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The Surprising Health Benefits of Black Garlic

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Here's another food to add to your must-try list: Black garlic. The fermented food is the latest trend to make waves in the culinary industry, and it's a healthy, flavorful way to make your meal way more satisfying. And no, it's not the typical white garlic you're used to. Here's how to use the versatile ingredient (even if you don't like white garlic), and the benefits you score with each bite.

What is Black Garlic?

Regular garlic heads are aged until the cloves turn black and develop a smooth, sticky texture that's similar to roasted garlic. This happens by allowing the bulbs to sit for a few weeks in a humid setting at a low temperature, which facilitates flavor-creating chemical reactions as the amino acids and naturally-present sugars ferment. The distinct black color comes from the production of a compound called melanoidin. As for the flavor? You can expect an earthy, umami-packed flavor that's more mellow than raw or cooked garlic—meaning you may like it even if the traditional variety typically turns you away.

If you want to make your own, DIY experts suggest making use of the rice cooker languishing in the back of the cabinet (here's a quick tutorial). But if you don't have time for that, you can also just buy it at a local specialty store like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. Look for it near the onions, shallots, and (duh) garlic.

Are There Any Black Garlic Benefits?

Rich in phytonutrients and other disease-fighting compounds, garlic has been noted for a variety of health benefits, including its anti-inflammatory effects, immune system support, and improved cardiovascular function. It's also been studied for its cancer-fighting potential. While black garlic is lower in allicin, a powerful compound that gives garlic many of its health-promoting properties, it's still packed with antioxidants. With about 35 calories per serving, it's a great way to amp up flavor and add depth without tacking on tons of extra calories.

So, How Do I Use Black Garlic?

There are so many ways! Black garlic is an extremely versatile ingredient. Here are a few favorites:

On toast: Top it with an egg for an extra protein kick, or use it on a crostini topped with white anchovies or prosciutto for a sweet-and-salty take.

With cheese: The subtly sweet tang of black garlic works well with robust cheeses. Put a few bulbs on a charcuterie or cheese plate for your next party.

In a burger: Chop up some bulbs and mix in with ground meat or beans and spices to make burgers. You could also spread it directly on the bun or on top of the burger to replace butter, mayo, or other condiments.

With hummus: Black garlic is a natural fit for hummus. Try it with creamy white beans instead of the usual chickpeas for a delicious twist on the Mediterranean dip.

In a slow-cooker recipe: Black garlic is perfect for infusing flavor into slow cooker recipes. Here's how to use it when making chicken or pork to add to soups, salads, and entrees.

In a spice rub or marinade: In a food processor, pulse black garlic with shallot, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a little sea salt. Use as a marinade for beef, pork, or chicken.

In a broth or sauce: Using black garlic in sauces is a great way to dress up items like mushrooms and tofu, which take on the flavor of whatever they're prepared with. This Feasting At Home recipe is perfect for Meatless Monday, and it also works well with fish. (Want more Meatless Monday ideas? Get 9 of 'em here.)

 

Jessica Cording, MS, RD, CDN

Jessica Cording is a registered dietitian and wellness writer with a passion for helping others experience a happier, calmer life through drama-free healthy eating.  More →

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