We Can Phickle That! Brined, Pickled Garlic

Cloves of Garlic in a jar salt and bulbs
All you need to make an excellent secret ingredient.

You know how sometimes when you’re at the gym, there’s a guy next to you, sweating away, who just exudes the smell of a lasagna?  I’m that guy.  I can retain the smell of garlic and purge it through sweat like weeks after my last garlic consumption.  It’s ridiculous.  I also, sadly, have a bit of a love hate relationship with garlic.  I LOVE eating it, and for years (this is how in touch with my body I am) I would eat raw garlic in hummus or in salsa or in a salad dressing and be totally perplexed by the horrible bloating and discomfort I would experience afterwards.  I finally realized, again, after years of this, that I’m basically garlic-intolerant.  So you lactoids and GFers out there, I feel your pain.  I know this sounds weird and that garlic-intolerance isn’t a thing, but tell that to my belly when it chooses to imitate that of a 9-months preggo belly after a single bit of raw mince enters it.  The weirdest part, though, is that it’s only raw garlic; roast it, boil it or  sauté it and I’m in garlic heaven.

Salt Cellar and Garlic
Two ingredient pickle. Three if you count water.

Happily, my garlic free pass also applies to fermentation.  I can chomp down on a fermented clove and experience no ill effects, which makes me really, really happy.  I don’t tend to eat these cloves raw, though.  They aren’t as pungent as raw garlic, but they maintain their  crisp texture, so if you ever wanted to freak out your friends by appearing to eat a bulb or two of raw garlic, fermented would be the way to go.

I let my garlic ferment for a good, long time, but if you are the impatient sort, you could always add a bit of whey to get it going fast.  I don’t mind it slow, though.  Even a pint lasts a long time in our garlic loving house.

Delicious piles of digestible cloves


Yield 1 pint of pickled cloves

A few notes: Sometimes garlic turns green/teal/blue when it ferments.  It’s totally fine to eat (and can make certain kids giggle with delight when they eat it).  Sadly this batch stayed white, so I don’t get to show you those fun shades of organic green.  It has to do with the age of the garlic and amino acids.  More on blue garlic here.

Regular readers will note that I use about double the salt in this recipe that I do in many of my pickle recipes.  There are a few reasons for this.  The longer fermentation time is one, and the fact that I use these as a seasoning rather than a chomping pickle is another.  If you feel that it’s too much for you, feel free to reduce the salt.

Organic garlic is greatly preferred here.  Like ginger and hot peppers, I always buy (or grow) organic to avoid vegetables that have possibly been irradiated.  If all the bugs, good and bad, are dead, fermentation will simply not occur.

Balking at peeling all that garlic (and yes, you’ll want to peel it rather than buying the pre-peeled cloves that are treated with all kinds of preservatives that could impede fermentation)?  Try this fun method of peeling a whole bulb quick.  It’s fun, it works, and you’ll even burn a few calories.

If this is your first time making fermented pickles, please check out my Pickle FAQ before getting started.


  • 4 heads garlic, cloves peeled and separated
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1 cup room temperature, filtered water


  1. Stir salt into water until dissolved.  Alternatively, you can heat the water for easier salt dissolution, but you’ll need to let it come back to room temperature before pouring it over your garlic.
  2. Put your peeled garlic cloves into a quart-sized jar, cover with your (room temperature brine).
  3. Make sure garlic is kept away from air, using either an airlock or gasket jar or a cheapo/free method, such as the ghetto jar method.
  4. Let your jar sit at room temperature for 4 weeks (they can go much, much longer) away from direct sunlight.  You may want to check at the two week point to make sure brine hasn’t evaporated.  Keeping your cloves submerged is essential!  If the brine is low, add a touch more.
  5. I say this garlic is getting close to done when the smell of it changes from harsh, raw garlic to the alluring aroma of roasted garlic.  After that, it’s acidity preference and you’re free to chomp dem cloves.  If there’s any garlic pungency left, they aren’t done (at least to my preference).
  6. Make some alarmingly tasty hummus, salsa or pesto!
Garlic cloves and bulbs
Pretty bulbs and cloves make excellent eats




  1. Becky says:

    I love garlic, but I am just not a fan of using raw garlic in anything but Caesar Salad – it can be a bit much. I’m doing this today!

    I’ve noticed the garlic in some of my pickles – esp. my green bean pickles, turns blue green. Now I know why! Thanks.

    • Amanda says:

      Yes, garlic is wonderful! I think that’s why I fought the knowledge that my body didn’t like it for so long. Roasted and fermented are now my top ways to consume it, and that’s good enough for me! Happy fermenting!

  2. zuzka ou says:

    Heat and low acidity is destroying most powerful (and most irritant) substance in garlic – allicin. So, garlic loses superpowers, but keep standard healing powers with other substances.

    And garlic is also high in inulline content – it is prebiotic stuff and it may cause bloating. It is eaten by lactobacilli during fermentation, too.

    I´m from strong, raw garlic loving country*, and we have a trick for better digestion of raw garlic – eat it without a inner sprout. I have not an idea why it is working, but it does.

    *we are growing special varieties of super-strong garlic. And we have an excellent hangover cure http://www.cityroom.com/stories/gourmet/2011/09/27/traditional-czech-garlic-soup/

  3. Hi Amanda! I was so excited to see this post because I also have trouble digesting raw garlic. I tried it out and after four weeks the liquid and garlic cloves have turned brownish. The garlic was very fresh, so I don’t think that has anything to do with it. Have you seen this before and do you know if this is normal? It smells great, so I’m really hoping it’s okay to eat. It not I’ll definitely try again. Thanks for posting this!

    • Amanda says:

      Hi Alissa,

      Absolutely! After a month or so of fermentation, my cloves also start to brown. Totally fine to consume! You may find that they still have the pungent taste of fresh garlic, even after they’ve browned and smell very roasted. That’s okay, too. In fact it’s great for folks like us who may want that flavor in a salsa or hummus, but don’t want to suffer afterwards. Nice to know someone out there also has my weird affliction!!

      Enjoy your garlic!


  4. Denis Ellinger says:

    Great article-thanks for sharing. So after the four week fermentation can I can the garlic? I have LOTS and would like to can some for this winter-Thanks

    • Amanda says:

      Hi Denis,

      Unfortunately, I am not a canner and I really can’t give you any guidance on canning stuff. You can ferment this garlic for months and months and months, so if you’re concerned with getting it through the winter, fermentation alone will do the trick. For information on canning, my friend, Marisa McClellan, has a wonderful (and famous) blog you should definitely check out: Food in Jars. Sorry I can’t help with the canning question. I’m very jealous of your garlic abundance!!


  5. rose says:

    I love to eat raw garlic,but my friend I should not do that,she said.it was not healthy,it causes disease. Garlic helps me in alot of ways for blood pressure. ???

    • Amanda says:

      Hi Rose,

      I can’t reply scientifically about the health aspects of eating raw garlic, but from what I know, it is a healthy thing to do (maybe not for one’s breath, but garlic definitely has many, wonderful health benefits). I think if you like it and it makes you feel good, you’re fine. Personally, eating raw garlic makes me feel terrible, so I don’t do it. Of course, I’m not a medical professional, but to me, that’s always a good rule of thumb!

      Happy chomping!

  6. Bill T. says:

    Regarding irradiated garlic — wouldn’t simply adding some whey off the top of some yogurt do the trick? Any suggestions on how much?

    • Amanda says:

      Hi Bill,

      Yes, you could use whey as a starter, but that’s not really my style. It adds bacteria (though beneficial) other than those that would naturally occur during vegetable fermentation and can make vegetables quite slimy. It does speed up fermentation, though, which some would see as an advantage.

      If you’re into using whey for vegetable fermentation, most of the whey-fermented vegetables in Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions seem to use about 4 T per quart.

      Good luck!

  7. Hello, I fermented some garlic in this way and left it for a good couple of months. I have watched it turn from white to a dark green/blue colour which is facinating when you get over the fear of eating it!
    The smell is deep and rich and it is a great product. Thank you for sharing this!

  8. km says:

    Help! I just made your recipe and decided to be creative and add toasted sesame seeds without thinking….Will this ruin the fermenting process of the raw garlic???

    • Amanda says:

      Hi Km,

      Definitely should not be a problem. There are two potential issues, but both are small. Seeds can be a bit oily, so sometimes the oils can rise to the surface and oxidize. That’s not a big deal and you can just skim the oil off once fermentation is over IF it even happens.

      The other, more likely issue is that the seeds themselves will rise to the surface. You definitely don’t want that, because they will attract mold, especially in a longer ferment like this one. If the seeds look pretty well submerged, that’s great. Just keep an eye on them. If you see a lot of them floating on the surface, you’ll want to give your jar a stir or a shake every few days. Of course this all depends on your submersion method! If you used a weight or plastic bag this may not be an issue at all.

      I hope that helps!

  9. Cynthia says:

    My first experiments a few years ago turned me off do to the fruit flies and the “blooms”. I had tried both cabbage and then cucumbers in an old fashioned open crock with a plate, a weight and a cloth cover-wrap. Revisiting this with renewed enthusiasm as I cannot digest vegetables but have no problems with the lacto-fermented array in the fridge at the natural food store. I am eating so much of it that it is time I begin myself.

    So, begin I have. First experiment is with garlic. I peeled enough to fill up to about 2″ from the top of a quart mason jar and the rest filled a pint 1/2 way. I am using glass weights and plastic lid with hole and airlock. They will have doing their thing for 2 weeks come tuesday.

    When I open the cupboard the wonderful aroma of garlic comes on out. When I opened the lid to the jars though a different odor, more or rot, seems to be there along with the potent aroma of the garlic . They have not turned any colors. The liquid is quite cloudy. The edges around the inside of the rim area, though, seems to have tiny “crumbs” from the garlic that have floated on up and touched the oxygen which I believe is the culprit of the nasty stench apparent. There are also some spidery looking lines of light pink on the glass weights even though they are completely submerged in brine with a good 1″ of brine covering them.

    So, my questions are:

    If the nasty crumbs get in the with the garlic when I fish out some to taste, will I spoil the jar?

    And will I get sick?

    And do you have a clue what’s with the pink spidery lines on the glass weights?

    Thanks so much for any guidance here.



    • Amanda says:

      Hi Cynthia,

      I’m going to tell you to do a few things that I don’t normally tell people to do. First, pink mold (usually fusarium, from what I’ve read) can be fine, but there are also pathogenic forms of pink mold so unfortunately I would say that this batch needs to be ditched. It will be fine in the compost if you have that! The off smell is a good indicator that things are not right in there.

      So a few questions: Is this garlic from a source you trust? And is it garlic that you peeled yourself? Pre-peeled garlic has preservatives on it and that can impact the fermentation process.

      The other thing I’m going to recommend that I normally don’t is sterilization. I would boil the heck out of the jar that had the garlic in it and try again (and the lid and potentially anything else that came into contact with it. Only this time, start with a vegetable that is quicker to ferment. If you like radishes or beets, that’s where I would start. Chop them into relatively small pieces, make sure everything you’re using is very clean and make sure that you use enough salt. I think you just need to get a success under your belt and then you’ll be good to go!

      I’m going to link you to a few things that might be helpful! If you haven’t read the Pickles guide, it’s a good place to start!
      You can also try these how-tos for some helpful hints (feel free to substitute other types of radishes and beets than the ones featured):

  10. Celia Smith says:

    I love fermented garlic, but I pulse the cloves in a mini-food processor before fermenting. The chopped garlic is so easy to use in recipes, and it does turn a beautiful blue-green when cut. I hate to heat the wonderful ferment, but justify that the process has preserved the garlic to make food prep easier when I use it in cooked dishes. Wonderful for salads.

  11. Yogisecrets says:

    Hi, Do you know if fermenting garlic destroys the allicin? I’m wondering if fermented garlic can still be used as an antimicrobial? Thanks!

  12. Mike M. says:

    I was wondering what would happen if you fermented these in a fermentation jar and kept it outside for a month in the heat? Do you think you could reach a half-way black garlic effect? Could there be any safety concerns about fermenting in 90F+? I guess this would also be high maintenance about keeping the water seal constantly filled. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

    • Amanda says:

      Hi Mike,

      I would actually not recommend doing that. Black garlic, from everything I’ve been able to find, is not actually fermented. It’s deliciousness is definitely sweet, and while there are exceptions, fermented foods tend to get more sour during fermentation rather than more sweet. Sugars are consumed and not developed. I’ve spoken to a black garlic producer about this and from what she was able to tell me, although they were calling their process fermentation, it was more like a very slow caramelization.

      To answer your question more directly, it’s not inherently unsafe to ferment at 90 degrees. However, that temperature may be too hot for some strains of lactic acid bacteria. Normally I would tell you to try it and see, but in the case of garlic, I wouldn’t. Garlic is generally not a very vigorous fermenter. You won’t get tons of CO2 (bubbles) and therefore it can be challenging to see how fermented they are. If they fail to ferment in the high temperature, you’re really not going to want to taste to find out. C. botulinum does just fine in high temps, and if fermentation doesn’t initiate, you don’t have any protection against it. (Fermentation itself provides protection against botulism by inherently creating acid).

      That’s my best info! I hope it helps!

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