How Can I Tame Garlic’s Bite?

If you’re sensitive to garlic’s intense flavor, here’s how to make it a little mellower.

Published May 2, 2022.

Does anyone else have the same love-hate relationship with garlic that I do? There’s no substitute for the pungent warmth it brings to the table, but let’s be honest—it really knows how to wear out its welcome.

Garlic’s aroma is a gift that keeps on giving, leaving us self-consciously sniffing our breath and scrubbing our hands long after dinner is over. So if you want to mellow out that harsh flavor, there are a few options available to you.

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The first step to minimizing garlic’s sting starts at the store: Buy fresh heads of garlic that feel firm and have no smell (garlic shouldn’t be aromatic until its cell walls have been ruptured). The way that you store your garlic is also important; at home, store the heads somewhere dark but with plenty of airflow to keep them fresh. 

If your garlic has started to sprout, it’s still usable but will have a harsher flavor; save it for cooked applications instead of using it raw, as cooking will mellow it. But keep in mind, there’s no need to discard the green sprout, either—it’s perfectly safe to eat!

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

It sounds almost inedible, but assuming you can get normally harsh-tasting garlic to turn mellow and sweet, you’ll understand how this dish became a French classic.
Get the Recipe

If you’re extra-sensitive to the flavor of raw garlic, you can parcook whole cloves in the microwave before prepping them: Just microwave whole peeled garlic cloves until they’re warmed through but not cooked, about 2 to 3 minutes. Or why not incorporate a head of roasted garlic into a meal? The roasting process takes sharp, pungent raw garlic and transforms it into a balanced, sweet, and truly flavorful delight.

As for that lingering smell on your hands, washing your hands with baking soda or lemon juice can help a little . . . or just do what I do and avoid the issue entirely by outsourcing the job of prepping garlic to the first person who offers to help!

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