Adding too much garlic is possible but there is a difference between a recipe that calls for 40 cloves roasted and one that needs a teaspoon of garlic powder. The strength of the garlic taste depends upon how it is cooked; roasted it is sweet but raw it holds the pungency we all love in moderation.
If you taste a dish and there is too strong a garlic taste you can; remove the garlic, dilute with a new garlic free batch, cook at a higher temperature, add onion, add aromatic herbs, add a sweetening ingredient, add acidic ingredient or add a creamy ingredient.
Each of these options will depend on the particular recipe you are working on at the time, so let’s just go through each of these scenarios more closely.
What Can You Do If Add Too Much Garlic By Mistake
You do have options here and I am going to rank them in order of most suitable and then look at specific examples of when it is possible to go a little over the top. We see this question coming up a lot when people first grow their own garlic as the strength of flavor when compared to shop bought is notable!
Tasting a dish during cooking is essential and then you can find out that your 5 year old garlic powder isn’t as strong as you may have liked or your fresh homegrown cloves are eye wateringly strong. Here are our top ways to save a dish from the perils of pungent, astringent, bitter and bullying garlic!
Dilute Your Garlic Dish
This can mean making up a new batch without any garlic in and then adding to your overly garlicy batch. Not always practical as you may not have the exact ingredients to add again. However you can then halve the double batch and freeze half to reduce any overall waste. In some ways this is a nice solution as you get a pre-cooked meal another night!
Then you can dilute with other ingredients. This ties in with some of the later solutions as if you had added too much garlic to a stew you can easily add a tin of chopped tomatoes to dilute the overall intensity of the garlic. If it was a chili for example you could add a tin of kidney beans to try and dilute the garlic flavor, you may then need to add more of the other flavors to balance them out a little too.
Remove Any Visible Garlic Cloves
A nice option if you have added garlic cloves or chunky slices, if you are using powder or crushed then this is not always possible. It is relatively easy to achieve though and you can use a spoon to scoop the visible pieces out. Sometimes you will only notice the overpowering flavor once the damage is done and this is a good starting point for saving your recipe.
Once you have removed try and look at some of these other possible solutions as a good next step.
Add An Acidic Ingredient To Neutralize The Garlic
Acid in vinegar or lemon juice will denature the allicin that gives garlic it’s unmistakable pungent flavor. So by adding a squeeze of lemon juice as you are cooking you may be able to take the edge off a dish with too much garlic in. Go gently with this though as you can then create a new flavor issue with too much acid. Try a subtle dash of white wine vinegar or even adding tinned tomatoes for their diluting properties as well as acidic nature.
Add A Sweeter Ingredient To Lighten The Garlic
Sometimes adding a dash of sweetness can counteract the bitter flavor of too much garlic. This is something to add a little at a time. 1 teaspoon of sugar, honey, or even maple syrup can affect the overall flavor of a dish. If adding to a curry or stew, make sure it is incorporated fully before serving.
However this is not always suitable for dishes that are already on the sweet side.
Raise The Temperature Of Your Garlicky Dish
Allicin is the sulfur compound that we are tasting when we experience a garlic flavor. This compound is denatured or ‘killed off’ by cooking. The longer we cook it for the less it is present and therefore the more gentle the garlic flavor is. So you can either go low and slow or turn up the heat.
Word of warning for low and slow is that it’s not always practical to take longer to bring food to the table! Then with turning up the heat you have the issue of burning. Burnt garlic will be bitter and even more unpleasant than just adding too much.
Add Aromatic Herbs To Overpower Garlic Flavors
This can be risky as you will add your soft leaf herbs as a garnish for most dishes. In a pesto that you want to rescue from garlic you can double up on the basil or even add in parsley quite simply. This will give you a larger quantity and it is not always possible to eat this up in one go, but there are lot’s of uses for an excess of pesto!
If you are adding aromatic herbs to a dish like curry or chili go for cilantro and add as a garnish, but a seriously excessive garnish! This will really take the bitterness away to some extent.
Herbs like parsley, cilantro, basil and even mint in some circumstances will work well.
Add Creamy Ingredients To Soften Garlic Taste
Ingredients like coconut milk, yoghurt, double cream or even milk can take the edge off from that overly bitter taste. It can also ‘water down’ the other flavors so take care to add more of any other herbs and spices accordingly. This is perfect for curries or dishes that have a thick sauce. For stews or casseroles a good dollop of sour cream as you are serving is a good rescue plan.
Add More Onions To Overpower Garlic
We are a fan of this to an extent. You must ensure to cook your onions down enough to not introduce a new problem in the form of sharp allium flavors. Onions will compliment the garlic flavor but you can be at risk of overpowering with onions as well.
Best used in conjunction with diluting with acidic ingredients like tomatoes. Adding onion to subdue the taste of garlic is only suitable at certain stages of the cooking process and at this point you may wish to double your batch size and freeze half.
Create A Side Dish To Distract From The Garlic
Use yoghurt and cucumbers or mayonnaise with chopped up basil to create a cooling and flavorsome distraction from your overpowering garlic dish. This can work for dishes where adding creamy ingredients may not work for all of your guests.
You can also add some potatoes or even three bean salad as a side dish that will be eaten in conjunction with your heavily garlic tasting main. It can just take the edge off and means that dinner guests can combine as they please, which is ideal for those with a very keen taste for garlic!
What To Do With Too Much Garlic In Pesto
If you find the flavor of garlic too overpowering in your pesto you have a few options available to you.
You can choose to include roasted garlic rather than raw, this will immediately soften the flavor. Then you can add more basil or even parsley to take the edge off. Or you can reduce your olive oil to increase your lemon juice. The citric acid will reduce the garlic flavor.
This is the beauty of making your own food, you really get to be the decision maker. It is near on impossible to buy the perfect ready made pesto, but you can do it for yourself!
How To Solve Too Much Garlic In Hummus
Sometimes the flavor of hummus can be overrun by garlic, here are some ways to counteract this.
If your hummus tastes too strongly of garlic you can either; Add more chickpeas to the hummus and you will effectively ‘water down’ the overpowering garlic flavor. Or reduce the olive oil and increase the lemon juice. Or add only roasted garlic to your homemade hummus.
These options work well if you have excess of other ingredients to hand. You will know which option suits your own household and I personally love the chance to use smoked garlic which will also give you a softer flavor.
How To Avoid Adding Too Much Garlic
The first way to avoid adding too much garlic is by knowing how it responds to slicing and cooking, you can then prepare it in different ways to change the flavor profile. Then we need to know about conversion rates between fresh cloves and garlic powder.
How Cooking & Chopping Effect Garlics Flavor
You have two chemicals present in garlic – alliin and allinase. These two chemicals will interact with one another when under attack. This attack for a plant is when they are being eaten or crushed. It is a form of self defense to enable them to live on. The alliin and allinase form allicin to make the strong and pungent garlic flavor.
If we bite into fresh, raw garlic we get a full on hit of allicin and it is powerful stuff. If we do not ‘attack’ the garlic cloves and cook them whole then this interaction does not occur. Making a sweet and gentle garlic flavor and aroma. We then have a sliding scale of everything in between crunching raw garlic to gentle roasted whole garlic.
In summary, if you like a strong taste of garlic, add some fresh and crushed towards the end of cooking. If you prefer the gentler flavor of garlic cook cloves whole and for a long period of time.
Ratios For Garlic Cloves Substitutions
Unless you are cooking roasted garlic cloves whole then you may find suitable substitutions in the following ratios. 1/2 teaspoon garlic paste = 1 garlic clove. This is true if you are going to crush the garlic, as we have seen if you are thinly slicing the garlic is will release less allicin and therefore have a more gentle taste profile. This is the same for garlic flakes where the ratio is also 1/2 teaspoon garlic flakes = 1 clove of garlic. Garlic powder is relatively easy to make at home and should be used in the following ratio 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder = 2 cloves crushed garlic.
Hopefully applying these ratios will save a lot of overpowering cooking disasters!
Get experimenting with the way you cook garlic and how you incorporate it into your recipes. There is nothing wrong with going a little off the recipe if you know that the taste is better suited to your family. That is the way family favorites are made! I also think we all need a bit more confidence with our own cooking.
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