No matter what anyone says, garlic is a main ingredient. Just like other main ingredients, there are tons of different ways to prepare it. The methods we’re most familiar with are sauteéd, fried, baked, and confited, but you also need to know about black garlic.
Black garlic is made through the process of aging garlic for up to several months, which gives it its distinct black color. The right mix of humidity and temperature produces a chemical reaction in the garlic called the Maillard reaction, which is the same reaction that gives a well-cooked steak its golden crust and color.
But what does it taste like? Unlike raw garlic, which can have a sharp and pungent taste, black garlic has a sweeter, fruitier flavor and a chewy texture to it. It’s honestly not easy to describe, but it also packs some great umami flavor. Just like its cousin garlic confit, it’s versatile, easy to use, and even easier to eat.
You can use it as a topping on whatever your heart desires, as a base for marinades and sauces, or in some compound butter. Your creativity is the only limit.
Professional kitchens use special equipment like proofers to achieve this reaction, but you don’t actually need one to make it at home. The only piece of equipment you’ll need if you want to DIY black garlic is something you already have: a trusty rice cooker.
The process of making black garlic isn’t difficult at all, but it is very time-consuming. Basically, what you’ll need to do is pick out a few bulbs of fresh garlic—the fresher, the better. It’s important that you don’t get any of them wet, but make sure each bulb is brushed clean of any soil or dirt.
After that, you’ll need to load your garlic cloves into the rice cooker and make sure they’re not touching each other. The rice cooker has to be set on “warm,” not “cook.” The low heat is important to encourage the Maillard reaction to take place. Closing the lid on the rice cooker is the final step before the most difficult part of the process: the waiting.
Making black garlic can take anywhere from eight days to three months depending on the conditions at home. The process can also make your entire house smell like garlic, so make sure to put your rice cooker in a well-ventilated area.
If you’re willing to put the time and effort in, here’s how you can DIY black garlic at home.