Garlic Powder: Yay or Nay?

We've recently started rethinking our stance on garlic powder.

It's always seemed to us like a poor substitute for the real thing, and something we can throw in when we don't feel like going through the trouble of peeling and mincing. But a few situations have come up recently that have made us wonder if we've been a little too quick to judge.

What's your opinion?

Garlic powder is made from garlic cloves that have been dehydrated and ground into fine particles. The flavor is garlicky but vastly different than fresh-chopped garlic. We think it tastes sweeter and less harsh, but also without the caramelly undertones that you get from roasted or sautéd garlic. It's more one dimensional.

We started rethinking our opinion of this ingredient while trying to duplicate our favorite store-bought creamy roasted red pepper soup. We had the texture just right and the flavor was almost there, but something was missing. We scanned our spice cupboard and finally landed on an old jar of garlic powder wedged in the back. A few teaspoons of this added the the perfect sweet-garlic note.

Then we started thinking about other places that garlic powder might come in handy: sprinkling on homemade popcorn, spice mixes for dry rubs on meat (chopped garlic tends to burn and become bitter), in hamburger patties and meatloaf for getting a more even garlic flavor. Garlic powder can even be used to get brighter flavors in low-sodium dishes.

Garlic powder certainly isn't going to become a substitute for fresh garlic any time soon, but we're willing to give it more consideration in our cooking.

Do you cook with garlic powder? What do you use it for?

Related: Food Science: Help for Garlic Breath!

(Image: McCormick)