By Elizabeth Laseter
August 01, 2018

Who doesn't love roasted garlic? Its sweet, caramelized flavor takes any dish from ordinary to extraordinary. Roasted garlic is also versatile—whether you turn it into a mouthwatering spread for Roasted Garlic Bread or finely chop it for Garlic Mashed Potatoes or Roasted Garlic Cauliflower, there are so many delicious uses for it. Eating garlic also has plenty of health benefits—it's high in antioxidants and it may help lower your cholesterol. Let's get to roasting!

Photo by Meredith
| Credit: Meredith

There are numerous methods for roasting garlic -- from the oven to the grill -- that any home cook can easily master. But which one is the best? Or the fastest? This handy guide to roasting garlic has everything you need to know—including four easy ways to transform garlic into roasted perfection, plus tasty garlic recipes.

How to Prep Garlic for Roasting

Whether whole or individual cloves, garlic needs only a short amount of prep work before it's ready to roast. Here's what to do:

Choose medium to large heads of garlic. Smaller heads of garlic can dry out or burn more easily.

Leave the skin on. Leaving the skin on will help prevent the garlic drying from out in the oven.

To prep whole garlic, simply slice off the top part of the head with a serrated knife. Next, gently peel away the first few layers of the outer skin. The tops of the cloves should be exposed, so that you can drizzle olive oil over them.

To prep peeled garlic cloves, break off each clove individually from the head. Gently peel the skins away with a paring knife (do not crush the cloves). You can also use pre-peeled garlic cloves from the grocery store in a pinch, but the flavor won't be as fresh.

How to Roast Garlic in the Oven

Roasting garlic in the oven is one of the most foolproof methods. It hardly needs babysitting, so you can knock out other tasks in the kitchen while the garlic transforms itself.

You can roast whole garlic bulbs or individual cloves. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. Here are three easy ways to roast garlic in the oven:

How to Roast Garlic Whole

The best part about roasting whole garlic is that it's nearly impossible to mess up. Yes, this method takes the longest, but the caramelized, slightly-sweet flavor and aroma are worth the wait. By wrapping the garlic head in foil, you're essentially slow-roasting it. When it's ready, you simply squeeze out the pulp from each clove.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prep garlic head, then place on a sheet of foil. Drizzle olive oil over the exposed cloves, then bring up the edges of the foil and crimp to seal.
  3. Roast for 45 to 50 minutes. The garlic is ready when the cloves start to separate from the skins and they appear soft, creamy, and slightly golden-brown.
  4. If the garlic needs more caramelization, remove the foil and roast for an additional 10 minutes. Let garlic cool for about 10 minutes. Gently squeeze out the pulp from each clove in a bowl, then use as desired.

How to Roast Individual Garlic Cloves

This is the best way to roast garlic quickly for mashing into a paste for homemade garlic bread or using as a base for pizza. Because the cloves essentially steam inside their skins, they cook and soften quickly—but you won't get much caramelization from this method.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place the individual cloves on a baking sheet and roast for 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Let cloves cool for about 10 minutes. Gently slice off the tip of the clove with a serrated knife. Gently squeeze out the pulp into a bowl, then use as desired.

How to Roast Peeled Garlic Cloves

This method is perfect for pre-peeled garlic cloves, and it's faster than roasting whole garlic. Tossing the cloves with olive oil beforehand prevents sticking and burning (while also adding flavor). Unlike roasting garlic cloves in their skins, peeled cloves will caramelize and turn golden-brown. However, because they're directly exposed to your oven's dry heat, they won't be nearly as soft or creamy. However, if you plan to puree the cloves for Roasted Garlic Aioli or Roasted Garlic Hummus, this is a great method.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Toss the cloves with olive oil and place on a sheet pan. Roast for about 20 minutes, turning halfway through to ensure even browning.
  3. Let cool about for 10 minutes, then use as desired.

Once roasted, try mashing the pulp into a puree for this Roasted Garlic Tzatziki, Roasted Garlic Soup, savory Garlic Butter, and Balsamic Bruschetta.

How to Roast Garlic in a Pan

Roasting garlic in a pan is speedier than oven-roasting, and it produces similar results. However, because you're cooking the garlic directly over stovetop heat, this method requires your full attention. Step away, and you can easily burn the garlic. Peeled garlic cloves will toast the fastest in a cast-iron or stainless steel skillet, but you can also toast unpeeled garlic cloves.

  1. Heat a skillet over medium heat.
  2. Pour in a small amount of canola oil (or another cooking oil with a high smoke point), and add peeled garlic cloves.
  3. Toast the cloves, shaking pan frequently, until softened and golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  4. Let cool for about 10 minutes, then use as desired.

You can also pan-roast unpeeled garlic cloves in a cast-iron skillet. The resulting cloves are creamier, but much less caramelized than peeled garlic cloves. This process also takes longer (about 15 minutes), and you're also more likely to end up with a kitchen full of smoke if you don't monitor your stovetop heat closely.

Chop pan-roasted garlic into this Creamy Lemon Dressing or combine it with butter, peppercorns, and nutmeg for this easy Roasted Garlic Peppercorn Sauce for pasta.

How to Roast Garlic on the Grill

Roasting garlic on the grill is similar to roasting it in the oven. Whole garlic is best for grilling, and you'll prep it as you would before oven-roasting. You can also simultaneously grill other foods, such as eggplant, alongside the garlic—try Chef John's Baba Ghanoush.

  1. Prep garlic head, then place on a sheet of heavy duty foil. Drizzle olive oil over the exposed cloves, then bring up the edges of the foil and crimp to seal.
  2. Grill garlic over indirect heat, making sure to place it on the opposite side of the heat source.
  3. Cover and grill garlic until softened, about 40 to 45 minutes.
  4. Let cool for about 10 minutes, then use as desired.

How to Roast Garlic in the Microwave

If you need to roast garlic cloves fast, and you can't wait for the oven to preheat, the microwave is a solid solution. The resulting garlic has a cleaner, smoother taste than oven-roasted garlic. However, because the garlic essentially steams in the microwave, it won't take on golden-brown color. Microwave garlic is great for mixing into scrambled eggs or infusing roast chicken with intense flavor.

  1. Prep garlic head, then place in a microwave-safe bowl. Drizzle olive oil over top, rubbing it in well with your fingers. Add several tablespoons of water to the bowl, then cover with plastic wrap.
  2. Microwave at 50% power in 3-minute increments until cloves are soft and creamy.
  3. Let cool for about 10 minutes, then use as desired.

Check out our collection of Garlic Recipes.