Is there such a thing as too much garlic?

Are you one of those people who, if they read ‘two cloves of garlic’ on an ingredient list, instinctively puts in four – or more – cloves? Or are you more restrained in your use of ‘the stinking rose’? Wherever you fall on the garlic use spectrum, Eater’s Bettina Makalintal has just penned a thoughtful piece that attempts to explain why so many people choose to pump up the garlic in their cooking.

I’ve always been struck by how much people seem to be put off at the idea of garlic smell on their hands when they mince or slice garlic. You can buy devices that claim to remove the odor, but I don’t mind it at all. I do think you can go overboard with how much garlic is in food, however. If a recipe calls for one clove I might sneak in a second one, but I’m never going to be someone who reads 2 and puts in 10. I agree with recipe developer Emma Laperruque, who likens it to vanilla extract in baking: “It makes everything better, but you don’t need a lot of it.” 

For some folks, the amount used might depend on how fresh their garlic is or the variety they have on hand. If you have an older, tamer type of garlic, 1 or 2 cloves might not make that much of a punch, but if you are lucky enough to find young, fresh, and pungent heads, one clove might be all you need.

In an article in MEL magazine titled There is Such a Thing as Too Much Garlic, Rax King wrote that she considers garlic to be a kind of crutch. “Over-reliance on garlic is an insecure cook’s move — it tells eaters that at least this meal won’t be flavorless like all those ‘simplified’ meals of decades past,” she says. It’s a shortcut to Flavor Town, as Guy Fieri might say.

As with most culinary issues, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to whether you hew closely to the recipe’s garlic measurements or boldly defy them. As long as you are satisfied with the flavor, the right amount of garlic is however much you want to use.

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  • tmjellicoe  on  August 17, 2022

    I am one who minimizes my use of garlic. If it says one clove, I’ll use the smallest one or just a bit of a big one. I like the taste of garlic, it does not like me back. I’ll smell of garlic (breath, pores, sweat) for a day or so if I eat something over-garlic’d and I can taste it the next day long after I ought. Some dishes are worth the indulgence, but restraint is more my flavour.

  • EmilyR  on  August 17, 2022

    When I was a young newlywed I thought a clove was a bulb. I made pesto with several ‘cloves’ (bulbs) and let me tell you that burned something fierce. We laughed so hard and my husband then asked me how much garlic I put in and we sorted out my error. We had hoped it would mellow after sitting for a day or two – it didn’t. It’s still a great tale that we laugh about nearly 20 years later.

  • bradis  on  August 18, 2022

    I find the cloves in a lot of supermarket garlic bulbs tend to be too small so that’s the main reason I add more.

  • lean1  on  August 18, 2022

    If they are really fresh 1-2 cloves is enough for me.

  • snoozermoose  on  August 19, 2022

    When I first started cooking, I used to double the amount of garlic in recipes thinking it would give my food more flavor. I finally got burned when making an already garlic-forward marinade for pork, and the pork was almost inedibly acrid and bitter. Never again!

  • Mcgowama  on  August 19, 2022

    I grow garlic in my garden and use it with abandon! Size of garlic cloves can vary greatly..

  • bhasenstab  on  August 19, 2022

    Typically I add an extra clove or two of fresh garlic when I working from a recipe, because I find most recipes to be a bit cautious when it comes to garlic. And when it is supposed to be a front-row flavor, well, I may add a dash of garlic powder, too. Some kind of monster I may be, but hey, I like garlic. 🙃

  • Rella  on  August 19, 2022

    I always add 1 or 2 extra garlic bulbs to a broth or soup. Loving the taste of garlic, I can eat it raw with a few drops of EVOO for the allicin. I never mind the garlic smell on my hands. I use garlic in a recipe of mine that I have on hand every day of the year: feta, garlic, honey, and extra-virgin Olive Oil. Viva-la-Garlic!

  • Rella  on  August 19, 2022

    Ha, ha! Not Garlic BULBS – Cloves.

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