When it comes to cancer-fighting foods, we’ve all heard about the benefits of blueberries and leafy greens. But if you’re not eating black garlic, you’re missing out on a major immunity booster—and one that’s pretty tasty, too.
When still encased in its skin, black garlic looks like any other bulb of garlic, but beneath its papery peel is a dark black clove, soft and sticky to the touch. Black garlic is not an alternative variety of garlic, but plain old garlic, naturally caramelized over a month-long period in a humidity-controlled environment.
This process blackens the once-white bulbs, and arms the already beneficial plant with even more health boons. Many call the bulbs fermented, but technically they are not—the process does not involve any microbial action or the addition of yeast or fungus.
Instead, black garlic’s treatment is called a Maillard reaction, a naturally occurring chemical process that takes place when amino acids and sugars break down—similar to the browning of onions on the stove top or the caramelizing of sugar for sweets.
But there’s more to black garlic than its interesting chemical process—it also boasts various health benefits.
The superfood has been shown to contain double the antioxidants of a raw clove. Black garlic also acts as an anti-inflammatory, and some studies have found it to be anti-cancerous. A 2009 study in the Medicinal and Aromatic Plant Science and Technology showed that black garlic was more effective than traditional garlic in reducing the size of tumors.
The black bulb is also high in protein, calcium, phosphorous and s-allylcycteine (SAC), a sulphuric compound that appears to lower cholesterol. Also present in fresh garlic, SAC is over five times more potent in the black variety.
Aside from its health-boosting benefits, one of the most impressive things about this super garlic is its mild taste. Gone is the sharp, peppery flavor of garlic that clings to your breath for days. Instead, black garlic has a sweet, mild umami flavor and a soft creamy texture. You can spread a whole clove on a cracker and pop it into your mouth alone.
Where can you get black garlic?
Don’t worry, you don’t have to travel to any niche grocer or Asian market to score some fermented black bulbs. Many mainstream grocery chains carry it, including Trader Joe’s. Can’t find it at your local store? Amazon carries it, of course. Buy a bag—or five—and start cashing in on a slew of sweet health benefits.
The ways to infuse black garlic into your recipe arsenal seem endless. Purée it into salad dressing or dips or smear it on bread for a garlic bread alternative. You might also consider mincing it and sprinkling it on salads, sandwiches, pasta or tacos—anywhere you want a sweet, umami flavor.
You can use black garlic as a main ingredient too. The following recipe for Black Garlic Tofu puts the black bulb front and center.
Black Garlic Tofu
- 12 oz block of extra firm tofu
- 5-6 cloves black fermented garlic
- 3 T peanut or vegetable oil plus more for frying
- 3 T water
- 2 T soy sauce
- 1 T sugar
- salt and pepper to taste
- ⅛ C chives and chive blossoms
- Press tofu with paper towels to remove water. Cut into ¾ inch cubes. Blot again.
- Blend the black garlic cloves, oil, water, soy sauce and sugar into a paste, using a blender.
- Heat 1 T oil in wok or skillet on high heat. Add a generous pinch of salt and cracked pepper to the heating oil. When it begins to smoke, turn heat down to medium high, and carefully slide the tofu in, you don’t want it to splash.
- Turn over tofu, every minute or so, letting it caramelize and crisp up on all sides. This will take about 10 minutes on medium high heat. Once tofu is crispy and golden, scoop it onto a plate and set aside.
- Carefully pour black garlic sauce into the wok and stir constantly over medium high heat, for one minute, and it will turn shiny and dark.
- Place tofu back in wok with the sauce, stir to coat each piece well, about 30 seconds, and serve immediately. If you cook the tofu too long in the sauce, you will loose the nice crisp you created. Top with fresh chopped chives and chive blossoms.