How to Freeze Garlic: Step by Step with Pictures

I started googling phrases like “can you freeze garlic” the day I noticed my bulbs started developing mold. This article is a summary of my findings.

One day I checked on a couple of garlic bulbs I had in storage, and it turned out there was a bunch of black dots on the outer layer of the bulbs. Here’s what I saw:

Spoiling garlic bulb
My garlic bulb that started going bad

Something was clearly wrong. Knowing that garlic cloves don’t last that long, I decided it’s time to give freezing a try.

As it turns out, freezing garlic isn’t anything unusual, and in most cases it only takes a couple of minutes to get done. If you want to know how I did it, read on.

Can You Freeze Garlic?

Okay, so for one reason or another, you’re interested in freezing this aromatic. But before you go through the motions, you want to know if it actually makes sense.

If you can either freeze the aromatic or discard it because it will go bad, then freezing is the obvious choice.

Garlic bulb going bad on the bottom
Again, my spoiling garlic bulb. That’s how the bottom looked like.

But what if, for example, you want to know if you can take advantage of a garlic sale in a grocery store, and freeze all the surplus? In this case, the answer is: you probably can do that.

I say “probably,” because freshly chopped or minced garlic gives your dishes the best taste.

That means if you want to make your best garlicky bread to impress your friends or family, go with fresh. But if you’re okay with slightly less aromatic garlic, then freezing is an option.

Warning

Frozen and thawed whole cloves will be a bit watery, and not as firm as fresh ones. In most dishes that makes no difference, but if it might do in yours, stick with fresh garlic.

A whole garlic bulb
A whole garlic bulb

How To Freeze Garlic

There are three popular ways of freezing garlic, and each has its upsides and downsides. After reading the descriptions of all three, you should be able to tell which is best for your needs.

If you’re still not sure, go with the first option, as it doesn’t require much hands-on time, and you can use the thawed garlic in any way you want.

Peeled garlic cloves
Peeled garlic cloves

The Lazy Way: Freezing Whole Garlic Bulbs or Cloves

This way is my favorite because it allows me to do with the garlic anything I want after thawing. That means chopping, mincing, crushing with a mortar and pestle, or using a garlic press.

In my opinion, it’s the best way of freezing garlic cloves (I prefer freezing cloves), but you can freeze whole heads of garlic the same way. Here’s how to do it (UCANR, UOM):

  1. Prep. Clean the bulb from any dirt (if freezing it whole), or remove all the cloves from the head (if freezing cloves). If you go with the latter, you can peel the cloves or leave them unpeeled. It’s up to you. I peel them, so I don’t have to bother with that when cooking the dish.
    Preparing garlic cloves for freezing
    Preparing garlic cloves for freezing
  2. Pack. Place the bulbs or cloves inside a freezer container or bag and seal it tight. Add a label with a name and date if you like.
    Garlic cloves in container ready for freezing
    Garlic cloves in container ready for freezing
  3. Freeze. Put the prepped garlic in the freezer.

Please remember that if you go with whole bulbs, you will have to remove cloves while the bulb is still frozen. That might be somewhat problematic and take longer than you’d like. Just saying.

That’s why I freeze peeled cloves, so they’re ready to use after thawing, and scooping a couple takes only a few seconds.

Freezing Garlic Chopped

Freezing garlic in a chopped or minced form makes it super convenient to use. You just break off the amount you need, and you add it directly to the dish you’re cooking.

The only downside is that you must chop all that garlic beforehand. But hey, you have to chop it at some point, so you might as well do it right now.

Here’s the step by step:

  1. Chop or mince the cloves. Remove all the cloves from the bulb, peel and chop them. Remember that you’re going to add this garlic directly to the dish, so make sure it’s prepped the way you need it to be.
  2. Pack. Transfer the chopped garlic into a freezer bag. Make sure you spread it in a thin layer, instead of leaving it as a big chunk. This way, you will be able to break off as much as you like. Remove the air from the bag, seal it, and label if you want.
  3. Freeze. Chuck the bag or bags into the freezer.

That’s it. Whenever you need some chopped garlic, you take the bag out of the freezer, break off the amount you need, and put the rest back in there.

Peeling garlic cloves
Peeling garlic cloves

Freezing Pureed Garlic with Oil

I put pureed garlic with oil as the last option because I don’t quite like it. But many people swear by it, so for the sake of completeness, I added it as well.

This method requires the most prep, and you must take some precautions to steer clear of botulism poisoning. But if you decide to roll with it, you’re going to end up with garlic in oil that’s ready to use in sautéing, which is nice.

If that’s what you want, here’s what you need to do (UCANR, UOM):

  1. Prep. Peel the cloves and puree them in vegetable oil in a blender or food processor. The general recommendation is to use two parts oil to one part garlic, but feel free to experiment with that ratio.
  2. Pack (immediately!). Pour the mixture into a freezer container, and seal it.
  3. Freeze (immediately!). And to the freezer the container goes.

Please remember that it’s important to pack and freeze the pureed garlic with oil immediately. Not leaving the puree at room temperature is critical here. This way, you avoid the production of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum (UCANR) and stay safe.

The same thing applies to thawing – you should defrost the puree in the fridge, or throw it in frozen into a sautéing pan. Leaving it on the counter to thaw is not a safe option.

Tip

You don’t have to bother with portioning the puree for easy defrosting. According to the University of California (UCANR) the puree stays soft enough to scrape out the portions you need.

How To Thaw Garlic

Okay, so you have your frozen garlic ready for thawing (mine’s below).

Frozen garlic cloves
Frozen garlic cloves

To do that, there are a couple of options. Choose one that best fits your circumstances.

  • In the fridge. This option works well no matter which freezing method you’ve chosen. The only downside is you need about an hour or two for the aromatic to defrost.
  • On the counter. This one works best for frozen bulbs or whole cloves. You remove as many cloves as you need, and slice them (that’s a bit difficult because they’re frozen solid) so they thaw faster. After 10 to 20 minutes, the slices should be soft enough for further refinement: mincing, crushing, or using a garlic press. Remember that this isn’t an option for garlic puree with oil.
  • Throw it in frozen. If you froze your garlic chopped or pureed, often, you can add it directly to the dish you’re cooking without worrying about defrosting it first.

Remember that it’s best to use the defrosted garlic as soon as possible. That means you should thaw only as much as you need for the next dish (that’s what I do), or for the next couple of days tops.

How To Use Frozen and Thawed Garlic

You can use frozen and defrosted garlic the same way you use fresh garlic. There isn’t a specific set of recipes that work well with thawed garlic, so feel free to use it like you usually would.

I use thawed garlic most often in recipes that involve sautéeing meat and veggies, or sauces for pasta.

Sources