Garlic paste

March 3, 2010  •  Category:


I hesitated a long time before writing this post. After all, who does not know how to use garlic? It just is such an essential part of Lebanese cooking, I had to include it!

Mashing garlic is the classic way that it is used in our cuisine. Garlic is not chopped up in little pieces and fried the way the Italians do it; garlic is mashed with a bit of salt in a wood mortar until it becomes pasty.

This was the only task I was allowed to perform in the kitchen as a kid; I remember as if it was yesterday showing my pounded garlic to my mother and asking her ” is it good now?” and she would invariably reply “no, pound some more!”. I used to think she did it on purpose to torture me. Today, I know that if you obtain a smooth paste, it will incorporate better with the dish and that there are no shortcuts. Don’t bother with a food processor. It has to be done by hand!

That being said, I wonder how many of you actually use this method.


I used, assigned every comment a number and the result is: Heguiberto Souza from San Fransisco. Check out his and Stevie’s blog it is really cool and very interesting! Heguiberto,  please mail me your address if you are still interested.


37 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. peter says:

    Garlic? Depends…sometimes chopped, sometimes sliced, sometimes chopped, sometimes minced and sometimes into a paste like a mortar.

    Each recipe may call for a different texture or taste, right down to garlic. Next time you eat pasta…try the same sauce with different pasta shapes…you will get a different taste.

    The same argument could be made for which form of garlic you will introduce to your recipe.

  2. Heguiberto Souza says:

    Wow Joumana,

    Thank you so much for featuring us on your blog. Thanks for the lovely comments we received on our blog from you and lastly thank you for the book! This is so exciting 🙂

  3. Heguiberto Souza says:

    Oops forgot to mention, that’s the way my mom used garlic too, to make the popular Portuguese marinate “vinha d’alhos” for roasting meats.

    I like to sauté my beans with olive oil and fresh garlic paste, incredible flavors!

    I love garlic!

  4. Velva says:

    I have never used garlic this way but, can definitely see the benefits. The addition of salt to help make the paste is really new for me too. I love it!

  5. Pattie and Allie says:

    Hi! I came to thank you for visiting us and the kind comment, but now I need to go explore your site! I also use a mortar and pestle frequently- my Italian grandmothers both did it!
    xoxo Pattie

  6. Faith says:

    It’s funny that you mention that this was your only job in the kitchen as a kid — it is currently my hubby’s only job in the kitchen, lol! (Which works out well since he really doesn’t mind doing it. 🙂 ) Congrats to the lucky winner!

  7. Barbara Bakes says:

    I don’t have a mortar, but it reminds me of Julie and Julia and after watching the movie I feel like I should have one! I usually use a garlic press for my garlic.Love your traditional way of doing it.

  8. Stacy says:

    I think this is an important post! Such a common ingredient but used so differntly in different types of dishes. I love garlic this way, all mashed and aromatic. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Sushma Mallya says:

    Nice and useful post for beginners…

  10. Laura Flowers says:

    I’ve only ever smashed roasted garlic. Ha! I have a new job for my 8-year-old now. 🙂

  11. MaryMoh says:

    I use a lot of garlic in my cooking. I usually chop them but if I need more pounded type, I pass them through my masticating juicer.

  12. Rosa says:

    I am addicted to garlic and use it in every single dish! It adds so much flavor and kick!



  13. Maninas says:

    Chopped, minced, sliced, even whole, sometimes pounded. I’ll try your way more!

  14. Jagruti says:

    Good info…we love garlic pureed.. so kids can’t see it and gets mix well with evrything..

  15. Rachana Kothari says:

    I think thats an important post! Garlic is commonly used in so many cuisines but in a very diff way… Thanks for sharing!

  16. Priya says:

    Very useful post for novice..

  17. Christine @ Fresh Local and Best says:

    I will have to try this method of cooking with a garlic paste, it sounds great.

  18. Angie@Angie's Recipe says:

    This post is full of pleasant aroma of garlics…….I usually use a garlic press.

  19. Pam says:

    I really like your blog…so refreshing and simple! Thank you for stopping by with your sweet comments….so appreciated!

    You have a yummy blog here too!


  20. Azita says:

    I use garlic extensively but I’ve never used it this way. I’ll try it, sounds wonderful!

  21. shayma says:

    J, that is not true at all, we want these sort of posts from you- we want to know how to make the things which seem v simple but are not….i learnt how to make this from a Syrian lady and love seeing the photos you have posted. these kind of posts are much appreciated, dear. x shayma

  22. Doria says:

    Il est vrai que l’ail est très utilisé en cuisine et a beaucoup de bienfaits au niveau de la santé !
    Très bonne soirée,
    Bisous, Doria

  23. Marysol says:

    To me, mashing garlic within an inch of its life is preferable in some dishes. That said, I’m so comfortable with a knife, that I typically reach for it (instead of the mortar and pestle), to finely chop garlic. Then, if I need it really, really mushy, I’ll run the side of my knife over the chopped garlic several times, to turn it into a paste.

    Btw, Jo, I loved your cooking with grandma story!
    I think one of the reasons she insisted you kept pounding on the garlic, was, not only to teach you something, but also to keep you busy and out of trouble. And it looks like it worked.

  24. M. A. Salha says:

    I use this! My mum uses it too!

    Like the new layout btw!

  25. Ninette says:

    A nice post! I love the texture of mashed garlic.

  26. Mathai says:

    We use a mortar in our kitchen too. For our style of cooking usually some dried red chillies and ginger is added along with the garlic and together mashed as a paste 🙂

  27. northshorewoman says:

    I use this method. I have a few different wooden mortar and pestles. One I use only for garlic and it is many years old, so it has seasoned if you know what I mean. Another one, that has taller wooden sides, I use only for nuts or cardamon or other small seeds that I don’t want to ruin into a mulch with a processor.

    Of course, I learned this method from my husband. As a Finnish Canadian garlic had never even entered my home.

    In a pinch I use a garlic press but as you stated something like this is a shortcut that doesn’t cut it!

  28. northshorewoman says:

    I guess I should’ve said “Me being a Finnish Canadian…” because garlic is not Finnish Canadian!

    When I made Lebanese dishes for my dad and mom I always told them “No, there is no garlic in the dish”. What’s a white lie every now and then?

  29. Nour El-Zibdeh says:

    This is a great post… I use a mortar and pestle a lot and prefer the wooden ones…but I also chop sometimes if I don’t want to get another kitchen tool dirty. One the comments here makes me want to buy another one for nuts..
    And I can totally see moms saying “more!” … you created a comfy image in my mind… moms! Thanks 🙂

  30. dana says:

    Have to admit, I only pull the pestle and mortar when I have time or when it is absolutely necessary. often than not, when I need a garlic paste I just grate the garlic with a very fine hand grater. I think it produces a very close result, but Shhh, dont tell my Mom 😉

  31. Chris says:

    We absolutely do it this way — Lisa’s dad (from Beirut) showed her that method. 🙂

  32. Brian Reyes says:

    I put garlic in everything, more often than not sliced. But I do like to mash it and mix it with olive oil and lime for a salad dressing similar to the one in your post. Looking through this blog, there are so many similarities to the way we cook here in Gibraltar. This place drew migrants from all around the Mediterranean, so we mix everything from Italian to Moroccan influences. I love your site, and will be back.
    Greetings from Gibraltar

  33. Nour says:

    I have had the same experience! I always wanted to help my mom cook, and that was the job I always got–pounding the garlic in the wood mortar! And now, that’s really the only way I use garlic!

  34. Lila Knez says:

    I do the exact method once a week and mash the garlic with large ground marino-salt, then add either oregano or thyme, mix it all together and place in a terracotta dish and pour extra virgin oil to the rim. This is how it’s kept in the kitchen and ready to use, either just on bread with tomato, salads, or for cooking.

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