someone is mincing garlic on a cutting board
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

We Tried Every Garlic Shortcut We Could Find — Here’s What We’re Buying from Now On 

updated Jan 8, 2021
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Whatever your go-to dinnertime dishes might be, chances are, they contain garlic in some way, shape, or form. There’s the fresh stuff (which we’re guessing you almost always double), the powdered stuff (which has its own special purpose), the jarred stuff (for those who abhor the process of finely mincing garlic), and more. And because we know just how much you guys love garlic, we know you’re always looking for quick ways to get more into your nightly dinners. Fact: As much as we love the taste and flavor of garlic, very few of us love spending all that time peeling off the papery skins, mincing, and then scrubbing that lingering smell off our fingers.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

That’s why, here at Kitchn, we’ve tried pretty much every single garlic option out there. Now that our dragon breath has cleared, here are our top picks for the best garlic powder, jarred minced garlic, packaged pre-peeled garlic cloves, and frozen crushed garlic cubes.

Credit: Kendall Wenaas

The Best Garlic Powder: Trader Joe’s California Garlic Powder

Although there isn’t a huge discernible difference among garlic powders, some are definitely better than others. One brand we tried had barely any flavor, while another had a bitter aftertaste, and one lost points for being too clumpy and hard to use. Of all the options we tried, Trader Joe’s stood out for having the strongest, most detectable garlic flavor. Plus, its super-smooth, finely ground texture made it easy to sprinkle and incorporate into dishes. Considering its low price and deep flavor, TJ’s is our pick from now on.

While you can’t really use garlic powder as a direct substitute for fresh garlic, it does have a place in your spice cabinet for dry rubsspice blends, and more.

More info: Trader Joe’s California Garlic Powder, $1.99 for 2.6 ounces at Trader Joes.*

*If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, you can find it online (at a premium) at Walmart, for $7.99 and Amazon for $6.38. We also like Simply Organic Garlic Powder if you can find it.

Credit: Kendall Wenaas

The Best Jarred Garlic: Polaner Chopped Premium White Garlic

A busy night when you reach into your stash of garlic bulbs and only find papery skins is the kind of moment when you’re happy to have a jar of chopped garlic tucked away in the fridge. Does jarred garlic taste exactly like the fresh stuff? No, but it certainly gets the job done in a pinch, and many people swear by it. The trick to having a pleasant minced garlic experience is finding a brand that tastes as close to fresh as possible — and that crown goes to Polaner Chopped Garlic. It has a crisp, slightly sweet flavor and enough bite to give any dish a good garlicky kick. This stuff has no bitter aftertaste when eaten straight — just pure garlicky goodness.

BuyPolaner Chopped Premium White Garlic, $4.33 for 4.5 ounces

Credit: Danielle Centoni

The Best Peeled Garlic: Kroger Peeled Garlic

Peeling garlic and getting the papery skins stuck to your fingers is a top pet peeve for a lot of folks. That’s where those bags of whole peeled cloves in the produce section come in to save the day. They’re especially handy when you need to incorporate whole cloves in a dish and can’t do the smash-and-peel trick. 

You might think all fresh, whole peeled cloves of garlic would taste the same, but nope. We gathered all the brands we could find and tasted them three ways. First we scraped the cut side of the cloves with a knife to extract the juices. Sampling the juices straight-up gave us a chance to detect all the nuances. Then we minced the cloves and gently sautéed in olive oil and spooned on top of white bread. Finally, we roasted the cloves in foil. 

Buy: Kroger Peeled Garlic, $2.49 for 6 ounces

Some brands were drier and less juicy than others. Some had a bitter aftertaste even after sautéing. One was far too mild and almost flavorless with lots of teeny tiny cloves. Another package contained an alarming amount of bruised cloves. Worst of all, one brand was almost rank with garlic that was past its prime even though the sell-by date was a month away. Kroger’s store brand easily came out on top for offering good-sized, high-quality cloves with a hot and spicy, clean and bright, just-peeled flavor. As a bonus, the cloves are packaged in five separate little vacuum-sealed pouches, so you don’t have to rush to use all of them at once. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

The Ultimate Garlic Shortcut: Dorot Crushed Garlic

We’d be remiss not to mention what we, at Kitchn, consider to be the ultimate garlic shortcut for true garlic-lovers: these ingenious frozen cubes of crushed garlic from aromatics brand Dorot. Each pack contains 16 (1-teaspoon) cubes made of mostly garlic (91%), oil, lemon juice, and salt, frozen individually into a little plastic tray. To use, just pop into whatever you’re cooking and it’ll melt right in.

Kitchn’s Food Editor-at-Large, Christine Gallary, swears by them and so do many other Kitchn staffers. We love these cubes so much, they consistently make our list of Kitchn Essentials. This frozen garlic isn’t as strongly flavored as fresh, but as far as shortcuts go, this one is definitely the closest swap.

Buy: Dorot Crushed Garlic, $0.90 for 16 at Walmart

What’s your go-to garlic shortcut?