Elephant Garlic – What It Is & How To Use It (FAK Friday)

Elephant Garlic - what it is and how to use it

Now THAT is some big garlic.

I grew up in a family where the motto in the kitchen was, “you can never have too much garlic!” Don’t get me wrong, garlic is still a prominent factor in my cooking, but when you get right down to it… you can have too much. Especially if it’s raw. (Roasted garlic, on the other hand, is another story.)

We’ve all experienced eating something with that overpowering bite that garlic can sometimes have, and even to a garlic-lover like me, it’s not a pleasant thing. Elephant garlic is different, though. It may be nearly quadruple the size of a regular bulb, but its flavor is not as powerful as you might think. It’s a gentle giant, this one.

Elephant Garlic - what it is and how to use it

To tell you the truth, I didn’t actually discover this mammoth variety until recently. I’ve known about it for ages, but for some reason have never been able to track it down. Every specialty shop, every farmer’s market… if there was elephant garlic to be found, it eluded me. Why something as simple as this would be so hard to find baffles me — perhaps I will have to plant it myself next year.

While this burly bulb is in the same family as garlic, it is actually more closely related to a leek. In the same way that leeks are milder than onions, elephant garlic is milder, and with a slightly different flavor, than regular garlic — slightly garlicy, but without the sharp, pungent bite. This makes it much more palatable when used raw, and becomes somewhat sweet, like an onion, when cooked.

Elephant Garlic - what it is and how to use it
Elephant garlic clove vs. regular garlic clove

Because the flavor is less intense, elephant garlic isn’t a suitable replacement for regular garlic in applications where the flavor is meant to be very strong or robust. It can, however, be a great addition to a dish when a sweeter, more subtle flavor is needed. Think of it as being like a really big, slightly-more-garlicy, slightly-less-oniony shallot. You can use it chopped or minced, or even shaved thinly directly into a dish, or over the top of a salad.

Since T-Hubs isn’t quite so big a fan of garlic as I am, elephant garlic can sometimes make a happy medium we both enjoy. You can even use it in combination with regular garlic to find the right amount of flavor for you. And, like regular garlic, it can be roasted to bring out the sweetness, perfect for adding depth of flavor to soups and stews, or smeared shamelessly across a piece of bread with olive oil.

Elephant Garlic - what it is and how to use it

When purchasing, look for a firm bulb with plenty of papery outer skin. Keep in mind that elephant garlic has a much shorter shelf life than regular garlic, and should be used within a couple weeks for optimum flavor. When cooking, be sure to use a low heat to prevent the garlic from burning.

Have you ever tried elephant garlic, and if so, what is your favorite way to use it? Share in the comments below!

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36 Responses to Elephant Garlic – What It Is & How To Use It (FAK Friday)

  1. sitbynellie September 7, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    Lovely post! I bought an elephant garlic bulb recently, not knowing it was different in other ways from regular garlic than just size. I was surprised when I found the four giant cloves under the skin, so I roasted them as you would with whole heads of regular garlic. I also did some onions which were roughly the same size, it was superb all together! Sweet and mellow!

    • Willow Arlen September 11, 2013 at 1:31 am #

      Mm, sounds delicious!

    • Carly November 4, 2017 at 3:31 pm #

      I have been using elephant garlic for years now. You can broil it on a cookie sheet with the skins still on, cover with some olive oil and some cracked, black pepper, and some Sea Salt, for 15 to 20 minutes. The skins just pop right off and then I just cut off the ends and mush. It’s great for Pasta Sauce dishes, Pizza’s, Appetizers, Salad Dressings, It makes a great stuffing when roasting a whole chicken, along with some salt, pepper, and some thyme, and it it wonderful if broiled and mixed up in your mashed potatoes with a little sour cream, half and half cream, butter, and some chives.

      • Willow Arlen November 8, 2017 at 8:46 am #

        That sounds phenomenal, Carly, thank you for sharing!

        • La Meem November 22, 2019 at 1:58 pm #

          In some circles, at least the ones I run in, garlic is thought of as … well, a sacrament ! No food , or life , is NOT improved with it’s addition !
          I have heard it’s possible to have too much garlic, but I’m able to believe this is probably a theory spread by other condiment purveyors…

  2. Gretchen @ Two Healthy Kitchens September 8, 2013 at 3:09 am #

    I’m so happy I stumbled across this post!! I was purchasing some garlic yesterday at my local grocery store, and right beside it was elephant garlic. I looked at it for a second – but was quite concerned I wouldn’t know what to do with THAT much garlic, so I passed. Now that I know so much (thank you!!) I won’t be nearly as intimidated!!
    PS – your photos are gorgeous!!!

    • Willow Arlen September 11, 2013 at 1:32 am #

      Thank you — glad to be helpful!

    • Holden McGroin December 28, 2014 at 5:10 pm #

      Intimidated by garlic…seriously?

  3. movita beaucoup September 8, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    I can’t believe I haven’t been using elephant garlic. I pass by it in the grocery store every week, think about getting some, and then don’t. It’s very, very sad. But I’m thinking it would be perfect in my spaghetti sauce. As in: it would take things to the next level. And it would probably help mellow out the tomatoes. Sometimes tomatoes need to get pushed around a bit, don’t cha think?

    • Willow Arlen September 11, 2013 at 1:33 am #

      You pass by it in the grocery store every week? I want to shop where you shop! Elephant garlic would be great in a tomato sauce (you’re right, they do need to be mellowed sometimes). I’ve been using it in eggs a lot lately (omelets and the like), and it’s great that way, too!

  4. Lily @ Life, Love, and Cupcakes September 9, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

    I have never seen nor heard of elephant garlic, but I will definitely be on the lookout! Sounds perfect for soooo many things!

  5. Joyce September 13, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

    For our family garlic is a food group. I just bought some garlic to plant, can’t wait to just go out to the garden and pick some for our yummy dishes.

    I would love for you to share this on Real Food Fridays Link Up.


    • Willow Arlen September 13, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

      Haha – it should be its own food group! Good luck growing your own, that’s a great idea.

      Thanks for inviting me to link-up! :)

  6. Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes September 16, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

    I have yet to come across Elephant Garlic, but I have heard of it- the info you provided in fantastic, I love the idea o mincing up a bit for and olive oil bread dipper!

  7. Stef August 9, 2015 at 9:02 pm #

    Great read! I love garlic too! I prefer the classic variety, but you’re right…sometimes you need the elephant for a lighter taste.
    I make a delicious garlic sauce with it that can be used for dipping, adding to any dish, or just spreading on toast.
    All you do is blend a whole head of the elephant goodness with olive oil and lemon in a blender on high. Amazing!

    • Willow Arlen August 9, 2015 at 11:24 pm #

      Thanks for the comment, Stef! That garlic sauce sounds killer, I’ll have to give it a try the next time I get my hands on some elephant garlic!

      • Stan July 2, 2023 at 2:22 pm #

        Try garlic scape pesto. 10 elephant scapes to 1/3 cup olive oil & lemon juice, 1/2 cup walnut, I use sun flower seeds instead so no allergy problems, 2 tbs nutirtional yeast, salt pepper. Freezes great, put on bread, fish, chicken, baked potato.

  8. Candace November 21, 2015 at 9:14 pm #

    I have some I ordered to plant. Got it from https://www.groworganic.com/non-gmo-and-organic-seeds/vegetable-seeds/seed-garlic/elephant-seed-garlic.html. They tell you how to grow it as well. It is supposed to be in the ground by 11/15, but we are not far off. Good luck.

  9. David September 3, 2016 at 4:28 pm #

    I just found some wild elephant garlic in my back Field, I was quite confused about it at, I am still a little confused. I don’t know how it grew there. We have planted garlic in the past, but not there or elephant garlic. But I am sure that is what it is.
    Another person mentioned a garlic sauce in an earlier post. We make a sauce also.
    2-3 pieces of regular garlic
    1 cup of cold water
    8 ounces of sour cream
    1/4 cup of lemon juice (adj. for your taste)
    1 cup of cooking oil
    Put in a blender on puree
    Adj. the sour cream and oil to make it thick
    The more used, thicker it is
    Add sea salt to taste
    Pour this over grilled beef or lamb on the rod, and use Syrian bread, or fresh Italian bread to dip in the sauce, it is wonderful.
    It is served in restaurants and is an expensive dinner.

  10. irene Sidden September 10, 2016 at 9:34 pm #

    I recently discovered elephant garlic and thought it was wonderful thinking it would be easier to chop than regular garlic. Lol
    anyway I like the milder taste and use it in guacamole and in dishes that require onion and garlic while just using the elephant garlic. Yum.

    • Willow Arlen September 14, 2016 at 2:32 pm #

      That’s a great way to use elephant garlic, Irene, thanks for sharing!

  11. Thom April 20, 2017 at 12:24 am #

    I have been growing Elephant Garlic for many years. I may sell some this at a local farmers market. My wife loves it. She has an acid reflux problem and the Elephant Garlic does not bother her. It is great raw, roasted, or chopped and added to soups, and sauces.
    You can sometimes find it at Safeway stores. If you wish to grow your oun and have any questions, email me at [email protected]. I will try to answer them.

  12. Tim May 14, 2017 at 10:09 pm #

    Hey, I just picked some that spontaneously grew where I plant tomatoes! Couldn’t tell if it was garlic or onion but knew I had something good. Yesterday, I saw it at the farmers market and thanks to this post, I have several ideas for how to use it! Awesome.

    • Willow Arlen May 22, 2017 at 9:19 pm #

      Wow, lucky you! Glad you found my article helpful! :)

  13. Patricia August 13, 2017 at 4:56 pm #

    I live just outside of Portland OR…yesterday attended the North Plains Elephant Garlic Festival…so much fun. Many, many types of garlic…plus the elephant garlic. Food products featuring garlic…beer, ice cream, mashed potatoes, corn, etc. Just a fun day of trying different garlics…buying a multitude of them as well…and listening to live music. Low key affair wiith no charge to get in…the town puts out the welcome mat to everyone who loves a stinky good time!

  14. Beannie September 16, 2017 at 11:49 pm #

    I serve kids, mostly the ones that don’t, can’t or won’t, follow the menu plan at summer camp.
    So I have to use what’s available, left over, left out etc to make budgets work and make things that look like other things on the menu. So..Luckily for me, garlic is cheap, and no one seems to be allergic to it ( especially if they can’t see it lol), It never shows up on an allergy form, or eliminate from diet due to ….
    As you said, roasting,I make a large pan of peppers, mushrooms, carrots, red potatos and 2 bowls ( regular garlic. Elephant in the other) of garlic & fresh herbs and roast them. I store them, in containers mixing them all separately And various mixes of each for the week ahead. I take the bowl of garlic and herbs while still warm and blend most of it into a paste with butter and oil, ( elephant garlic has herbs but olive oil only dairy allergy) store that and I’m ready for anything!!
    Salad dressing, veggie burgers, fake chicken, macaroni,gluten free this and that, I can make anything in the time it takes to make rice! CHINESE FOOD check. Italian check, Greek,Mexican, Spanish, American check check check!
    Using the elephant garlic because it mild melts down and disappears if shaved, make this a flavorful, easy butter noodle dish every kid loves!

  15. Mariana October 29, 2017 at 8:59 pm #

    Hello yes I love it now. I got it on accident at the store I thought it was the same just bigger but thanks for me finding this page and read about it. I threw one big clove from the four it comes in and sliced it twice leaving me three big pieces tossed it in a big pot of beans tossed in some salt and geez the flavor was amazing. Thank you. The brand came out so good.

  16. Bruce June 18, 2018 at 6:47 am #

    Sliced thin it is great with some mayo and lettuce for a roast beef sandwich.

  17. Glen January 5, 2020 at 6:48 pm #

    found some at my local Wal- Mart yesterday when I was getting other items for my pork-butt roast I’m cooking today, Will throw into roasting pan with the Sunrise-medley potatoes,onions,celery,carrots and portobello mushrooms!

  18. Nick February 27, 2020 at 9:58 am #

    I use a juice machine
    Excellent to add into broths and juices
    Garlic onions radish ginger root all fine with healthful antibiotic broth. Gets rid of mouth infections warts hemmroids and ??
    Two cups a day for a few days will do it

  19. Phyllis March 28, 2020 at 6:17 pm #

    Elephant garlic is the a good substitute for wonderful flavor and does not cause allergic reactions for those who cannot eat garlic.

  20. Rob September 23, 2021 at 11:02 pm #

    I bought it at the farmers market thinking it’s large enough to be an amazing roasted garlic experience. So disappointed. They were one solid pieces like an onion but no layers. I was expecting cloves like garlic. After Roasting for almost an hour and expecting a roasted garlic aroma and flavor, I was disappointed to have none of that just a bland flavorless apple like thing. Never again!

  21. Mike McNally March 10, 2022 at 10:42 am #

    Italians call it “aglione” (which literally means “big garlic”). There’s a traditional Tuscan dish involving a kind of thick fresh (not dried) spaghetti-like pasta called “pici”. As with every “traditional” Italian dish there are lots of variations. If you can understand Italian, you can search YouTube with something like “ricetta pici al’aglione” to find recipes. I don’t know where to get that pasta here in the US, but I’ve seen recipes that use dried tagliatelle instead, which should be fine, and bucatini or thin linguine or just plain spaghetti also.

  22. Kari October 18, 2022 at 9:29 pm #

    I guess I don’t have a refined enough pallet, but I’ve been using elephant garlic instead of regular for a while. I really don’t notice a difference in cooking. Even if I can’t find some & use regular, then go back. It sure is easier to deal with though! Easy to peel, and chop. Doing one large instead of 6 little sticky ones. Love it.

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