Does It Matter Which Garlic Powder You Buy?
We tasted nine brands of garlic powder. Here’s what you need to know about this versatile seasoning.
How We Tested
We love garlic in all its forms, including garlic powder. Compared with fresh garlic, garlic powder is time-saving and longer-lasting, but it’s more than just a shortcut or an alternative to fresh garlic. We prefer to see it as a separate ingredient. In recipes where it’s the only source of garlic, garlic powder adds sweet, warm flavor without the piquant tingle and punch of fresh garlic. It’s ideal for dry rubs and breadings because it’s in powdered form. When used in conjunction with fresh cloves, garlic powder provides extra depth and complexity.
Garlic powder likely developed out of a centuries-old tradition of drying garlic for preservation. While native to central Asia, garlic is now cultivated all over the world. In commercial garlic powder production, garlic bulbs are separated into cloves and peeled. Some manufacturers crush or slice the cloves before dehydrating them, while others leave them whole. The dehydrated garlic is then ground either to a fine powder or into slightly larger pieces for granulated garlic. While garlic powder and granulated garlic are often used interchangeably in recipes, we focused on garlic powder for this tasting because more brands offer it and because we call for it more often in our recipes. We purchased nine garlic powders, including some higher-end mail-order products, and tried them in two recipes: Chive Sour Cream, which calls for garlic powder, and Really Good Garlic Bread, which calls for both fresh garlic and garlic powder.
Tasting Garlic Powder
We use garlic powder to flavor dipping sauces and barbecue sauces; in breading for fried chicken; and in spice rubs, mashed potatoes, and even frittatas. Frequently used in combination with other flavorful spices, garlic powder is typically called for in small quantities. Before holding a tasting with a broader panel, we played around with the garlic powders to figure out the best way to taste them. When we made test batches of the sour cream dip and garlic bread, we could taste the garlic, but it was incredibly subtle. To help our tasters home in on each garlic powder’s flavor, we increased the amount of garlic powder in both recipes and cut back or eliminated other bold ingredients such as onion powder. In the Chive Sour Cream, we actually tripled the amount of garlic powder to really bring it to the forefront.
Even with these adjustments, once we got to the broader tasting, many tasters had a hard time telling the samples apart. One product stood out slightly: Tasters liked that it was “on the sharper side.” While a few garlic powders were especially “sweet” or “floral,” our tasters mostly noticed slight variations in strength: Some were mellow, while others were slightly punchier. Tasters liked the higher-end mail-order products, but they were no more nuanced or powerful than the supermarket samples in our lineup.
Any Garlic Powder Will Do
The great news is that every garlic powder in our lineup delivered warm, nutty, spicy-sweet garlic flavor, and we recommend all of them. Our tasters did note a slight preference for the "punchy, spicy, and sweet" flavor of Morton & Bassett Garlic Powder. The garlic bread made with it was "really delicious" and had "lots of garlic flavor." If you see Morton & Bassett in the store, we suggest picking it up. However, we’re confident you’ll be happy with every other product we tasted, too.