Garlic is a versatile and pungent ingredient of many dishes, from savory breads to spicy sauces. Learn how to chop, slice, and mince garlic for your recipes.
So many truly amazing savory meals start with a swirl of oil in a pan and a clove or two of minced garlic! If you’re new to cooking (or are just ready to make the leap from jarred garlic to fresh), we’re here to give you the exact steps for perfect minced garlic.
We have all the tricks and tips you need to become an expert at chopping garlic at home. Let’s get started!
What’s the difference between sliced and minced garlic?
There are two main ways to prepare garlic: sliced and minced. Sliced garlic can also be referred to as cut garlic, but it means roughly the same thing. As the name suggests, sliced garlic is cut into thin slices. It takes less time to slice garlic than mince it, but the garlic flavor isn’t as strong.
Minced garlic is garlic that’s cut into tiny pieces. This cutting process releases more oils from the clove. A chemical reaction occurs to create a compound called allicin, which causes the garlic to have a wetter appearance, a stronger flavor, and that characteristic garlic bite! It can take a bit of practice to learn how to mince garlic, but once you get the hang of it, it’s super easy to do, and it’ll result in a more robust garlic flavor and aroma.
When should I use minced garlic?
Minced garlic is best for quick-cooking recipes, such as sautés. It’s very potent and doesn’t have to cook long to release an intense garlicky flavor. Learning how to mince garlic is well worth your time because many recipes call for garlic in this form.
Minced garlic is often cooked in a frying pan alongside chopped onions or shallots. Sautéed together, they add intense flavor to the cooking oil. Minced garlic cooks a lot quicker than onions, so be sure to cook your onions for a few minutes on their own before adding your minced garlic. If you need a refresher on cutting onions, I have a complete guide on how to chop, dice, mince, and slice onions.
When should I use sliced garlic?
Sliced garlic is best for long-cooking foods such as stews. Because the garlic is in larger pieces, it takes longer to cook. If you were to toss sliced garlic in a quick-cooking meal, you might end up with large chunks of bitter raw garlic, so it’s best to use garlic slices only when your dish is cooking long enough to soften the pieces.
Can’t I just use garlic powder or minced garlic from a jar?
We’re all about taking shortcuts if you need to, so garlic powder and pre-minced jarred garlic are perfectly acceptable options if you are short on time and need a little convenience in your life. That said, the flavor and aroma of freshly-minced garlic are much stronger and more complex. If you have the extra minute or two to mince garlic yourself, we recommend it.
Use one teaspoon of garlic powder for each teaspoon of fresh minced garlic called for in your recipe. If using jarred minced garlic, use 1 1/2 teaspoons for each teaspoon of fresh minced garlic.
How do you choose good garlic at the grocery store?
When looking at fresh garlic in the store, you want to be sure the one you choose isn’t too old. You can tell this by picking it up and giving it a little squeeze. The bulb should feel firm, not soft or hollow. Avoid any garlic bulbs that have green sprouts growing from them, as this is a sign that the clove is getting old. If you can, choose a head that looks tightly packed together.
What type of knife do you use to cut, slice, and mince garlic?
The key to picking a good knife for slicing or mincing garlic is to choose a sharp one. You don’t want any resistance as your blade passes through the garlic. When it comes to size, a large chef’s knife is best.
How to peel garlic
- Break one of the individual cloves away from the rest of the garlic. You may need to peel away a few tough outer layers of the skin until you can see a clearly defined clove.
- Set your clove down on a cutting board and use the flat side of a large knife to (carefully!) give it a few firm whacks.
- Separate the clove from the skin, allowing the papery skin to peel right off.
Don’t discard the peels! Stash them in a zip-top bag in the freezer with onion skins, carrot peels, and other vegetable scraps to use the next time you make vegetable broth or chicken stock. Your future soups will be so much more flavorful with homemade stock!
How to cut garlic
To cut your peeled garlic cloves into slices:
- Trim off the root end of the garlic clove and discard.
- Hold your garlic with curled fingers to keep your fingertips away from the blade of your knife.
- Using your sharp chef’s knife, gently run it through the garlic, slicing off pieces roughly ¼ inch wide. You want to use a downward sliding motion. Try to avoid a vertical chop up and down.
How to mince garlic:
For minced garlic, you will follow all of the above steps before moving forward:
- Take your garlic slices and pile them on top of each other.
- Rotate your sliced garlic and use your knife to create ¼ inch slices opposite your original cuts.
- Pile up and slice your garlic again. Repeat until your garlic is in small, even chunks.
What about using a microplane, garlic press, grater, chopper, food processor, or mortar and pestle to mince garlic?
There are as many ways to mince garlic as there are cooks chopping it! We’ve tried them all, and we always come back to just a sharp knife and a cutting board—but a different option might be right for you. Here’s the skinny on each of these methods:
- Microplane: Running a garlic clove over a microplane is a great way to produce a fine garlic paste. This paste is ideal for mixing into liquids like homemade salad dressing. When you grate garlic like this, it releases even more of the essential oils that make garlic taste super pungent.
- Garlic press: We don’t recommend garlic presses because we tend to avoid “unitasker” tools in the kitchen. Plus, you tend to lose a lot of the garlic clove when it gets stuck in the tines. But if you have one you love, go for it!
- Chopper: A small manual or electric chopper can be a great way to mince garlic—especially if you are working with a large amount of garlic.
- Food processor: Most regular-sized food processors are too large to properly chop just one or two cloves of garlic, but they work great if you have a ton of chopping to do.
- Mortar and pestle: A good mortar and pestle (and some elbow grease) work well to crush garlic into a fine paste.
How do you store cut or sliced garlic?
Sometimes we slice a little more garlic than we need for a recipe, but that’s okay. It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days and remain fresh.
Mixing your garlic slices with a bit of oil before storing them in the fridge will lock in moisture to prevent your garlic from drying out.
How do you store minced garlic?
The USDA recommends that minced garlic not be stored in the fridge, but it can be stored in the freezer! Just mix your minced garlic with a bit of your favorite oil and press it into an ice cube tray. After a few hours in the freezer, transfer your frozen garlic cube to an airtight container, where it’ll stay fresh for up to four months.
What else can I do with garlic?
Another great way to eat garlic is roasted! Roasted garlic is super simple to make from a whole head of garlic, resulting in a nutty, sweet garlic paste. It makes a delicious and creamy spread for fresh bread as well as an excellent addition to dishes such as roasted garlic mashed potatoes.