Black garlic. It sounds like something occultish or a fancy-pants artisanal variety. But nope — it’s just regular old garlic that has been fermented.
This transformative preparation turns the meaty part of the garlic a shocking, oily, charcoal-y ebony. But does it provide any health benefits? According to some research, yes.
Fermentation changes the taste and texture of the garlic, making it sweet and sorta creamy. Yu-uum! This is probably why home cooks (bored of baking sourdough?) and pro chefs alike are concocting eats and drinks with it left, right, and center.
Though black garlic is probably Korean or Chinese in origin, its umami flavor lends itself well to everything from party dips and pasta dishes to cocktails and cookies.
Black garlic is also ahead of the wellness curve. It’s loaded with complex nutrition that may provide benefits for your whole body. As wonderful as raw white garlic is for you, black garlic may be even better.
Let’s peel back the skin and see what’s so special about these inky-colored cloves.
What are the benefits of black garlic?
Research is still underway. But black garlic has shown the following possible health effects:
- an immune system boost
- help with pain and inflammation
- lower oxidative stress
- lower blood pressure
- lower cholesterol
- reduced insulin resistance
- impeded growth of cancer cells
Not bad, black garlic. Not bad at all.
Yes, individual cloves of black garlic can look like turd pellets, wrinkled cured olives, or weird-looking gelatinous blobs. But there’s a reason it’s called black gold — it’s got a whole lotta goodness!
So, look beyond its unusual appearance to its true wellness-bolstering value. According to a 2017 review, black garlic has a slew of healthful and therapeutic effects in cells throughout your body. Doesn’t that make each one of those little dark nuggets a true gem?
(Keep in mind that many of these studies use concentrated black garlic supplements. The benefits from the black garlic in your stir-fry might be less pronounced, but they still rock.)
Black garlic health benefits
We’ve already alluded to the plethora of positive effects black garlic can have on your bod. Don’t take our garlic-breathy word for it, though. Here’s just some of what researchers have to say:
- One 2019 report suggests black garlic can help prevent cardiovascular disease. The researchers found that black garlic’s high levels of organosulfur compounds act like antioxidants. Among other heart-helping perks, they reduce plaque buildup in arteries and fight inflammation that causes cell damage.
- A 2019 pharmacologic review of black garlic found that the fermentation process changes the chemical compounds in the garlic. This metamorphosis creates the antioxidant, anticancer, and anti-allergic effects. It’s also responsible for black garlic’s role in protecting the liver, improving the immune system, and more.
- A 2015 study on rats suggests black garlic could impact your body’s ability to metabolize fats, which could bring down your blood levels of lipids, triglycerides, and cholesterol.
- Research from 2017 suggests that black garlic has anti-obesity properties. In studies, rats that ate black garlic had less weight gain and fewer/thinner layers of belly fat that those that didn’t eat it. This article also highlighted evidence supporting black garlic’s beneficial effects on brain function and health, the nervous system, and inflammatory diseases.
- A 2009 study on rats suggested that black garlic may reduce risks associated with diabetes and heart disease by improving blood sugar and blood fat markers.
Black garlic benefits for hair
Black garlic shampoos are, like, a thing. But are they any better for you than regular shampoo?
After scouring the interwebs for any scientific data or fact-backed info on black garlic for hair troubles, we came up with almost nothing specific to black garlic. A 2012 review made a vague reference to aged garlic preventing hair loss in a study using mice. Don’t pull your hair out over this.
For lustrous locks
There are bottles and bottles of black garlic shampoos, hair oils, and more in the marketplace. The marketing claims suggest that this hero ingredient can improve the luster and resilience of your tresses.
Whether they actually work is completely up in the air.
Preventing hair loss
Researchers have looked at the effectiveness of regular garlic (and onion juice) as a treatment for various kinds of hair loss, both from the perspective of preventing loss and of regrowing hair. Garlic has shown some encouraging results.
In a small 2007 study, 95 percent of participants who received a topical garlic gel as part of their treatment regimen for hair loss had “good to moderate” results in just a few months.
But this study had only 44 participants, and the garlic gel was used in combination with a steroid cream, which could have affected the results. More research is needed on this topic.
Black garlic benefits for skin
Garlic has been used in natural topical treatments for skin woes for ages. The skin benefits of black garlic include:
- relief from symptoms of eczema. acne, psoriasis, and warts
- defense against skin infections
- support for wound healing
- reduced appearance of signs of aging and UVB damage
- a boost in tissue regeneration
The terms “black garlic” and “aged garlic” are largely used synonymously. Some studies interchange the terms, while others make a slight distinction between them. Yeah — it’s a tad confusing.
Aged black garlic health benefits
Aged garlic is simply garlic that hasn’t gone through the full fermentation process.
If it doesn’t sit and pickle in the target heat and humidity conditions for long enough, it won’t turn black. Instead, it’ll end somewhere on the spectrum between raw white garlic and fully fermented black garlic.
Its health benefits also sit at the midpoint between those of regular and black garlic. (It’s the Kermit the Frog of therapeutic garlic, if you will.)
Because it has transformed a little, its chemical properties will also have changed — just not all the way. This means it might have certain effects that are more like those of raw garlic and some that are more similar to those of black garlic.
Fermented black garlic benefits
Some sources say black garlic is a subtype of aged garlic. This is likely because it has matured for an extended period during fermenting. If raw white garlic is at one end of a spectrum, black garlic is at the other.
The amount of time garlic needs to go from being a raw, white caterpillar to a black butterfly is up for debate. Some guidelines call for 40 to 45 days.
But an academic study regarding the commercialization of black garlic determined that the optimal time can be as little as 13 days. It asserts that, in the proper processing conditions, the garlic will blacken and develop its pharmacological and nutritional benefits in this significantly shorter time.
Garlic and black garlic are considered safe functional foods. Black garlic, in particular, is noted for lacking toxicity.
Negative reactions to black garlic (when it’s eaten or applied topically) are rare. But in a few cases, side effects have been reported:
- Allergic reaction. A 2017 review notes that one woman developed pneumonia as a delayed-onset allergic reaction to black garlic.
- Blood thinning. Using black garlic a whole bunch can produce an anticoagulant effect, which may be an issue for some people who already have blood clotting problems or take anticoagulant medications. It can also result in excessive bleeding after surgery.
- Interactions or contraindications with other meds. Black garlic may amplify or interfere with other drugs, including blood thinners and meds for blood pressure and HIV.
- Other complaints. Too much of a good thing can become a bad thing. Consuming lots of garlic can lead to bad breath, skin odor, and stomach discomfort.
But since black garlic is mellower than raw garlic, it may have milder side effects as well.
Black garlic is a complex but versatile ingredient. It may have its roots in Asian cuisine, but it works well in countless other culinary cultures.
Where to find black garlic
You can find black garlic in some grocery and specialty shops, as well as in Asian markets. You can also order black garlic from online retailers. It’s available in several forms, including whole bulbs, peeled cloves, and powder.
Your other option is to make your own black garlic. It’s incredibly easy to do, and there are tons of instructions online (such as this handy video).
How to use black garlic
Here are some simple, everyday ways to add black garlic to your daily menu:
- Mash it up and add it to soups and veggie purees.
- Blend it with other ingredients to make marinades, sauces, and dressings.
- Mince it for use in dips, spreads, or a freaking amazing compound butter.
- Sprinkle the powder on bland dishes or use it to create a signature seasoning blend.
Get creative and go garlicky-gaga!
Recipes with black garlic
Are you ready for your mouth to water? Check out these black garlic recipes you’re gonna (c)love!
- Black garlic Shishito verde chicken
- Seared scallops with lime black garlic sauce
- Black garlic pappardelle pasta
- Roasted cauliflower with freekeh tabouli and black garlic yogurt
- Black garlic tofu
Sides and snacks
- Carrots with black garlic and herb yogurt
- Black garlic deviled eggs
- Miso eggplant with black garlic
- Black garlic and beet hummus with pita chips
- Sopa de ajo negro (Fermented black garlic soup)
Desserts and drinks
Black garlic is just fermented white garlic. This preparation turns the cloves black and jelly-like and gives them a sweet-tart flavor. It also transforms the chemical makeup of this mighty bulb.
Black garlic and other members of the onion clan have long been used to treat many health concerns, including heart, brain, and liver conditions. The available research supports many of black garlic’s benefits.
Black garlic is a safe functional food. There are few reports of adverse reactions to it. But it can mess with certain medications, so if you currently take any meds, consult your doc before starting a garlic supplementation routine.
You can find black garlic in stores or online. It’s versatile, and you can use it in a whole bunch of foods and beverages.