Fresh garlic turns black, sticky and sweet in a slow fermentation process.

I get excited when I find something new at the grocery store. This time it was “black garlic.” Two whole heads of the garlic, nested in a plastic carton, cost about triple what ordinary garlic costs. The label said they were produced in Las Pedroñeras, a town in La Mancha, known as the garlic capital of Spain. 

Although black garlic has become trendy in Spanish gourmet cooking, it is not a Spanish invention. It probably was invented centuries ago in Asia. 

The whole head of garlic is submitted to a kind of fermentation process (Maillard reaction) with controlled temperature and humidity that turns the cloves of garlic black. The outer, papery skin turns a tan color and the individual cloves become black, soft and sticky and decidedly sweet. Yep, sweet, with a complexity that immediately made me think of chocolate. Or molasses. Although black garlic is virtually fat-free, it has an unctuous, buttery consistency. 

Black garlic has no garlicky smell, no bite, no garlic after-burps. According to what I read, black garlic has got all the health benefits of fresh garlic, with none of the unpleasant side effects such as bad breath. Chew one a day as a potent antioxidant. Better yet, experiment with black garlic to see what best to combine it with. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Squash a clove of black garlic on toast and spread it like butter. Top the toast with orange marmalade. Or anchovies. Or sausage. Cheese, perhaps?

Five slices of toasted baguette have each been spread with a clove of black garlic. They are topped with, from left, sliced hard-boiled egg and a dollop of black garlic yogurt sauce (recipe below) and a sprinkling of smoked pimentón; slices of black-pepper Mallorcan salchichón; sliced avocado and a ribbon of salsa (hot sauce); anchovy fillet with strips of piquillo peppers, and smoked salmon with cream cheese, capers and chives.

Mash several cloves of the black garlic and mix them with mayonnaise, vinaigrette, cream cheese or yogurt. Use the sauce on burgers, vegetables, pasta, potatoes, fish, or just about anything!

Black garlic and yogurt sauce plus a dribble of ketchup top a chicken burger. (Recipe below.) 

Mix crushed black garlic with butter or extra virgin olive oil. Smear it on corn-on-the-cob, baked potato or cooked green beans.

Better than butter! Whip black garlic with extra virgin olive oil and chill it until thickened.

Make a dramatic garnish for gazpacho and salmorejo.

Ajo blanco is a traditional Málaga cold soup, a white gazpacho. It’s made with fresh garlic, olive oil, bread and ground almonds. This black and white version is garnished with dollops of black garlic as well as traditional grapes. (Recipe below.)

Add black garlic to chocolate.

Black garlic and chocolate have an affinity. These chocolate clusters incorporate raisins, peanuts and a piece of black garlic clove.

Black Garlic Yogurt Sauce

Aliño de Ajo Negro

Serve this sauce as a spread for hamburgers, a topping for baked potatoes or a finishing touch with vegetables such as green beans. Note that the resulting sauce, once garlic and yogurt are combined, is not black, but a tan color. 

For 1 serving:

2 cloves black garlic

1 tablespoon Greek yogurt


Pinch of cumin

Few drops of Tabasco or other hot sauce

Mash the garlic in a small bowl. Stir in the yogurt until smooth. Season the sauce with salt, cumin and Tabasco. 

Black Garlic “Butter”

Manteca de Ajo Negro

Why did I think that black garlic and olive oil would emulsify? They don’t. But, after blending, then chilling, the olive oil partially congeals and can be whipped with the garlic to make the perfect “butter” for slathering on corn-on-the-cob. The sweetness of the black garlic complements sweet corn. 

10 cloves black garlic

1 tablespoon water

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon flaky salt

½ teaspoon chopped parsley

In a blender or mini food processor, puree the garlic and water. Whirl in the olive oil. Season with salt and parsley. Chill the mixture, stirring occasionally, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours. Immediately before serving, stir the garlic-oil again. Serve it cold.

Black and White Garlic Gazpacho

Ajo Blanco y Negro

Grapes are a traditional garnish for ajo blanco, a white gazpacho. This one has spoonfuls of black garlic as well.

White-garlic gazpacho, made with almonds, raw garlic, bread and olive oil, is a traditional cold soup in Málaga. The black garlic makes a contrasting garnish for the soup. I kept the ajo blanco thick, so that the garnishes don’t sink to the bottom. 

Serves 4

For the black garlic garnish:

8 cloves of black garlic

1 teaspoon Sherry vinegar

2 teaspoons water


Mash the garlic in a small bowl. Stir in the vinegar and water. Season with salt to taste. 

For the white gazpacho:

2 slices (3 ounces) day-old bread, crusts removed


2 cloves garlic

½ cup ground almonds (unsweetened)

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

Grapes, to garnish

Break the bread into pieces and place it in a bowl. Cover with water and let the bread soak until softened. Squeeze out most of the water and place the bread in a blender with the garlic, almonds, oil and vinegar. Add enough water so that the blender works, about 1 cup. Season the gazpacho with salt. It can be thinned with additional water, if desired, but the black garlic garnish will sink if the gazpacho is too thin.

Chill the gazpacho. Serve the gazpacho in small bowls. Garnish each with some of the black garlic. Garnish with grapes.

Chocolate Clusters with Raisins, Peanuts and Black Garlic

Bocados de Chocolate con Pasas, Cacahuetes y Ajo Negro

These chocolate clusters with black garlic are yummy.

So perfectly does the black garlic blend with the chocolate, fruit and nuts that no one is likely to detect it unless you tell them! The candy clusters need to be kept refrigerated, as the chocolate softens quickly in a warm room.

Makes 12 (2-inch) clusters

4 ounces dark (74 percent) chocolate, chopped

Pinch of pimentón picante de la Vera (smoked, hot paprika)

12 pieces black garlic (half-garlic cloves)

2 ounces dark seedless raisins (1/3 cup), chopped if very large

2 ounces roasted, salted peanuts (1/3 cup), coarsely chopped

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Make room for it on a refrigerator shelf.

Place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of boiling water. Sprinkle the chocolate with pimentón. Heat until the chocolate is melted.

Drop chocolate onto garlic, chill.

Place the pieces of garlic, a few inches apart, on the baking sheet.

When chocolate is melted, remove the bowl from the pan. Stir in the raisins and peanuts. Scoop up chocolate, fruit and nuts with a teaspoon. Use another teaspoon to push the chocolate on top of each piece of black garlic. When all the chocolate clusters are shaped, place the baking sheet in the refrigerator until the chocolate solidifies, at least 1 hour.

Remove the clusters from the baking sheet. Store them, layers separated with parchment, in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Or, you could just eat the cloves of black garlic like bonbons.

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