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Does It Matter Which Garlic Powder You Buy?
We tasted nine brands of garlic powder. Here’s what you need to know about this versatile seasoning.
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What You Need To Know
We love garlic in all its forms, including garlic powder. Compared with fresh garlic, garlic powder is time-saving and longer-lasting, but it’s more than just a shortcut or an alternative to fresh garlic. We prefer to see it as a separate ingredient. In recipes where it’s the only source of garlic, garlic powder adds sweet, warm flavor without the piquant tingle and punch of fresh garlic. It’s ideal for dry rubs and breadings because it’s in powdered form. When used in conjunction with fresh cloves, garlic powder provides extra depth and complexity.
Garlic powder likely developed out of a centuries-old tradition of drying garlic for preservation. While native to central Asia, garlic is now cultivated all over the world. In commercial garlic powder production, garlic bulbs are separated into cloves and peeled. Some manufacturers crush or slice the cloves before dehydrating them, while others leave them whole. The dehydrated garlic is then ground either to a fine powder or into slightly larger pieces for granulated garlic. While garlic powder and granulated garlic are often used interchangeably in recipes, we focused on garlic powder for this tasting because more brands offer it and because we call for it more often in our recipes. We purchased nine garlic powders, including some higher-end mail-order products, and tried them in two recipes: Chive Sour Cream, which calls for garlic powder, and Really Good Garlic Bread, which calls for both fresh garlic and garlic powder.
Tasting Garlic Powder
We use garlic powder to flavor dipping sauces and barbecue sauces; in breading for fried chicken; and in spice rubs, mashed potatoes, and even frittatas. Frequently used in combination with other flavorful spices, garlic powder is typically called for in small quantities. Before holding a tasting with a broader panel, we played around with the garlic powders to figure out the best way to taste them. When we made test batches of the sour cream dip and garlic bread, we could taste the garlic, but it was incredibly subtle. To help our tasters home in on each garlic powder’s flavor, we increased the amount of garlic powder in both recipes and cut back or eliminated other bold ingredients such as onion powder. In the Chive Sour Cream, we actually tripled the amount of garlic powder to really bring it to the forefront.
Even with these adjustments, once we got to the broader tasting, many tasters had a hard time telling the samples apart. One product stood out slightly: Tasters liked that it was “on the sharper side.” While a few garlic powders were especially “sweet” or “floral,” our tasters mostly noticed slight variations in strength: S...
Everything We Tested
This garlic powder had a “really nice nutty, toasty flavor.” It was “sweet and spicy” and had a “strong allium aftertaste.” Garlic bread made with this powder had “buttery, garlicky goodness,” in the words of one taster.
Mild but pleasant, with a “well balanced, not too sweet, bitter, or pungent” flavor. The level of garlic taste was faint and some detected a “dried,” “dusty” flavor and texture. As one taster put it, “It’s acceptable, but it doesn’t knock my socks off."
This garlic powder was “mellow” and “mild at first,” but with a "spicy finish." One taster said it made “punchy-delicious” garlic bread. Another taster said, “It had heat that reminded me of fresh garlic.”
“Mild, mellow, and sweet,” this garlic powder allowed the other flavors in the recipes to shine through. “It’s light but still has flavor,” said one taster. When used on garlic bread, it had a “sweet and slight spiciness” and was “kind of fruity.”
Tasters liked the “earthy,” “toasty, nutty garlic flavor” this garlic powder provided. It was “slightly spicy.” In the sour cream dip, this garlic powder had an "almost raw garlic flavor" that tasters said provided "characteristic garlic heat."
“Sweet and garlicky,” the flavor of this garlic powder was “pronounced, but not harsh or overwhelming.” Garlic bread made with it was “milder at first but had a garlic heat that kicked in at the end.” Some tasters also noted a “faint sweetness and toastiness.”
The most expensive garlic powder in the lineup had “just the right amount of garlic flavor.” While it was still “milder than others,” it provided enough underlying garlic flavor. “I could eat a loaf of this,” noted one taster of the garlic bread made with this powder.
This garlic powder had “just the right kick from the garlic.” It had that “sticky-sweet garlic flavor” and was “faintly nutty.” One taster praised it for being “not too sharp, not too mild.” Another taster agreed that it “still tasted very good but was less garlicky” than other garlic powders in our lineup.
The least expensive garlic powder in our lineup was “sweet” and “floral.” Tasters liked that this "milder" garlic powder was noticeable but "not overpowering." Both the dip and garlic bread made with this powder had a pleasant "hint of garlic" flavor.
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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.
Carolyn is a senior editor for ATK Reviews. She's a French-trained professional baker.