Black Garlic

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 6 months +
Nutrition Rating:How nutritious a food is with a focus on the specific nutrients babies need for optimal growth. The more nutritious a food, the more stars it will have.
Prep Time:How much time a food takes to prepare safely for a baby. The more time-consuming a food is to prepare safely, the more clocks it will have.
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Common Allergen: No
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a pile of fermented garlic (aka black garlic) on a table before being prepared for babies starting solid food

What is black garlic?

Black garlic is fresh garlic that has been fermented, which creates a soft texture and sweet flavor that is far less pungent than raw garlic. 

Fermented garlic is made by storing raw garlic cloves at low temperatures in a humidity-controlled environment for an extended period of time. The Fermentation process breaks down the enzymes behind raw garlic’s assertiveness and produces the Maillard reaction—the same chemical activity that creates that deep flavor in seared hamburgers, roasted chicken skin, and fried onions. Black garlic has been a traditional cooking ingredient for centuries in Asia, and only recently has become a trend in the Americas and Europe.1 2

When can babies eat black garlic?

Garlic (including black garlic) may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is typically around 6 months of age.

Garlic is native to Central Asia, where it has long been used for a variety of medicinal purposes—from improving respiration to alleviating diarrhea. Many people believe that bland foods are best for babies, but there is no evidence to support this cultural myth. In fact, people around the world introduce alliums and other flavorful foods to babies who are ready to start solids. One study even found that babies nurse longer and ingest more breastmilk from mothers who have ingested garlic.3

Garlic is an allium—the plant family that includes chives, leek, onions, and shallots. In cooking, most recipes calling for “garlic” are referring to the white cloves that make up a raw bulb, however black garlic cloves are an easy substitute, especially for babies. The fermentation process to create black garlic not only yields a more mild flavor, but also lends probiotic benefits that support digestion, immunity, and a healthy gut microbiome.4

Max, 17 months, eats bread with black garlic.
Adie, 17 months, eats black garlic bread for the first time.

Is black garlic healthy for babies?

Absolutely. Garlic is packed with nutrients that are critical for babies at this stage in their development, including vitamins B6 and C, calcium, copper (which helps your baby absorb for iron), manganese, phosphorus, and selenium. Compared with raw garlic, black garlic is lower in vitamin C but higher in fiber and iron. The fermentation process to produce black garlic also increases the bioavailability of its nutrients, meaning a greater proportion of garlic’s nutritional content is absorbed and utilized by the body upon eating black garlic.5 For example, black garlic offers greater antioxidant content for the body, which helps protect a baby from harmful environmental toxins and as noted above, offers probiotic benefits that support digestion, immunity, and a healthy gut microbiome.6

Is black garlic a choking hazard for babies?

It can be. While not listed as a common choking hazard, black garlic cloves can absolutely pose a risk if not prepared in an age-appropriate way for your baby. Black garlic is also stickier than raw garlic, so be sure to mince or mash before mixing it with food for babies who are starting solids. Even then, stay near your baby and watch closely during mealtimes.

For more information, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with common choking hazards.

Is black garlic a common allergen?

No. Garlic allergy is rare, though there are cases of people with allergies to foods in the allium family. If you have a family history of allergies or suspect your baby may be allergic to onions, make an appointment with an allergist before introducing garlic. 

How do you prepare black garlic for babies with baby-led weaning?

Fresh, raw, or fermented garlic served plain can be challenging for even for adults to digest, so try mixing a small amount into another dish when introducing black garlic to your baby. Some age-specific suggestions:

6 to 12 months old: Mash black garlic with a fork and sauté in a skillet with a splash of olive oil, then mix the flavored oil into a vegetable dish such as mashed sweet potatoes, a bowl of grains like quinoa or rice, or an omelet.

12 to 24 months old: Try your hand at black garlic bread. And don’t hold back: use garlic (fresh or fermented) liberally in your dishes. The options are endless: in marinades and salad dressings, mixed with roasted or steamed vegetables, roasted and spread on whole grain bread, or sautéed in butter for a simple pasta sauce.

For more information on how to cut food for your baby’s age, hop over to our section on Food Sizes & Shapes.

★ProTip: Packages of black garlic can be stored at room temperature, but once opened, they must be stored in the refrigerator, where they will last for approximately one month.

Recipe: Black Garlic Bread

Ingredients

  • Black garlic
  • Sourdough or whole grain bread
  • Olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the bread into 1/2-inch slices if it has not already been cut.
  2. Peel off the papery skins from 4 to 6 black garlic cloves. Mince the garlic on a cutting board, then transfer to medium mixing bowl. Add 2 to 3 generous pours of olive oil, then mix with a fork or a whisk. Spread the oil mixture on the bread slices.
  3. Wrap each bread slice in parchment paper, then wrap in foil. (The parchment will ensure no aluminum leeches into the food.) Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. Cool before serving.

Flavor Pairings

Black garlic has a sweet taste that pairs beautifully with chicken, eggplant, fish, goat cheese, lamb, liver, pork, and tomato, as well as fresh herbs like basil, mint, parsley, and thyme.

  1. Kimura, S., Tung, Y., Pan, M., Su, N., Lai, Y., & Cheng, K. (2017, Jan.) Black garlic: A critical review of its production, bioactivity, and application. Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, 25(1), 62-70. doi.org/10.1016/j.jfda.2016.11.003
  2. Chelule, P., Mockgatle, M., Zungu, L., & Chaponda, A. (2014). Caregivers’ Knowledge and Use of Fermented Foods for Infant and Young Children Feeding in a Rural Community of Odi, Gauteng Province, South Africa. Health Promotion Perspectives, 4(1), 54-60. doi: 10.5681/hpp.2014.007
  3. Mennella, J. & Beauchamp, J. (1993, Dec. 3). The effects of repeated exposure to garlic-flavored milk on the nursling’s behavior. Pediatric Research, 34(6), 805-808. doi:10.1203/00006450-199312000-00022
  4. Bell, V., Ferrão, J., & Fernandes, T. (2018). Fermented Food Guidelines for Children. Foods, 6(8), 65. doi: 10.3390/foods6080065
  5. Bell, V., Ferrão, J., & Fernandes, T. (2018). Fermented Food Guidelines for Children. Foods, 6(8), 65. doi: 10.3390/foods6080065
  6. Ibid