How to Peel Garlic in 3 Easy Steps for Your Favorite Recipes

Follow these tips to peel and mince fresh garlic like a pro and your recipes will sing with vibrant, true garlic flavor.

One sniff of garlic sizzling in olive oil, and you know why this cousin to the leek and onion is so beloved as a seasoning. You can buy minced garlic in a jar and dried minced garlic, but it's hard to beat fresh garlic when it comes to flavor. Garlic grows underground in bulbs, also called heads. Each bulb is made up of sections called cloves, which are encased in layers of papery skin. Garlic is available year-round and can be stored whole in a cool, dry, dark place for up to several months. Look for firm, plump bulbs. If the skin is white, it is probably softneck garlic, which has a stronger flavor than the purple-tinged hardneck varieties. Read on to learn how to peel garlic to include that delicious savory flavor in all your favorite dishes.

garlic clove in stages on cutting board
Kritsada Panichgul

How to Peel Garlic

Follow our Test Kitchen's best way to peel garlic so you'll always have fresh garlic cloves for your recipes.

Step 1: Remove the Garlic Cloves from the Head

Remove the number of cloves you need from garlic bulb. The remaining cloves won't dry out as quickly when stored as part of the bulb. To remove the garlic cloves, peel enough of the outer layers of skin to be able to grab a side of one clove. Use your fingers to gently pry the clove free. Once one clove is free, it is easy to pry other cloves from the head.

crushing garlic clove to loosen skin
Blaine Moats

Step 2: Loosen the Garlic Clove Skin

Each garlic clove is encased in its own covering of papery skin. A clove is easier to peel if you loosen the skin first. Working on a cutting board, place the side of a broad-blade knife, such as a chef's knife ($75, Bed Bath & Beyond), over a clove of garlic. Smash down on the unpeeled clove using the heel of your hand on the side of the knife. If you plan to mince the garlic anyway, you can actually flatten the clove a bit, which will make it easier to mince.

removing garlic clove from skin
Blaine Moats

Step 3: Easily Peel the Garlic Clove Skin Away

Use your fingers to peel the skin from each clove. After loosening the skin, it should come off easily. Cut off the root end. Your garlic is now ready to use whole or minced.

How to Peel Garlic Quickly Using a Garlic Clove Peeler

Another easy way to peel garlic is with a garlic clove peeler. This is a small flexible tube. Place the unpeeled garlic clove inside and roll it back and forth until the peel loosens.

Test Kitchen Tip: Have an abundance of garlic cloves? Try pickling them!

removing garlic sprout with knife
Andy Lyons

How to Remove a Garlic Sprout

If you slice your peeled garlic clove in half and see a green-tinged sprout growing from the stem end, you may choose to remove and discard it. The sprout is edible but tends to have a bitter taste. Simply slide the tip of a sharp knife under the sprout to dislodge it.

How to Use a Garlic Press

If you plan to mince a clove of garlic with a garlic press ($12, Target), the metal tool shown in the photo (above top), you generally do not need to peel it first. Place the unpeeled clove in the press and force it through the tiny holes. The papery garlic skin is left inside the press to easily dispose of.

Now that you have all these freshly peeled garlic cloves on hand, use them to spice up a chicken stir-fry, make homemade garlic bread, or create a flavorful roast. You can also opt to leave the garlic bulb whole and roast it for a mild, aromatic flavor in your dishes.

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