By Dina Cheney
Garlic powder—we grab it out of the spice rack when we don’t feel like hassling with fresh, but to be honest, we always felt a little sheepish about it. It just seems so… uncheffy, like a bit of a culinary cop-out.
But the truth is, garlic powder is more than a busy cook’s harried time-saving swap.
Like parmesan and nutritional yeast, garlic powder brings a generous amount of the amino acid glutamate, responsible for imparting umami (the savory fifth taste). Since the bulbs are dried and the water in them has evaporated, their flavor is concentrated. The result is a pungent, slightly sweet, almost nutty taste. Garlic powder can stand up to high heat that would cause fresh to burn. And for a spice rub, the dried stuff beats fresh for texture.
As an added bonus, the economical staple also supplies some trace nutrients, such as vitamin B-6, phosphorus, and manganese.
So although we still love fresh and prefer it for many things, we’re now going to bring that jar of garlic powder out of hiding.
Pro tip: As with other spices, garlic powder loses its potency the longer it sits, so resist the urge to stock up on the economy size. Buy it in small quantities and use it up as quickly as possible. Feeling adventurous? You can even make it yourself.
Here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy garlic powder:
- Garlic-black pepper popcorn: Toss freshly popped popcorn with garlic powder, salt, ground black pepper, smoked paprika, and extra virgin olive oil.
- Garlic-y meatballs: Add some garlic powder to your favorite meatball recipe instead of fresh for a mellower garlic taste and uniform texture.
- Lime-chili baked sweet potato fries: Toss matchstick-cut sweet potatoes with extra virgin olive oil, garlic powder, chili powder, and salt. Roast in a 425ºF oven until crisp, turning over halfway through. Sprinkle with freshly grated lime zest.
- Crunchy garlic-lemon topping: Mix whole wheat panko with extra virgin olive oil, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, lemon zest, and minced fresh parsley. Sprinkle over baked fish, tofu, or chicken.
- Boosted chicken soup: Add garlic powder to boxed chicken soup and simmer for a new level of flavor.
- Garlic-paprika fish: Brush white fish fillets with mayonnaise (our fave: Primal Kitchen, made with avocado oil). Sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. Bake at 400ºF until opaque, about 8 to 10 minutes per inch of thickness. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and serve with lemon wedges.