Reviews you can trust.See why.
Is there a good shortcut for peeling and prepping fresh garlic? As it turns out, there are a few.
Top PicksSee Everything We Tested
What You Need To Know
I love garlic, but I hate preparing it. The papery skins get everywhere, it takes finesse to perfectly mince the tiny cloves, and I find it nearly impossible to rid my hands of that garlicky smell. I know I’m not alone. There are a variety of presses, peelers, and tools available to make prepping garlic easier, and supermarket shelves are filled with products, from prepeeled cloves to dried and powdered garlic, that aim to shortcut the process. We’ve already given careful consideration to garlic tools, but not to supermarket substitutes for fresh garlic. How do they really compare with fresh cloves?
To find out, we tried seven different products: prepeeled cloves, frozen garlic cubes, refrigerated garlic paste, shelf-stable garlic paste, and three different types of jarred minced garlic. Since we use dried garlic and garlic powder differently than we use fresh garlic—usually in rubs and spice mixtures—we didn’t include them in this testing. For consistency, we used the instructions on the packaging of each of the products in our lineup to determine the amounts that equaled one clove (one product didn’t provide instructions), and then we used each of them to make vinaigrette and aglio e olio (a simple pasta with garlic and oil). We then compared the versions we made with the substitutes to versions we made with fresh garlic that we peeled and prepped ourselves.
Zeroing In on Flavor
The flavor of fresh garlic can be as changeable as a chameleon, ranging from sharp and spicy to sweet and mellow. However, we were surprised to find that the dominant flavors of many of the products were neither punchy nor robust and were instead described by tasters as being “acidic” and “tart.” A “sour” flavor was detected by some tasters, to varying degrees, in five out of the seven products we tried, and it was particularly notable in the pastas we made with the jarred minced garlics, which seemed to have nary a hint of garlic flavor at all.
We looked at ingredient labels and found that all five of the products that tasters deemed “sour” contained chemical preservatives such as citric acid or phosphoric acid. These preservatives keep shelf-stable foods safe by acidifying them, and they most likely produced the tartness our tasters noted. And while this acidity was prominent in the pastas we made with them, it was undetectable in the vinaigrettes that contained a hefty amount of tart lemon juice. Still, these five products had “weak” garlic flavor no matter how we sampled them. That said, we did find two substitutes with the pungent, spicy flavor we expect of fresh garlic: prepeeled cloves and frozen garlic cubes. Why were thes...
Everything We Tested
These cloves tasted practically identical to freshly peeled cloves. A few tasters commented that the pasta we made with these cloves was a bit “milder” than pasta we made with freshly peeled cloves, but most couldn’t tell the difference. The two vinaigrettes we made were indistinguishable. Prepeeled cloves still have to be chopped, minced, or grated, so they aren’t the biggest timesaver of the products we tried. They are also quite a bit more expensive than a fresh garlic bulb ($12.16 per pound versus $3.99 per pound). However, if you don’t want to fuss with papery skins, prepeeled garlic is a great shortcut. (It’s worth noting that some prepeeled cloves available in supermarkets are prepared on-site. Those are priced more in line with fresh garlic bulbs, but their quality and shelf life is variable.)
These frozen cubes were the quickest and easiest replacement for fresh garlic. There’s no measuring required; just pop out one cube from the tray for each clove needed. The manufacturer processes and flash freezes its garlic within 90 minutes of harvesting it, so it retains its fresh, bright flavor. Tasters loved the “bright garlic flavor” of both the pasta and the vinaigrette we made with this product and found them to be “nearly indistinguishable” from the versions we made with freshly peeled garlic. The frozen cubes thaw quickly—the one we added to the vinaigrette was completely dissolved by the time we finished mixing the dressing minutes later. The texture of the thawed cube is very smooth, so it’s not the best option in recipes that rely on distinct pieces of minced garlic for success.
Recommended with reservations
This refrigerated paste can be found alongside the herbs in the supermarket produce aisle. While it had a “punchy” garlic flavor in the pasta, a few tasters also picked up on “sour,” “acidic” notes, likely from the whey and citric acid it contains. However, the tartness was muted in the vinaigrette, which contains a fair amount of lemon juice. This squeezable tube was easy to use, but the smooth paste isn’t ideal in recipes that rely on distinct pieces of garlic.
The most expensive product we tested, this paste had surprisingly “weak” garlic flavor and a notable “tart” aftertaste from the citric acid used as a preservative. A few tasters also picked up on a “musty” flavor, even though the paste was well within its expiration date. Straight out of the tube, it was stark white in color and pulpy in texture, though these off-putting aspects disappeared soon after it was added to other ingredients.
This jarred minced product had tiny, evenly diced chunks of garlic that clung well to pasta and added some texture to vinaigrette. However, it was described by tasters as being “short on garlic flavor,” “mild,” and “muted” in both the vinaigrette and the pasta. While it was less “acidic” than other products that contained similar preservatives, many still noted its unpleasant “tart” aftertaste.
“Where’s the garlic?” asked one taster of this jarred minced product. Many cited this product’s “muted” garlic flavor and prominent tartness, which made the pasta unpleasantly acidic (though the acidity wasn’t noticeable in the vinaigrette). Its small pieces of minced garlic were distinct, but this textural advantage couldn’t make up for its lack of garlic flavor. “If I couldn’t see the pieces, I wouldn’t know the garlic was there,” noted one taster.
While roasted garlic is typically sweeter and milder than fresh garlic, this product had no discernible garlic flavor at all. As one taster commented, “I can see and feel the pieces, but I can’t taste any garlic.” A few tasters who did pick up some garlic flavor noted it tasted “musty” and “a bit acidic,” likely due to the citric acid used as a preservative. As for texture, its dark-colored pieces were mushy and a bit gritty.
Reviews you can trust
The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing.