At first glance, black garlic may look like it’s been sitting out for way too long, but this form of garlic commonly seen in Asian cuisines is beginning to grow in popularity here in the states.
Once considered a secret ingredient found only on the shelves of specialty markets and on the menus of high-end restaurants, black garlic has recently become a favorite of foodies looking to amp up the flavor and nutritional content of their dishes.
This unique ingredient is made from Allium sativum, or regular garlic, and even shares many of the same health benefits as raw garlic, from preserving cognitive function to protecting heart health and more.
However, there are plenty of differences between the two, with black garlic boasting a higher concentration of antioxidants and a distinct texture, taste and aroma all its own.
This form of aged garlic allows for a unique and pleasant taste. Sneak it into a meal for a dinner party and you’ll have your guests questioning the secret ingredient for hours.
What Is Black Garlic?
Black garlic is produced by allowing regular garlic to age in temperatures between 140–170 degrees Fahrenheit for a period of three to four weeks. This allows it to undergo the Maillard reaction, a chemical process that occurs between amino acids and reducing sugars.
Not only does this reaction give the garlic a dark color, chewy texture, and distinct flavor and aroma, but it also enhances the nutritional value of this superfood even more.
The black garlic taste is usually described as tangy with a syrupy, balsamic flavor. It works well in savory and sweet dishes alike and can be used in everything from meat blends to desserts. It’s even available in powdered form to provide an extra dose of flavor with minimal effort required.
When looking at the difference between black garlic and regular garlic, it really comes down to the reduced content of allicin in the latter. Because of its allicin content, fresh garlic has a stronger, more offensive flavor.
This slow-cooking process eventually turns the garlic cloves dark and gives them a sweet taste. It also alters the clove’s consistency, making them chewy and jelly-like, almond like dates.
For centuries, it has been consumed in Japan, South Korea and Thailand. More recently, it was introduced to Taiwan and other countries, and then got the attention of high-end chefs in the states. Today, chefs are using it to add unique flavors to fish, chicken, risotto and soup recipes.
6 Black Garlic Benefits
1. Loaded with Antioxidants
Antioxidants are compounds that can have a powerful effect on health. They work by neutralizing harmful free radicals to prevent oxidative stress and damage to cells. According to a critical review published in the Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, black garlic demonstrates much higher biological activity than fresh garlic, including its antioxidant properties.
Another study, this one out of South Korea, found that allowing garlic to age over a 35-day period to form black garlic causes a significant increase in the antioxidant content, reaching peak antioxidant levels on the 21st day of aging.
During the aging process, the allicin in garlic is converted into antioxidant compounds, including alkaloids and bioflavonoids. While black garlic is slowly cooking, it’s going through a fermentation process that converts its phytochemical compounds.
The antioxidants that emerge have the ability to regulate cell signaling and reduce inflammation. Plus, they have neuroprotective, antithrombogenic, antidiabetic and anticancer activities.
2. Helps Fight Cancer Growth
A systematic review published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine found that intakes of aged garlic are inversely associated with cancer. Twenty-five studies that focused on cancer incidences and aged garlic exposure were evaluated for the review, with results from human, animal and lab studies having mostly consistent reports.
A 2014 in vitro study showed that aged black garlic extract was able to effectively kill off and reduce the growth of colon cancer cells. Similarly, another in vitro study published in the journal Nutrition and Research Practice reported that aged black garlic extract decreased the growth and spread of leukemia cells as well.
Researchers believe that the anticarcinogenic effects of aged garlic is from its antioxidant compounds. The phenolic compounds, in particular, are significantly higher in aged garlic than raw garlic. The components of aged garlic have been linked to tumor markers reduction and help block the buildup of free radicals to inhibit the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.
3. Boosts Heart Health
One of the most well-known garlic benefits is its ability to protect and improve the health of your heart. Black garlic may also help enhance heart health, with some studies even showing that it may be just as effective as raw garlic.
A 2018 animal model compared the effects of black garlic and raw garlic on heart health recovery following damage caused by ischemia, or a lack of blood supply to the heart muscles. Interestingly, researchers found that both raw garlic and black garlic exhibited cardioprotective effects and were equally effective in minimizing damage to the heart.
Another animal model conducted at Dankook University in Korea also showed that it was able to lower levels of cholesterol and high triglycerides to reduce the risk of heart disease.