There’s a new form of garlic in town, and it’s good for you! Find out what black garlic is, how to make it, what it tastes like, and most importantly: what black garlic benefits can do for your health.
What Is Black Garlic?
You know what garlic is, but you may have never heard of black garlic (Allium sativum). It’s not a new strain of garlic, nor is it what happens when regular garlic starts to mold and rot. In fact, black garlic isn’t new at all, it’s been used in medicine and cuisine in Asian cultures for centuries. Not unlike a century egg, black garlic is simply what happens when fresh garlic is safely aged.
Black garlic is made by taking raw garlic and allowing it to ferment thanks to prolonged (weeks or months) exposure to warm, humid conditions. This causes what’s known as the Maillard reaction, a chemical changeover that happens between reducing sugars and amino acids, and it amplifies the power of certain nutrients.
If that doesn’t sound too appetizing and you’re wondering what does black garlic taste like, rest assured that, not unlike caramelized onions, black garlic has a mellow, sweet, molasses-like flavor. Aging garlic also gives it a jelly-like consistency and remarkable inky-black color, making it pleasing to both the palate and the eye.
How to Make Black Garlic
To further demystify what black garlic is, and in case you want to try it yourself once you read about its health benefits, here is how you can make black garlic at home. Aging a food without spoiling it can be a fine line, and involves strictly controlling the temperature and moisture content of the environment.
- Gather your ingredients (garlic bulbs and fermentation box or rice/slow cooker) and be prepared to wait: turning raw garlic into black garlic takes anywhere from 3 to 8 weeks to accomplish.
- Scrub about a handful (5-7) whole, unpeeled garlic bulbs clean but do not wash or wet them, as this interrupts the aging process.
- Set your rice or slow cooker to warm (not the lowest setting) to provide the appropriate temperature conditions.
- Place the bulbs inside the cooker and space them so they are not touching one other. Though the garlic won’t be cooking in there, you may experience a garlicky aroma for the duration of this process.
- Leave them sitting right there on the warm setting for at least 3 weeks until they soften and turn black (you may want to check your cooker regularly to make sure it hasn’t snapped back to its lowest setting—consider taping the switch into place if possible).
- Once they’re done blackening, store the bulbs in an airtight Tupperware container for as long as 3 months, harvesting cloves as needed.
What to Do with Black Garlic?
You made it, now how do you eat it? Here are a few creative ideas for how to include black garlic in your diet.
- Pizza topper: Along with olives and feta cheese, why not add some slivers of tasty black garlic too?
- Burger filling: Chop some black garlic cloves in with the other herbs and spices you mix in with your homemade veggie-burgers, or spread it onto the bun for a sweet, barbecue-esque taste.
- Bruschetta topper: Include black garlic on a cheese plate or for a unique bruschetta presentation.
- Marinades and vinaigrettes: Black garlic mixed in with shallots, olive oil, sea salt, balsamic vinegar, etc. adds a totally unique dimension to the flavor of these dressings.
- Toast topper: Dress up your toast with a sweet-and-salty flavor by sprinkling black garlic over butter or prosciutto.
- Stews, soups, and salads: Add black garlic into your slow cooker recipes, soups, or on top of a fresh garden salad.
- Hummus topper: Give a twist to your homemade hummus and treat yourself to a wildly healthy snack.
The Top 5 Black Garlic Benefits
Garlic is well-known for being a healthy food, able to offer immune support and improve heart health. (There are even rumors that it can help guard against vampires!) Full of phytonutrients and other protective compounds, here are the top five health benefits of black garlic.
1. Double the Antioxidants
The fermentation process concentrates the already impressive benefits of white garlic, including up to twice the amount of antioxidants, which bring higher corresponding improvements when consumed.
Antioxidants are compounds that help guard against free radical damage and oxidative stress in the body, potentially reducing inflammation, a major contributing factor to chronic diseases like certain cancers, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases. By consuming black garlic, you could potentially help slow down the aging process and improve your overall health thanks to these antioxidant effects.
2. Vitamin and Nutrient Content
One of the unique components of black and white garlic is the compound allicin, the active ingredient that lends garlic not only its spicy taste but also its anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.
While black garlic is lower in allicin after the fermentation process than raw garlic is, it’s also lower in S-allyl-cysteine (SAC), which can be toxic when consumed in too-large amounts. Black garlic contains phosphorous, a contributor to bone strength and detoxification efforts in the kidneys, along with vitamin B6, vitamin C, calcium, selenium, and magnesium.
3. Helps Lower Cholesterol Levels
Maintaining a balance between “good” HDL and “bad” LDL cholesterol is important for your health and longevity, and aged black garlic can help bring down high levels of bad cholesterol. High cholesterol levels can contribute to heart disease, high blood pressure, and other risk factors for heart attack and stroke.
This Korean study from 2014 found that those taking black garlic extract for a 12-week period showed an increase in HDL and a decrease in harmful LDL cholesterol levels. Not only that, but their blood lipids exhibited a decrease in lipoprotein B, a leading indicator of heart disease.
4. Aids in Diabetes Management
Multiple animal studies have shown that black garlic can aid in regulating blood sugar levels and decreasing the adverse side effects of diabetes. Not only did administration of black garlic improve the overall health of diabetic rats by lessening the effects of nephropathy and atherosclerosis, but their triglyceride, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels all went down by 30-50%.
Aged black garlic improved vascular and metabolic responses in animal subjects, and while more research is needed to assess the bioavailability rate of black garlic supplements in human beings, there are papers published on human diabetic participants regarding regular garlic. Human studies show that patients with type 2 diabetes can achieve improved blood cholesterol ratios with white garlic (when compared to a placebo group), and this suggests that black garlic may beneficially impact humans as well, though those studies are not yet available.
5. Supports Immune Functioning and May Fight Cancer
While it’s true that white garlic has stronger immunomodulatory effects than black garlic, black garlic can also help boost our immune system with some of the same antifungal, antiparasitic, and antibacterial abilities as regular garlic.
The effects of black garlic are being studied in relation to the prevention and treatment of colon cancer and the treatment of leukemia, where introduction of hexane extract of aged black garlic was found to induce apoptosis (cancer cell death) in a laboratory setting. Those findings led researchers to suggest it may be applicable in fighting leukemia.
Black and Backed by Science
The benefits of black garlic are pretty astounding, and the best part is you don’t need permission from a health care professional to try it: it’s as natural as the food on your plate. Whether it’s for novelty, taste, or for the above-listed health benefits, we encourage you to try black garlic as soon as possible.