Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Garlic-Salt Paste

There are several techniques and recipes that I go to again and again.  Some of them, such as pie crusts, broths and an indispensable garlic-salt paste, are buried in posts as part of recipes for dishes that are the real stars.  If I link to these posts to refer you to a technique, you may have to sift through the rest of the post to find what you are looking for.  In order to alleviate some of that annoyance, as well as save myself the trouble of re-posting a set of directions or ingredients over and over again, I think I’ll start making a few posts that feature those techniques or recipes directly so I can link to them when I need to.  I think I’ll start right now.  I think I’ll start with garlic-salt paste.

This is a recipe and technique that I learned watching various Food Network hosts prepare such things as sauces and dressings. It’s a great way to use garlic to flavor something like an aioli or vinaigrette without having chunks of garlic marring its delicacy. I like to whisk it into a salad dressing or stir it into a sour cream or mayonnaise-based dipping sauce.

To make this paste, garlic is finely chopped, then mixed with coarse salt (I use kosher salt) and pressed and crushed with the flat of a chef’s knife. The salt draws out the liquid in the garlic while its abrasive qualities crush up the pulp. You work it and work it until a paste is formed that is smooth enough to mix well into liquid or creamy ingredients. The garlic is tamed a bit by the process, but only, I believe, in that it can be distributed better in your dish. You’ll still be eating raw garlic, and garlic-breath protocols will still be standard procedure.

This technique may take a little practice if you’re not already best friends with a chef’s knife, or some other knife with a wide blade. You will need a wide, flat implement to crush the garlic. A cutting board with a surface that is not completely smooth will also be helpful as it gives the garlic paste some traction and helps the salt abrade the pulp into a paste. (Just be sure to clean the board very well after using it this way.) You might also be able to make this in a mortar and pestle, but I haven’t had much success, or perhaps much patience with getting that to work.

This is something relatively simple that’s worth learning especially if you’re ready to wow your friends and family with a homemade salad dressing or dipping sauce with a little extra flair. It can be made in any amount you need, but I wouldn’t recommend storing the completed paste for more than a day or two. I typically throw together a garlic paste just as I need it, since it only takes a minute or two to make once you get the hang of it.

Garlic-Salt Paste

Fresh, juicy garlic cloves and coarse salt work best for this technique.
garlic clove(s)
coarse (such as kosher) salt (about ¼- ½ teaspoon per clove garlic)

1. Mince the garlic.

2. Add the salt to the minced garlic and chop the mixture to incorporate the salt

3.  Press the garlic-salt mixture into the cutting board with the flat of a knife with a wide blade.  Press and crush the garlic and salt together, extracting the garlic juice and abrading the pulp.  Use the edge of the knife to scrape up the pulp and juice and push it all together again. Continue to press, crush and scrape until a paste is formed.  The paste should be relatively smooth with no immediately visible chunks of garlic.


  1. Very useful, thank you! Having found out that garlic presses are garlic-abusers I threw mine away and am delighted I did. With this technique my garlic wisdom is now complete.

  2. I think I broke the last garlic press I had...and I haven't missed it a bit! :)