How To Cut Garlic Taste

Garlic seems to be universally loved by every cuisine around the globe. But, too much of a good thing can overpower and dominate a dish and even an entire meal.

Luckily, even if your love of garlic got the best of you and you were a little heavy-handed, here are 6 easy ways to balance too much garlic taste in a dish.

First, I’ll give an overview of each method and explain when to use it. Below, I’ve added more detailed technical tips on how to put each solution into action.

6 Ways To Cut Down On Overpowering Garlic

1. Bulk Up Your Recipe

Roasted Garlic over Steamed Rice

One of the best ways to tone down a recipe that’s too garlicky is to simply make more of it. But hold the garlic this time.

By bulking up your recipe into a larger batch you’ll be diluting the concentrated garlic flavor. This is a great solution because you’re not adding any outside ingredients that maybe don’t belong in the recipe in the first place.

The only downside to this approach is that it can take a lot of extra time depending on what the recipe is. And of course, you’ll need to make sure you have enough of the ingredients for the dish on hand.

2. Increase Your Cooking Temperature Or Time

garlic roasted on high temperature

Raw garlic can have a sharp and spicy flavor. But, as it cooks it can become mild, complex, and even sweet. If you’ve ever tried roasting a whole head of garlic for an hour or two, you know you can basically pop entire cloves in your mouth like little garlic candies.

So, if you have the time, you can tone down the intensity of garlic by cooking your dish for longer or at a higher temperature.

3. Mask Garlic With Other Strong Flavors

Bowls with Red Onion, Garlic and Spices on Table

If you’ve added too much garlic it can dominate a dish and become the only thing you taste. This solution works by using other strong-flavored ingredients to mask some of the overpowering garlic flavor.

Onion is a popular ingredient to use here, but you can also use things like dried spices or fresh herbs to do the trick. 

This is sort of like fighting fire with fire, so be sure that the other strong flavors go well with the dish you’re making.

4. Add Sweetness

Variety of sweeteners - Stevia, sugar, pollen and honey

Sweetness is a flavor that can work well to balance the spicey, pungency of garlic. You definitely don’t want to overdo it with this one, as you don’t want your dinner turning into dessert.

Sugar is the obvious choice, but you can also use different juices, honey, jam, or jelly just as well. 

Use a sweetener that matches the other flavors in the dish.

5. Add Acid

Squeezing Lemon Juice on Mixed Salad

Just like with sweetness, acid works to balance out the sometimes aggressive nature of garlic. Not only will adding more acid to a dish tone down too much garlic, but it will make the entire thing brighter.

Even if your recipe isn’t too garlicky, there aren’t many recipes that wouldn’t benefit from a little squeeze of lemon juice to brighten them up.

6. Add Dairy Or Other Fats

Chef adding olive oil in red pepper soup pot

Dairy, creamy ingredients, and fats do a great job neutralizing the taste of garlic, and generally rounding out the flavors of a dish.

Cream, yogurt, coconut milk, and cheese are good options, but may not always be appropriate for your recipe. Luckily, just about anything is better with a little extra olive oil or butter.

How To Put These Solutions Into Action

When Bulking Up A Recipe

adding more water to the dish

There are a couple of ways to go about bulking up a recipe and diluting a strong garlic flavor. 

For soupy dishes, it can be easy to bulk up the dish by simply adding more liquid. In this scenario, you may even be able to get away without adding any other ingredients to the mix.

Just by adding a little more broth or tomato sauce, you can effectively dilute the garlic taste in a soup. Just remember that you’ll also be diluting the other flavors as well. So, be sure to taste your food and adjust the other seasonings as needed.

For dishes that are on the dryer side or ones that have meat or vegetables that you don’t want to overcook, you may need to cook an entirely separate batch without garlic. Then, after the second batch is finished, you can go ahead and mix the two together.

When Cooking Out The Garlic Flavor

Chef putting minced garlic for cooking Pad Thai

Just like with bulking up a recipe, there are a couple of different ways to go about cooking out garlic that’s too strong.

If you’re dealing with a soupy or saucy recipe, you’ll just want to gently simmer the dish for an extended period of time. Taste as you go to check your progress. Be careful here not to overcook other ingredients and also not to over-reduce the liquid.

For dry dishes, such as items that are sauteed or roasted, you’ll actually be looking to caramelize your garlic a little bit. This mellows out the sharpness and increases its natural sweetness. Again, be careful not to burn or overcook any of the other ingredients involved.

When Masking With Other Strong Flavors

adding spices at the end of cooking

This method will look different depending on the dish at hand.

Dried spices should be added early on in the cooking process as they need time to rehydrate and do their thing. So I wouldn’t recommend dumping a bunch of dried cumin or paprika into a dish once it’s already finished cooking. 

If you need a quick fix when everything is done cooking and ready to hit the table, try using fresh herbs or raw onion. This doesn’t require any additional cooking time, and it can add a ton of freshness, color, and texture to a dish.

When Adding Sweetness

chef adding sugar to spicy food

Using sweetness to balance garlic is a great technique that you can employ at just about any point in the cooking process. But, a little goes a long way. You’re not looking for the dish to actually taste sweet, so start with just a touch, taste, and repeat.

When Adding Acid

vinegar in a cup

Whether you’re using lemon juice, lime juice, or vinegar, you should add your acid at the end of the cooking process. Or better yet, once your pot or pan is off the heat.

The acidity in citrus juice and vinegar will diminish rapidly as it’s cooked. So, a few drops after cooking, or a lemon wedge at the table are your best bet.

When Adding Dairy Or Other Fats

Adding milk to food

Similar to adding acid, additional dairy or fat is best added towards the end of the cooking process. If cooked for too long some of these additions can end up breaking or curdling, leading to an unpleasant appearance or texture. So, all you need to do is stir them in and warm them through.

Cream or half and half are good options for a lot of different soups that may have too much garlic. And coconut milk is a go-to for a wide range of curries and can keep the recipe dairy free.

Adding a few pats of butter or glugs of good olive oil to finish a dish are also good options to balance and round out too much garlic taste.

Cooking With Garlic 101

how to cut garlic

A few things to keep in mind when cooking with garlic.

First, the finer you slice, chop, mince, or crush your garlic, the faster and more aggressively it will flavor a dish.

That means recipes with a short cook time will benefit from more finely cut garlic, but also less of it. On the other hand, things like soups and braises that cook for a long time will usually benefit from larger pieces or even whole cloves of garlic.

Also, the longer garlic is cooked the milder it becomes. So, along the same lines, recipes with a shorter cook time will generally require less garlic, while longer cook times can often handle more.

If you only want a mild garlic flavor, try adding whole cloves straight in the pot or in a sachet. Then fish them out once you have the taste and aroma you like.

We also have a tutorial onhow to prep garlic for anyone just getting started or if you simply need a quick refresher.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Balance Out Too Much Garlic?

Sweetness, acidity, and fat all work well to balance out too much garlic. Start by adding small amounts and taste as you go, so you don’t end up completely changing the taste of a dish.

What’s The Best Way To Fix Too Much Garlic In Mashed Potatoes?

Adding more butter, cream, or milk to your mashed potatoes will tone down too much garlic. Alternatively, you can add a second batch of mashed potatoes without any garlic to dilute the flavor.

How Can You Fix Baba Ganoush That Tastes Too Much Like Garlic?

Baba ganoush that has too much garlic can be balanced out by adding more olive oil and lemon juice. You can also serve the baba ganoush with fresh herbs, which will mask some of the strong garlic taste.

About the author

William is a classically trained chef, who spent years cooking in top NYC restaurants before bringing his talents home to Colorado. Now a stay-at-home dad, William has brought his passion for professional cooking home, where he continues to cook and bake for his wife and daughter.