Garlic

Roasted Garlic Is Simply the Best—Here's How to Make It

All you need is some foil and an oven.

February 19, 2021
Photo by Rocky Luten

Years ago, in what feels like another life, I went to visit my former childhood neighbors who had moved back to the south of France. The entire experience was a culinary revelation for me (see: pan bagnat on the beach, bakery-fresh chouquettes every morning) but one meal stood out. A very typical dinner of grilled veggies and local meat was made complete with one tiny packet of foil filled with pure gold: a whole head of garlic, roasted until creamy and fragrant. We squeezed out the cloves and spread them on fresh bread like butter. It was an allium-epiphany.

My love for garlic is well-documented. In my family, every plate of Italian food involves a fork battle over any rogue cloves. But roasting garlic actually transforms it entirely. Garlic’s signature smell and taste are only released when the cloves’ cell walls are broken, as when it’s chopped (or chewed!). Rupturing garlic cells releases allicin, the chemical compound that gives garlic its pungent bite. As garlic cooks, that chemical reaction tones down, and the allium’s natural sugars start to caramelize (similar to onions) instead.

If you’ve ever dropped garlic on a hot pan and left it a little too long, you know how quickly can burn and turn inedibly bitter. But when roasted slowly in the oven in an enclosed space—either wrapped in foil or a lidded, oven-safe pan—garlic turns sweet and the texture completely changes. The result is quite similar to garlic confit, but with way less oil needed. The cloves become soft and spreadable, and taste more mild and sweet than raw, or even sauteed garlic—which is why you can eat so much more of it. It’s a totally new experience, and I highly encourage everyone to try roasting garlic at least once, even if just to try garlic in a new way. Plus, it could not be easier. Here’s how to roast garlic.

Boom, roasted!

Using a sharp knife, cut off about a half inch or less from the top of the top of the head of garlic. Ideally you want to cut off as little as possible while still exposing the top of the cloves. Place the entire head of garlic in a large piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle a tablespoon or two of fat(I typically use olive oil but you could use clarified butter or schmaltz for a richer flavor) over the whole head. Fat helps the garlic caramelize rather than just steam. Season with a big pinch of salt and plenty of black pepper as well. You can (and I love to) add other flavors in the foil packet while you roast, like a pinch of red pepper flakes and woody herbs like rosemary or thyme. Fold up the packet like you’re wrapping a gift.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I started with peeled garlic in a cast iron skillet, drizzled with olive oil, covered with a pot lid, then roasted on the stove top over the lowest flame possible for about 20 minutes. I tried using the oven, but it was out of sight, out of mind, and I burned too many batches. Fast forward again to today. I still buy just enough peeled garlic for one batch, and roast it exactly the same way. Once golden and tender, I purée the garlic and oil, plus some sea salt, in a food processor. It’s an easy way to always have roasted garlic on hand; if I have it, I use it.”
— boulangere
Comment

You can drop the packet on a sheet pan, or just toss it right into the oven. Roast (or grill!) the garlic for about 45 minutes at 375ºF. The roasting time depends on the size and freshness of the heads of garlic, but ultimately you’re aiming for a golden brown color throughout, and cloves that feel soft and easily squeeze out of their skin. Tip: Roast multiple heads at once to ante up meals throughout the week. Just make sure to use the cloves soon after roasting—Botulism toxins can easily grow on warm or room temperature cooked garlic, so don’t leave out a head of roasted garlic for more than 1-2 hours. Store roasted garlic in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Dig In

My favorite way to eat roasted garlic is still simple: smeared on good bread, preferably toasted or grilled and drizzled with olive oil. It tastes like the most intense garlic bread you’d ever had, yet not too garlicky. But if eating straight-up garlic cloves isn’t your thing, here are a few more options to utilize your squidgy garlic gold.

Deep Dish Skillet White Pizza with Roasted Garlic, Broccoli Rabe, and Bechamel

Resident Baking BFF Erin McDowell’s favorite deep dish pizza involves roasted garlic and now we see why. Add bitter broccoli rabe and rich bechamel into the picture and you have a perfect balanced pizza that ticks all the boxes.

Capunti With Roasted Garlic & Miso Sauce

According to the author, Food52's Resident Pasta Maker, Pasta Social Club’s Meryl Feinstein, this pasta sauce is supremely savory, luxurious, and complex. “Think buttery, salty garlic bread in pasta form.” I was sold at ‘buttery’.

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

One of the easiest ways to appreciate the full benefit of roasting garlic is to swap it for raw in one of your favorite garlicky recipes. These creamy mashed potatoes contain two whole heads of roasted garlic, but the resulting mash isn’t overpoweringly pungent. It’s buttery, rich, and completely delicious.

Roasted Garlic Soup with Olive Croutons

This soup puts the flavor of roasted garlic on full display. Its sweet notes shine, especially when paired with salty, briny olive bread-croutons.

Roberta's Roasted Garlic Dressing

Think of this dressing like Caesar’s more sophisticated cousin: It’s got anchovies, it’s got lemon, it’s got egg yolks emulsified into oblivion. It’s also got more umami and depth thanks to a whole head of roasted garlic, Dijon mustard, and sherry vinegar. Use on any and all salads.

Shrimp Burgers Roasted Garlic-Orange Aioli

These shrimp burgers are outshined by an addictive, citrusy aioli. The creamy concoction is bolstered by a lot of roasted garlic, and would be amazing served alongside pretty much any dish in need of a spread of dip, but especially on a BLT.

Have you made roasted garlic at home? What's your favorite way to eat it? Let us know in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • colbyrne
    colbyrne
  • Adrienne Cookie Tomkins
    Adrienne Cookie Tomkins
  • boulangere
    boulangere
  • Smaug
    Smaug
  • Courtney Kassel
    Courtney Kassel
I want to eat everything crackly, chewy, salty & sweet.

13 Comments

colbyrne February 21, 2021
I did as recipe suggests., olive oil touch of salt in oven as printed. My garlic had some purple in it not all white. The end result was bitter garlic tasted and smelled a bit like Black garlic. I was expecting roasted garlic like at restaurant. I detest the taste and smell of black garlic this is what it tasted like. Was it because I used purple garlic? What happened?
 
Author Comment
Courtney K. February 21, 2021
So strange! Is it possible your oven runs hot or the garlic was rancid? The only thing I can think of is that it potentially burnt, bringing out its bitter flavor. I'd try again on a lower temp. (325-350) ideally it will turn out just like roasted garlic from restaurants (though they tend to use more oil than home cooks!)
 
Adrienne C. February 19, 2021
I just wrap the garlic head in foil and place it on the grill. When it's soft, open the foil and eat the cloves. Everyone raves about it!!!
 
Author Comment
Courtney K. February 21, 2021
I love to throw it on the grill in summertime too! Total perfection with some grilled bread.
 
colbyrne February 22, 2021
thank you
 
boulangere February 19, 2021
I tried roasting a bulb in foil with oil...once. Squeezing the roasted garlic out of what remained of the bulb was an unholy mess. Papery skins stuck to my fingers along with much of the roasted garlic. Fast forward to years owning a restaurant, when roasting by the bulb was out of the question. I started with peeled garlic in a cast iron skillet, drizzled with olive oil, covered with a pot lid, then roasted on the stove top over the lowest flame possible for about 20 minutes. I tried using the oven, but it was out of sight, out of mind, and I burned too many batches. Fast forward again to today. I still buy just enough peeled garlic for one batch, and roast it exactly the same way. Once golden and tender, I purée the garlic and oil, plus some sea salt, in a food processor. It’s an easy way to always have roasted garlic on hand; if I have it, I use it.
 
Rosalind P. February 21, 2021
And no need for foil. Too much used in so many F52 applications
 
noisette369 February 21, 2021
According to what she wrote in the article (I recommend reading the whole article)...” roasted slowly in the oven in an enclosed space—either wrapped in foil or a lidded, oven-safe pan”. No foil needed. FYI
 
Rosalind P. February 21, 2021
Thanks. I skimmed.
Should have read through and not judged. (But still look for ways to not use foil, maybe?)
 
Denise W. February 21, 2021
Were you slicing the top off the head before baking?
Ours mostly just fall out quite easily, but if not, we dig them out with a seafood pick...they come out easily this way too
I’m not a fan of foil...bought a cast iron garlic roaster and feel good about ditching the potential aluminum transfer.
 
Author Comment
Courtney K. February 21, 2021
Hi Rosalind! Yes, as noisette369 wrote, you can roast in a lidded pot or baking dish if you want to ditch the foil, it just makes cleanup a little easier :)
 
Smaug February 19, 2021
One way to roast garlic, used a lot in Mexican cooking, is to simply toss the unpeeled cloves on a griddle and turn them occasionally; very convenient if you're using the griddle anyway.
 
Author Comment
Courtney K. February 21, 2021
Yum! I love this idea, and the flavor charring directly on a grill will impart. I'll have to try this next time I'm using my griddle.