In praise of garlic powder

Watch a few videos of chefs and food writers and most of them will probably tell you that it’s best to cook with fresh ingredients, especially when it comes to garlic. You’ll see differing advice on how best to chop or mince the allium, but by and large most everyone will be saying that fresh garlic is much better than the dried version. Not so fast, says Genevieve Yam. She makes the case for when it is good – and sometimes even preferable – to use garlic powder.

DIY garlic powder from Serious Eats

Much of what amounts to garlic snobbery stems from cultural differences. “I do think there is a definite class bias,” says culinary historian and author Michael W. Twitty. “Open up any Black cookbook: Bryant Terry, Miss Robbie from Sweetie Pie’s, Sylvia’s, Toni Tipton-Martin’s Jubilee. Just keep going. Open any one you want—you gonna find garlic powder.” Writer Helen Rosner told Yam that she was raised in a “garlic powder family.” 

But there is more to it than just cultural traditions. Dried garlic, in its granulated or powdered form, offers differences from its fresh counterpart in ways that can add value. Says Rosner, “Garlic powder gives you the kind of cooked garlic mellowness without ever having to introduce heat to what you’re creating.” The article lists other uses for dried garlic and provides some insight into how it is made.

I’ve always used granulated garlic to make garlic toast and garlic croutons because it can be distributed more evenly and it doesn’t burn as easily. My cupboard will always have jar of garlic granules. How about you?

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  • eliza  on  November 8, 2022

    I never have used it, but I’m reconsidering that now! I was raised pretty much without garlic, and as a young cook, a chef once told me never to use it. Fast fwd many years, I now grow my own…about 70 heads this year…and pickle, roast, and confit it-and also give it to friends.
    Should I give it a try?

  • matag  on  November 8, 2022

    It just makes sense to use the powder if you want even distribution. Will always have fresh garlic on hand for certain recipe though.

  • lean1  on  November 8, 2022

    If I am feeling lazy or making a small sauce I will use garlic powder, making sure that it is not expired or old.

  • Jane  on  November 8, 2022

    I had some in the pantry, left by my daughter, but had never used it until I started cooking from Sabrina Ghayour’s Persiana Everyday last month when it was the EYBCC book. She has 29 recipes in that book using garlic granules. Having read these reasons for using it, I may have to get it out more often.

  • ellabee  on  November 8, 2022

    I used to be a snob about garlic powder because my mother disliked it — along with dehydrated chopped onion, Jiffy pie crust mix, and a bunch of other “convenience” foods she left behind when she started French and Chinese cooking. But recently I’ve begun to use it and regret being put off it so long. It’s particularly helpful in spice rubs for meat and in roasting vegetables, because it doesn’t burn as easily as bits of fresh garlic.

  • MollyB  on  November 9, 2022

    I absolutely agree that there are times when garlic powder is preferable to fresh garlic. My favorite uses are on popcorn (a bit of chipotle powder, garlic powder, salt, and butter is my go-to topping), in a mayonnaise dressing for a simple potato salad, and in spice rubs.

  • SheilaS  on  November 9, 2022

    I’d always been in the fresh is best camp but last year I made my own onion powder and garlic powder by dehydrating and grinding. OMG! So much more flavorful than anything I’ve purchased.

  • averythingcooks  on  November 10, 2022

    I always have it on hand and I use it….never to replace fresh garlic (which I also always have and use generously:) but when it is actually called for in recipes….a quick ingredient search of my shelf for “garlic powder” (as opposed just hits for garlic) got over 1000 hits for books & online sources. It has its place (great example is making your own spice rubs/blends) and even Julia Turshen says that when she makes her really good buttermilk ranch dressing with fresh garlic on its own or garlic powder on its own, the dressing is good BUT only when she uses them together, the dressing tastes like true ranch should.

  • bhasenstab  on  November 11, 2022

    I keep both garlic powder and onion powder in my spice rack, and they are useful in spice rubs, dressings, sauces and all sorts of other ways. You do want to be judicious with them though. You don’t want them to be a front line flavor in most cases.

  • knityourownyoghurt  on  November 11, 2022

    I make “vegan Parmesan” with nutritional yeast, almonds, onion powder and garlic powder. Keeps in the cupboard for months.

    I also keep a jar of minced garlic on hand, or sometimes a mixture of ginger and garlic. Shortcut ingredients can be very useful for weekday suppers!

  • schambers  on  November 11, 2022

    I have been a garlic powder snob, as well, but think this is mostly due to using commercial garlic powder of unknown vintage. This year, I have dehydrated sliced fresh garlic from my garden and have been blown away by the intensity of the flavor.

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