The Flavorful Reason You Should Be Adding Water To Garlic Powder

A lot of cooks take garlic seriously. They know to avoid some of the most common methods for storing garlic and keep their whole heads in a cool, dark spot in the pantry. They peel, smash, slice, mince, or crush every clove only once the recipe calls for it. Likely, cooks could have a preferred garlic variety and know the difference between softneck and hardneck garlic. They might even ponder coinciding a trip to California to attend the Gilroy Garlic Festival – where the whole city smells like garlic.

For many, dealing with a head of garlic is a dreaded, sticky, stinky part of making a meal. There are countless convenient, processed garlic options for these cooks: shelf-stable jars of minced garlic, tubes of garlic puree, pre-peeled garlic cloves, and frozen garlic puree cubes. Of course, there's no shame in utilizing any of those options.

But one of the best garlic shortcuts to try is dried garlic. Even garlic snobs have to admit this is an essential spice to have around and deserves respect. However, we will warn you that it's potent stuff so be mindful of how much you add to a dish or recipe. If you do use it, dried garlic needs some water to reach its full potential.

Garlic powder needs water to reach its full potential

If you've ever made Chex Mix at home you know it's an incredible vehicle for garlic powder. A half teaspoon is enough to provide garlicky goodness to eight cups of cereal, and nuts. Chex Mix recipes call for the spices to be mixed into the melted butter and Worcestershire sauce to ensure an even coating of flavor. But there's another (often) overlooked reason why this step is crucial.

The cooks at America's Test Kitchen explain the magic that happens when dried garlic, either powder or granules, gets a chance to hydrate in some water. Allicin is the main compound that gives garlic its flavor — becoming unlocked as garlic is cut. Dried garlic skips this step or it's already happened. But that pungency can be revived. Water will bring two compounds back to life that releases allicin. After sprinkling an equal volume of water over the dried garlic, it'll only take a few moments to smell that reaction.

Put garlic powder paste to the test!

Hydrating dried garlic with water is an easy-to-implement step for upgraded garlic flavor and an easy way to improve most recipes. Thankfully, for recipes like Chex Mix, it happens without most realizing why. Maybe the best thing to remember is that merely sprinkling dried garlic powder onto food isn't as effective as it could be.

For the rest of us, garlic bread is a great way to see how effective this trick is. In fact, America's Test Kitchen developed a garlic bread recipe. For this, they still use a store-bought loaf of Italian bread split into a top and bottom half. But the recipe diverges from the norm by implementing the dried garlic and water trick. That unlocked paste is then added to butter, salt, and cayenne pepper. They double down on the garlic by microwaving freshly minced garlic paste in butter till the garlic starts to brown and the bread becomes toasted.

The result? A supremely garlic-forward garlic bread. It might even inspire the one man who lived off ketchup and garlic powder while lost at sea to get back on the garlic bandwagon!