Can You Freeze Garlic Cloves?
Preserve your garlic harvest—or a bonus buy you found at the local market—by freezing. Learn how to freeze garlic safely.
You’ll harvest bigger garlic bulbs when you plant them in fall. Spring-planted garlic produces, but the best harvest follows fall planting. The trick to planting fall garlic is to get bulbs into soil in time to let roots start growing but not so early that tops sprout through soil. Aim for about four to six weeks prior to the ground freezing. After planting, add a thick layer of straw to insulate soil and promote worm activity and further root growth.
Photo by Julie Martens Forney
For garlic lovers, there’s no such thing as too much garlic. But when you grow your own abundant crop or grab a bag of bulbs at the local warehouse store, cloves often start sprouting before you can use it all. What’s a thrifty cook to do? Can you freeze garlic cloves? The answer is a resounding yes.
Garlic is pretty versatile when it comes to freezing. You can freeze raw whole unpeeled bulbs, individual cloves (peeled or unpeeled), or chopped garlic. You can also cook or process garlic into various forms that make meal prep a breeze. Frozen garlic lacks the crunchy texture of fresh, but the flavor remains strong—and definitely lacks the chemical taste that sometimes accompanies jarred garlic.
A common method for freezing garlic is placing peeled cloves—chopped or whole—in olive oil. This is actually the only safe way to preserve garlic in oil. Garlic is a low acid food, and when it’s placed in oil, the environment lacks oxygen. This combination provides the perfect growing conditions for the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which produces botulism-causing toxin.
If you store garlic in oil at room temperature or in a fridge that’s not held consistently below 40°F, you’re putting yourself and your family at risk for contracting botulism. If botulism toxin develops and is eaten, death occurs in a few days without medical intervention. Even when you freeze garlic in oil, never thaw it or let it sit at room temperature prior to use. Always transfer frozen garlic in oil directly from the freezer to a cooking dish.
To freeze garlic cloves in olive oil, puree peeled cloves in a food processor with oil. Use a ratio of 1 part garlic to 2 parts oil. Pack the puree into an airtight container. At this ratio, the oil keeps the mixture from ever freezing solid, so you can scoop out what you need as you’re cooking. Garlic oil makes a wonderful base for sauces and sautéing veggies. It’s also a tasty addition to mashed potatoes, cooked pasta, and artichokes.
A twist on this idea is to create garlic paste. Puree peeled garlic cloves, adding a dash of kosher salt and a little olive oil—enough to form a paste. Use a spoon or scoop to form balls of garlic paste. Flash freeze on a parchment-lined tray, then toss frozen balls into a freezer bag.
If you don’t want garlic oil, you can freeze whole individual cloves—peeled or not—in airtight containers or freezer bags. Once garlic freezes, peels come off easily, but think ahead to your typical meal prep. If you’re usually short on time, it might be worth the effort to peel cloves before freezing.
Chop peeled cloves and tuck into snack size bags, freezing in a thin layer. To use, just break off a piece of the frozen layer. Alternatively, you can flash freeze garlic—whole cloves or chopped—on a parchment-lined tray. Toss the frozen garlic into freezer bags.
No matter how you freeze garlic, be sure to seal it in a container that won’t allow garlic odor to escape and flavor your freezer—and everything in it. Double and even triple bag garlic that’s stored in freezer bags.
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