Preserving Garlic

By · On Mar 05, 2008

garlicAs we all know, garlic preserved by any method is not a substitute for fresh, but it does have its own charms and advantages. Different methods of preserving garlic lend themselves to their own culinary uses, so explore them all and see which ones best suit your needs.

There are six excellent methods for preserving garlic. They are freezing garlic, drying garlic, garlic vinegar, garlic salt, garlic oil, and refrigerator garlic pickles.

Before we examine the specific preservation methods, I want to emphasize that preserving garlic in oil is not safe unless the garlic oil is frozen. Garlic is a low-acid food and oil provides an oxygen-free environment, a combination that allows the growth of the bacteria Clostridium botulism, which causes botulism. However, if you follow the methods in this article for freezing garlic-and-oil mixtures and keep them frozen until needed, it is safe.


Here are a few useful gadgets for garlic lovers, that will help with peeling, mincing, storage, and the like:

Freezing Garlic

Perhaps the easiest way to preserve garlic is to freeze it. Just peel the cloves and place them in freezer bags in the freezer. Easier yet, simply place the unpeeled garlic in freezer bags and remove as needed. With both these methods, the cloves become a little mushy when they are thawed, but their flavor remains good.

Another method for freezing garlic is to chop it and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. With this method, you can simply grate or break off small amounts of chopped garlic as needed, which is helpful for cooks who often must quickly throw a meal together.

You can also freeze garlic that has been pureed in oil. This is nice because the oil keeps the mixture from freezing solid and it can be spooned out as needed, another help for busy cooks. To make frozen garlic oil puree, place one part peeled garlic cloves in a blender or food processor along with two parts olive oil. Puree the mixture, then immediately transfer it to a freezer container. Cover the container and place it in the freezer. Do not store the garlic oil puree at room temperature or in the refrigerator because the mixture can support the growth of Clostridium botulism bacteria.

Drying Garlic

Peel the garlic, making sure to discard any bruised or damaged cloves. Cut the cloves in half lengthwise, place them in an electric food dehydrator, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for drying.

If you do not have a food dehydrator, you can dry the garlic in your oven. Make drying racks by stretching cheesecloth over the oven racks and securing it with toothpicks. Place the garlic on the racks and turn the oven to 140 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours, then lower it to 130 degrees until the garlic is completely dry and crisp.

Garlic Vinegar

To make garlic vinegar, take a bottle of white or red wine vinegar and drop in either whole or chopped garlic. Use as much garlic as you wish, as long as it is completely submerged in the vinegar. Store your garlic vinegar in the refrigerator and use both the vinegar and the garlic in salad dressings or any dish that calls for both vinegar and garlic. Garlic vinegar will keep, refrigerated, for about four months. If mold develops, discard the mixture.

Garlic Salt

Place dried garlic in a blender and process it until it turns to powder. Add four parts sea salt for each one part garlic powder and process for just a second or two to combine the two ingredients. Do not process the garlic salt too long because it will cake. Store the garlic salt in an airtight glass jar.

Garlic Oil

Fresh garlic and oil are a dangerous combination if left at room temperature. Because of garlic’s low acidity and oil’s lack of oxygen, they can cause botulism toxin to develop. However, peeled cloves of garlic can be added to oil and stored in the freezer for several months.

Commercially prepared garlic in oil contains a preservative to increase the acidity of the mixture and keep it safe. To make garlic-flavored oil at home, add dehydrated garlic to olive oil in a wide mouth jar, screw on the lid, and place the jar in the refrigerator. If the olive oil turns solid, just spoon it out. Be careful, however, to always use a dry spoon.

Refrigerator Garlic Pickles

Loosely fill a glass jar with peeled garlic cloves. Add enough red or white wine vinegar to cover the garlic and then add about one tablespoon of sea salt per cup of vinegar. Dried (not fresh) herbs such as red pepper flakes, bay leaves, and oregano may be added to taste. Cover the jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake to distribute the salt and herbs. Refrigerator garlic pickles will keep almost indefinitely in the refrigerator, as long as the garlic remains submerged in the vinegar.

Vicki Chelf is the author of Vicki’s Vegan Kitchen* and other healthy cookbooks. Visit her on the web at Vicki’s Vegan Kitchen.

*This post contains affiliate links. If the product is purchased by linking through this review, VegKitchen receives a modest commission, which helps maintain our site and helps it to continue growing!

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  1. Sam says:

    I just came across your site when I was looking up my garlic question. I puree garlic in bulk ( the Sams club size botte) with a little salt, put them in small freezer bags and freeze them to use. Recently I found that the ‘frozen’ garlic in the freezer remains in a semiliquid form ( soft sticky pulp, not frozen) even when the other items in the freezer are adequately frozen! Why does this happen? Should I be concerned about botulism?

  2. Nava says:

    Sam, this is a good question. This is a guest article written by another author, so I will ask her to respond here as soon as she can. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Victoria Renoux says:

    Hi Sam,
    I believe it is probably the salt that keeps the garlic from being frozen hard. Think of the salt sprinkled over icy roads in wintertime to melt the ice. Salt is a preservative, and the freezer is obviously cold enough to freeze other foods, so it feels safe to me, but I am a cook, not a scientist.

  4. Sam says:

    Thanks Nava and Victoria for your replies. I have cooked with this garlic and had no issues ( medically), though my food gets thoroughly cooked when spiced with garlic!

  5. Emily says:

    I would think that garlic could be refrigerated (or home canned) in citric acid and water. I mixed 1 t. of citric acid in 8 oz. of water and using a pH strip, it registered a solid 1 which is extremely acidic. What does everyone think of this? Would it work?

  6. Richard W says:

    Re: Canning garlic and acidity.
    I suggest that you look up UC (University) of Davis “preserving garlic”- it explains that it it EXTREMELY difficult to home can garlic.

  7. Emily says:

    I decided against the home canning method and am keeping it at 33 degrees with a pH of 1. I have the pH strips and am adding citric acid as needed to keep it at this extremely acid level. I just can’t stand the idea of wine flavored or vinegar flavored garlic…but a “lemony” favor is far less objectionable. If I’m still alive in 6 months we’ll know it’s effective!

  8. Judith Smith says:

    I have been chopping homegrown garlic and covering with EVOO then storing in fridge for use. We usually use it in a week or two and I repeat the process with fresh garlic from our stored heads, as the jar gets empty. We spoon it out of jar, oil and garlic together for use. Am I putting my family at risk doing this?

  9. Nava says:

    Judith, I’m not the garlic expert, so I’ll get the author of this article to answer your question. Stay tuned…

  10. Victoria Renoux says:

    Hi Judith,

    I think if it is in the refrigerator, and used quickly it may be ok, but frankly, I wouldn’t take the risk. Why not add some salt, and vinegar, or place it in the freezer? It will not freeze solid, and not be much different than in the fridge.

  11. mike says:

    i live in mijas publo southern spain
    most restaurants in this part of spain
    just put olive oil and garlic in bottles and leave it on the tables at room temperature (can be +35c) untill it is used
    i am sure this is not safe but after 12 years i have never heard of any problems!!

  12. John Cowan says:

    Hullo all,

    Have just harvested & dried this year’s garlic crop (South Coast NSW) & am currently plaiting like a madman! However I will have lots left over that is not suitable suitable for plaiting & therefore will be looking to preserve some for that short period of each year between the old lot sprouting – Septemberish – & harvesting the next crop – mid to late Novemberish. Has anyone tried preserving peeled garlic cloves in brine? Did it work? What proprtion of salt?


  13. Nava says:

    John, sorry for the delayed response. I’ve just gotten so behind on responding this month. I’ll contact the author of this post and see if she can weigh in on your question of preserving garlic cloves in brine. Stay tuned …

  14. Emily says:

    Well…it’s been 7 months and I’m still alive. The best method I’ve found is indeed using citric acid and maintaining the pH of 1 in plain water refrigerated. The garlic remains firm and the perfect color. Unfortunately I just ran out…so next May I will have to put up a half gallon instead of a quart. It held it’s flavor perfectly and was much better than any store bought. Runs a close second to fresh.

  15. Kris Graham says:

    can someone give me the recipe for using citric acid and water? I have a lot of peeled garlic that I thought I was going to cook, but I know that I will never finish it all.

    thanks KGraham

  16. Linda says:

    Even better than pickling is to culture the garlic cloves (like traditional saurkraut, with whey from yogurt or other culture medium). It is a very old and more nutritious way of preservation. Needs refrigeration after fermentation.

  17. Barb says:

    I saute garlic in olive oil and then put in jar with more olive oil and refrigerate. How does this sound?

  18. Nava says:

    Barb, this sounds really good and delicious, though I have no idea how long this would last. Likely it would be used up quickly, as it goes with everything.

  19. MARTHA says:

    I placed a lot of peeled garlic in a glass jar with olive oil covering it in the refrigerator for about a couple weeks now. I just looked up how to preseve garlic. I’m afraid to use it now. Will it still be good if it has been in the refrigerator with only the oil?

  20. Nava says:

    Martha, since it has only been a couple of weeks, and refrigerated, it should be OK, though this method is specified more for freezing. I can’t say, though, with 100% certainty, so if you feel uneasy about it, don’t use them.

  21. Leonardo says:

    Thank you very much for this list of methods. I found it very helpfull. Just one point that might be improved… Botulism is caused by Clostridium botulinum (not by C. butulism).
    Thanks again

  22. Nava says:

    Thanks for this valuable information, Leonardo.

  23. sandiepac says:

    Yesterday just made a larger than normal batch minced garlic and covered in olive/sunflower oil and refrigerated to give to some friends. After reading, now nervous,should I recall? Can I now add salt or vinegar or both to the refrigerated batch at this stage and still use?

  24. Nava says:

    Hello — why don’t you advise your friends to use this batch within a week, and if it is too much to use in such a short time, to freeze small portions. This should be fine.

  25. Ralph says:

    I noticed that supermarkets have garlic in jars that seem to be in water,and they are on the store sre these preserved, they seem to have a really fresh flavor.
    Thank you

  26. Nava says:

    Hi Ralph — the garlic in jars in supermarkets has some sort of preservative to keep it fresh. One that is used is phosphoric acid, the same ingredient that’s used in cola drinks. While it’s probably safe in minute amounts, phosphoric acid is not considered a healthy ingredient and too much can lead to side effects. Before you consider buying, see what is used as a preservative and do a quick search on it!

  27. Cheryl says:

    I’m addicted to garlic stuffed olives.I realized I like the garlic better than the olives. Would it work to buy cheap bottled olives and put the garlic in the olive brine? Would it work for pickles too? Should I heat the brine? Blanch the garlic? Any ideas.

    Also, the place I buy the stuffed olives has gotten rid of the brine & covered in olive oil. After reading about not storing garlic & olive oil is this olive garlic & olive oil combo safe?

  28. naomi chumo says:

    thank you guys for all your comments. They are all very informative

  29. Debbie says:

    Hello, what about lacto fermentation. Myself and others in our off grid community have been lacto fermenting a lot of our veggies as we believe it is excellent for our stomachs. We put 2 tablespoons sea salt to one quart of water . This works well. You can do a search to find wonderful recipes.

  30. joyce says:

    how long can u preserve garlic bn it in oil, salt or vinegar

  31. Nava says:

    Debbie, sorry for the lag in approving your comment, it went under my radar. Thank you so much for this suggestion, which sounds very simple and effective.

  32. Nava says:

    Joyce, can you clarify your question? It’s hard to understand what you mean. Thanks!

  33. Wyatt says:

    When freezing garlic, how long can it be kept in the freezer?

  34. Mel says:

    Where can I find ph test strips thta measure to a 1. most start at 4.5?

  35. Nava says:

    Hi Mel — Amazon has a bunch of choices, though I wouldn’t know which to recommend:

  36. Nava says:

    Wyatt, this is a really good question, but I couldn’t find a straight answer (and I couldn’t reach the author of this article). Like all fresh foods, probably the sooner used, the better. My semi-educated guess is 1 to 3 months. If you find anything more specific, can you come back and post it here? Thanks!

  37. Eve says:

    I am roasting my garlic cloves drizzled with EVOO and sprinkled with salt and pepper. Can I freeze them when cooled for later use in dishes?

  38. Lorna says:

    I have harvested a lot of garlic this summer and have read all the above comments on preserving, I am going to try the puree and oil method and freeze in ice cube trays so I can pop a small or large amount straight into my cooking, I have in the past simply put the garlic into olive oil with peppers and herbs, but will stop this method now.

  39. Nava says:

    Eve, this sounds like a good way to store garlic in the freezer. Just make sure that there is as little air as possible in your container. My best guess it that these will keep well like this for 3 months.

  40. Nava says:

    Lorna, this sounds like a good plan; as I said in the comment above to Eve, just make sure that you cover this in such a way that there is as little air as possible, and that no air can get in, to avoid freezer burn.

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