What is Toum
Before I started this blog, heck before I started cooking, Toum has been a vital part of my life. Toum (toum translates to garlic in Arabic) is the mayo to your burger, the ranch dressing to your chicken, truly and ultimately the best condiment you will ever use or taste. Toum is a traditional Lebanese Garlic Sauce.
Toum is no stranger to Arab cuisine, it’s been around for centuries from the time of using a mortar and pestle to make the creamy garlic sauce. Grandmothers all over Lebanon and surrounding countries have made Toum for chicken on Sundays since the dawn of time. It’s quintessential and one of the best kept secrets to create the most flavorful food.
What do you Eat with Toum
Traditionally Toum is used as a garlic dipping sauce, mostly with chicken. As I began cooking more and more for my family, I realized heck…I’m going to throw Toum into pretty much everything I make.
- Marinating chicken – add toum
- Roasting potatoes – add toum
- Making salad dressing – add toum
- Making hummus – add toum
I began using it in place of chopped garlic for a few reasons. Since Toum is an emulsified garlic sauce the balance of garlic and oil is sometimes less pungent in cooking. It also acts as your oil when marinading foods, so truly it kills two birds with one stone. I love the creamy texture that it creates when making a salad dressing, all from adding a bit of Toum.
Where to Buy Toum
Sure, the market has become saturated with Toum. First one that comes to mind is Trader Joe’s Garlic Sauce. With the same ingredients as traditional Toum (garlic, oil, salt, citric acid to stabilize) it’s mass produced Toum. Now some folks have told me that it has a different taste than the Toum they have made. Once products go to market, they are altered and even dulled down for the American pallet, which many food producers don’t feel can handle the intense garlic taste. Is it ok to use? Sure thing! But if you want true, traditional, in-your-face Toum, try this recipe, I promise it won’t disappoint and will cost you a fraction of the prepared stuff.
You can also find toum in any Middle Eastern grocery store.
While toum packs a punch and flavor, the ingredients are simple.
- Garlic – The most important ingredient is garlic – toum literally translates to garlic in Arabic. You want the freshest garlic possible. Farmer’s Markets, local grocery stores are best. I have had many folks purchase garlic from large big box discount stores (ie: Costco) and had no success on multiple occasions. So be sure you choose the freshest garlic – and no green sprouts.
- Oil – To create an emulsification, you need oil. Since garlic is our main ingredient we want to use a neutral oil. Some options include:
- Canola oil
- Vegetable oil
- Avocado oil
- Sunflower oil
- Olive oil isn’t the best choice but if you do decide to use it, be sure it’s light so it has slightly less flavor.
- Salt + Lemon – The two last ingredients are salt and lemon, they are the finishers and helps to stabilize the toum.
How to Make Toum
Okay, I know you can’t wait to start peeling garlic so here are the steps to making the perfect Toum. But be warned, it’s a tricky condiment that will *sometimes* separate. Anything emulsified can be a bit delicate. Don’t fret, even if it separates, it is still usable. Check out my full FAQ section below to troubleshoot and other burning questions.
Peel the garlic:
- The hardest part of this process is peeling the garlic.
- Be sure your garlic is FRESH, no green stems inside or sprouting from your cloves.
- Once peeled, trim the tops of each piece to remove the brown stem
- 1 cup of peeled garlic and 4 cups of oil makes about 2-2.5lbs of toum
- You can always half the recipe
- Measure out between 135-140 grams of garlic – about 2 full heads should give you this amount. I measure my garlic in a dry measuring cup.
- Add your water to fill the cup – just shy of 1/2 cup (3.8 oz)
- The water helps to mellow the garlic flavor and stabilize.
- Add your garlic & water mixture to your food processor (this is the one I use) and process until a smooth paste forms, about 1 minute.
- Slowly begin to stream your 4 cups of oil into the processor. Each cup should take about 2 minutes to stream – 8 minutes total.
- At the end of your 8 minutes of streaming, your toum should be thick.
- Add in your salt and the juice of one lemon.
- Stop processor and store in a sealed container.
Different Uses for Toum
Keep refrigerated, some separation is natural, just mix together before use. Good for at least 1 month.
- Marinating is one of the best uses for toum, you can sub out garlic for toum in any of these recipes: Crispy Lamb Salad, Everyday Roasted Chicken
- Salad Dressing – toum + lemon juice + olive oil + S&P makes the best dressing. Or try one of these recipes: Fattoush Salad, Fasolia bi Zeit
- Garlic Bread – smear on bread + cheese and bake
- Sandwich Spread – spread on sandwiches or wraps
- *Dip – Toum’s original use was dipping into chicken or beef.
- Cooking Base – Use in place of chopped garlic in any dish. Here are a few recipes: Creamy Hummus, Lebanese Potato Salad, Turkey Meatballs
- Would love for you to share your favorite way to enjoy toum!
How to Best Store Toum
Toum is made from fresh garlic but also emulsified with oil, slightly preserving it. To err on the side of safety, it should be consumed within a month and stored in a sealed container in the fridge. You may also portion out into smaller containers and freeze up to 6 months.
Toum is too strong
Toum is not for the faint of heart, it is pure fresh garlic. A few considerations when preparing your toum and ways to make it less potent or check for indicators that it will cause it to be too strong.
- Garlic – The garlic you use makes a difference. Try to get the freshest garlic you can, it will make all the difference. The older the garlic becomes, the stronger in flavor it becomes.
- Variety – There are many different types of garlic. So depending on your region and what your grocery store carries you have varying levels of strength. I love to use garlic with hints of red and purple, they seem to be more mild than traditional white heads.
- Measuring – Using precise measurements is essential to get the right consistency and flavor but also know that garlic can vary from batch to batch
- Yogurt – Enjoying the garlic as a dip is common but if it’s too strong, I suggest mixing with a bit of yogurt or labneh when you’re ready to enjoy. Use as is for cooking and marinating.
Broken or Separated Toum
One of the biggest disappointments is when your toum breaks or separates, which means the oil separates from the oil to essentially create a garlic oil instead of an emulsified fluffy paste. Here are a few ideas to fixing or what to do with it if it happens to you – and it will, even as an expert!
- Egg White – Many methods of making toum include using an egg white in the emulsification process to help keep in tact. We have an egg allergy in our home so that is not an option for me and eggless is actually the traditional way to make. However, if your toum breaks, you can take 1 egg white and add it to a small amount of your broken toum, add into food processor, then continue to stream the rest of your broken toum. This should help to bring it back together. However, note your toum should only be used for 2 weeks if egg was added.
- Citric Acid – Citric Acid is a stabilzier that is often added to processed foods. Adding a teaspoon of citric acid can also help to stabilize your toum if you see it has seperated after processing.
- Use it – Broken toum isn’t a bad thing, it can still be use to cook and marinade with. After processing if you allow it to sit, you’ll see the oil and garlic paste to separate – you can go the extra step and drain your oil (voila, garlic oil) and the paste which you can use for cooking.
- Oil Stream – One of the biggest factors to broken toum is streaming oil too quickly – be sure to go SLOW, it should take about 8 minutes to stream 4 cups of oil.
- Can I use another oil instead of canola/vegetable?
The biggest thing is to make sure you are using a neutral oil. The garlic is what you want to shine, not the taste of oil. Other neutral oils to consider are: avocado and sunflower. A very light olive oil may not be terrible but it will definitely change the taste.
- I only use Coconut Oil, will that work?
I have had one person use liquid coconut oil to stream into her Toum and she did have success. However, since coconut oil solidifies in the fridge, the Toum also hardened. Not a huge deal, just needs to warm up to soften back to the correct texture.
- How much should I be using when cooking?
Really this is a personal question. When I’m using it as a marinade I’ll tend to use a bit more, for example grilling 2 pounds of chicken breast, I’ll probably use close to a 1/4 cup. If I’m making a salad dressing, just a teaspoon or so. Roasted potatoes, full sheet pan full, probably a few tablespoons. Once you start using it you’ll know your preference and what works best for you. But also remember you’re using this as BOTH flavoring and your oil to saute or coat your food.
- Do I need any other seasonings?
Again, I think that is a personal preference. If I’m cooking with Toum, I’ll use it as my garlic for my dish but sure, I’ll add other spices based on what I’m making. If I’m using it for garlic bread, I’ll smear on my bread and just top with cheese. Personal preference.
- 4 cups of oil is a lot, is this healthy?
Is anything really healthy for you in large quantities? No, everything in moderation! This recipe with 4 cups of oil yields about 2-2.5 pounds of Toum. That’s a quite a lot! Think 2 containers of mayonnaise you’d buy at the store. You’re not eating it like yogurt, you’re using in smaller quantities for larger meals. Again, everything in moderation, but do what is best for your family.
- Raw garlic, great health benefits
Toum is raw garlic emulsified, so yes, there are a TON of amazing health benefits associated with it. I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist but in the words of my wise Lebanese family, garlic heals most everything. Consider this an elixir to help with anything from the common cold to digestive issues.
- Pre-peeled Garlic
I’ve had many folks ask about pre-peeled garlic. I personally do not recommend it. Generally when garlic is peeled and packaged it comes to the store not as fresh and often preservatives are added to keep fresh. Since you are using RAW garlic, you want the utmost freshness.
- Food Processor vs Blender
I personally only have experience using a food processor with Toum, but I have had many other folks share that their Vitamix blender worked well.
With a little bit of garlic, oil, salt and lemon, you will have a most amazing sauce! As always, I love seeing your creations. Please leave a review or share your dish with me on social media #cosetteskitchen which lets me know what is working for you! You can find me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. For more delicious recipes to your inbox, sign up for my newsletter!
Toum, Lebanese garlic sauce
- 1 cup of peeled garlic – 135-140 grams
(measure using dry measuring cup) about 2 full heads
- 3.8oz water (about 1/2 cup):
Add water to your garlic filled measuring cup – should fill to the top
- 4 cups of neutral oil (canola, vegetable or avocado are preferred)
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
- Begin by peeling your garlic, to get a full cup you’ll need to peel about 2 large heads of garlic. Be sure there are no green stems. Sprouting is an indicator of old garlic.
- Trim the tops of each piece where they were attached to the head
- Add your garlic pieces to a dry 1 cup measuring cup
- Add water to your garlic cloves.
- Pour garlic + water into bowl of food processor (see FAQs about using other machines). Process on high for 1 minute until a paste forms.
- Then begin slowly streaming your oil with machine running. You want to stream as slowly as possible, this is what creates the emulsification. It should take about 2 minutes per cup of oil, 8 minutes total to stream 4 cups.
- At the very end of your processing, add your salt and lemon juice to stabilize. If you find your Toum has already thickened, just mix in without the machine on to ensure you don’t process too long.
- That’s it! Place in a sealed container and refrigerate. Good for up to a month or freeze for up to 6 months.
- A good food processor is the best tool for toum. Check out this Cuisinart machine that I adore.
- Toum can be stored for at least a month in the fridge and up to 6 months in the freezer, some natural separation will occur.
- Different varieties will yield different strengths of flavor.
- If toum separates, try the egg white tip or simply use for cooking.
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