibut, something a little flaky.”
Chef/partner of Denver’s Lower48, Alex Figura, notes:
“Black garlic goes really well with lamb, yogurt, and shellfish dishes that have dairy in them. Or make a vinaigrette out of it like you would for mushrooms with sherry vinegar, a little soy (you won’t need salt at all), a neutral oil, some Dijon mustard, and the garlic. It’s so great with a mushroom salad of any sort, and there’s so much richness and intensity in flavor that the salad can become a main course. I’d pair it with something bright and acidic, like strawberries or raspberries, to cut through the force of the mushrooms and garlic.”