Why Is Garlic Spicy ? Here’s Why, And How To Tone It Down

Garlic is delicious and a boon to every meal there is. You cannot convince us otherwise. The world needs more garlic, there’s never enough. And you’ve probably noticed how spicy and bright the garlic flavor can be when you eat it raw. A crushed garlic sauce can really kick.  But why ?

Why is garlic spicy ? Is there any way to tone it down ? Is raw garlic’s propensity for burning mouths harmful ? And what if you try to drink some water after garlic, will it help at all ? All this and more, coming right up !

garlic spicy

Why is garlic spicy ?

Garlic is spicy the same way an onion is spicy, because of a sulfur compound called allicin. This is naturally found in garlic, and is especially strong when the garlic is crushed, as opposed to simply chopped. It is the garlic oil, the same way ginger has its ginger oil and so do chili flakes.

The spiciness of garlic is directly related to how strong the flavor is as well. Allium plants, like the onion, leek, shallots, chives, and the like all derive their strength in flavor and pungency from how much sulfur is in the soil they grow in. Meaning that if you were to grow them in a sulfur-free soil, they’d be almost tasteless.

Cooking garlic mellows it out

If you’d like your garlic a little more tame then you’re going to need to cook it. To every cook’s dismay, garlic and its beautiful, precious oil burn real fast. They’re gone in 30 seconds on high heat. So if you’d like to make a garlic sauce that is only vaguely reminiscent of garlic, be sure to chop, not crush the garlic. The give it a light fry for about 30 seconds, and then add it to your sauce.

Read also: Best Minced Garlic Substitutes 

The flavor will be there but not as strong, and the spiciness will be virtually gone. The more you cook the garlic (not fried), the mellower it gets. It turns into a background note that you maybe won’t notice, but you’ll notice if it’s gone.

Adding cream will also help

If you want to further tone down the garlic, you can add cream. Whether it’s heavy cream or sour cream depends on what you’re cooking. Both work well for a cold sauce, and for a warm sauce. The pot has to be off the heat !

But you have to be careful when adding sour cream to a warm or hot liquid, otherwise it will disperse. You need to temper it. This means that in an empty bowl you add all the sour cream you want to use. Mix it well so there are no lumps. The ladle in a bit of hot sauce or stew or cooking liquid. Stir very well in the bowl. Ladle a bit more sauce in, keep stirring.

Do this until the sour cream has thinned out, or you’ve managed to warm it up. Then pour the tempered, thinned sour cream into the hot pot, and stir it very well. If all went well you should not have a fairly smooth sour cream emulsion.

This is useful to know if you’re making a stew with a lot of garlic in it, or want to make a garlic sauce that starts out hot.

Is garlic supposed to burn ?

The way you know the garlic is good is if it stings and has a strong taste. It shouldn’t outright burn your tongue, but it should definitely be a hot sensation.

Some people are more sensitive to garlic, and some garlic cloves are particularly strong. Unfortunately there is no clear way to know which garlic will be strong before you cut it.

But if you’re looking for a mellower garlic, be sure to eat it with some mild cheese and a bit of bread.

Can eating raw garlic be harmful ?

If you suffer from heartburn then garlic may be harmful, yes. It can make your stomach burn, cause excessive burping, gas, and may even lead to serious stomach pain.

Not everyone is susceptible to this, and not every piece of garlic will do this. But Allium veggies like garlic, onions, chives, leeks, shallots can all trigger this reaction in people with stomach issues.

It’s the sulfur compounds that does the most damage, and all of these have at least some sulfur.

Aside from this, there’s also garlic breath. It’s not harmful as much as it’s inconvenient. In some people this can be accompanied by stomach pain, which may give the sufferer a particularly bad breath.

Can you drink water after eating garlic ?

If you’re looking for a quick relief after the sting of garlic, you may reach for water, Unfortunately water does not help as much, since the sulfur compound is oil-or-fat-soluble, meaning it will only come off with something that has a bit of fat in it.

So something like full fat milk or dairy will help much more. If you’re lactose intolerant then you may want to try a piece of bread, as it will absorb much of the compound left on your tongue. Aside from all of this, the effect on the tongue will go on for another couple of minutes.

What you should definitely avoid is carbonated drinks of any type, such as beer, soda, sparkling water, and so on. The tiny bubbles will sting your tongue even more.

And that’s pretty much it. Garlic is spicy and it’s meant to be spicy, just like onions are meant to be pungent. You can easily mellow out the strength of garlic by cooking it down or adding some dairy in the mix, as long as it’s not very salty.

If you’ve got any other food curiosities be sure to check the related articles below, we’re always adding more food facts to make your life that much easier.