Although fresh garlic will always give the most flavor to a dish, for convenience, garlic powder or garlic salt are always the clear winners. Either are perfect for the times when you need to cook fast, or you just want to add some garlic flavor as a topping to a dish.
Garlic salt and garlic powder may often be found next to each other on the grocery store shelf, so are they really that different? Both garlic salt and garlic powder can be used to add garlic flavor to a dish, and both contain dehydrated garlic. However, garlic salt is not as strongly flavored as garlic powder as garlic salt is made from garlic powder and salt. A good quality garlic powder is just dehydrated garlic that has been finely ground.
What Are the Advantages of Using Garlic Powder?
Garlic powder is the fastest way to add some garlic flavor to a dish without needing to prepare and cook fresh garlic.
Garlic powder has more of a mellow garlic flavor when compared with fresh garlic, which it means you can add just a little garlic to salad dressings, soups and other foods which may otherwise be overpowered if fresh garlic was used.
It can also be used in dry rubs and marinades where it will disperse easily and stick well to the surface of the meat. It can also be a component in other seasonings such as spice mixes.
You can also use garlic powder to make a super-fast garlic bread, just mix in some garlic powder, fresh or dried parsley and a little salt (if required) to melted butter or olive oil and spread it onto some crusty sliced (or even stale) bread before baking in the oven or toaster oven at around 350°F.
Unlike using fresh garlic, which can vary considerably in strength between bulbs and even between different sized cloves, a half teaspoon of garlic powder will always give a consistent garlic flavor and if you need more, you just need to add a little from the jar instead of needing to peel, slice and brown more fresh garlic.
As a milder form of garlic, it has to be said that garlic powder may not always bring out the best when used in place of fresh garlic in some dishes – especially where the garlic is a key flavor, but for most dishes, garlic powder is fine and will add enough garlic flavor to the dish.
How is Garlic Powder Made?
Garlic powder is made from fresh garlic which has been dehydrated. The type of garlic used is usually Softneck (Allium sativum) garlic as this species has a less complicated aroma and taste and can be stored for longer than Hardneck garlic. Once the garlic has been harvested, the cloves are peeled, sliced and heated to around 300-320°F which removes most of the water content.
The garlic can then be chopped further or minced to what size is needed. Larger garlic particles will be packaged as granulated garlic, while finer grinding is necessary to make the garlic powder. If you would like to learn more about granulated garlic or other types of garlic, then take a look at our post on the best garlic powder substitutes.
Unlike fresh garlic, garlic powder will keep for around four years and is usually still fine to eat after it’s ‘Best Before’ date; it may have just lost a little of its flavor.
When buying garlic powder look for better quality brands as lower quality ones may also contain additives or flavors rather than just dehydrated garlic.
The only thing to be aware of when using garlic powder is that it will not give the same flavor if you add it straight to tomatoes or other acidic ingredients. To get around this, just add the measured out garlic powder to some water for a few minutes before adding it to the marinara.
Is Garlic Salt Used Like Garlic Powder in Cooking?
As garlic salt contains salt along with garlic powder, it is not quite as versatile as garlic powder. Most commercial garlic salts contain one part garlic powder with three parts salt. It can also contain an anti-caking agent which stops the salt and garlic powder from clumping together.
Garlic salt is best used in small amounts as a finishing salt for foods such as popcorn, roasted nuts, fries and vegetables. Because garlic salt does contain salt, it is harder to obtain as much garlic flavor from it as you need to add more for flavor, but by doing this, you are also adding more salt to the dish. Aside from health concerns, this can end up making the dish too salty.
If you use garlic salt in a recipe, be prepared to either omit or reduce the amount of salt required in the recipe as it will end up too salty otherwise.
Which is the Healthiest – Garlic Salt or Garlic Powder?
Garlic powder is not as packed full of nutrients as fresh garlic, but it is lower in calories. Garlic powder also loses its vitamin C content as vitamin C is an unstable compound which is easily destroyed through processing.
Garlic salt can be used to automatically reduce salt intake in many savory dishes. If a dish requires a teaspoon of salt and the addition of garlic will not impact upon the flavor of the dish, then use a teaspoon of garlic salt instead as you are then using 25% less salt in the dish.
For those who need to reduce sodium intake further, the use of garlic powder and other seasonings such as black pepper during cooking or at the table is a great way to cut out the salt.
You can also make your own garlic powder and salt without needing a dehydrator. You just need to peel and finely cut fresh garlic cloves an spread them out on a cookie sheet. Place the sheet in the oven and set to 150°F (this is the same temperature as you would dry garlic at in a dehydrator). Leave the pieces to dry out – do not let them burn though. When the garlic is dry, you will be able to crush a piece easily between your fingers. Otherwise, leave it in until it is dried enough.
Once the garlic is dry, you can grind it by hand with a pestle and mortar or use a food processor. You could also use a coffee or spice grinder, but this is probably best avoided unless you can cope with garlic odor being left inside the grinder.
Once the garlic has been ground, place it into a lidded jar and store in a cool dark place. For the first week at making the powder, shake the jar every day to make sure any remaining moisture is evenly distributed through the powder. Otherwise it may turn moldy. If it does, then trash it and start over.
When you want garlic salt, just take one part of garlic powder and three parts of kosher salt and mix well together in another jar.
In the garlic salt vs. garlic powder debate, both contain dehydrated garlic, but garlic salt also contains salt. Both are suitable for a wide range of culinary uses and are quick and easy to use.
If you do only have room for one jar in your pantry then invest in garlic powder, as you can use this as is, or add one part garlic powder to three parts kosher salt and use it as a seasoning.