The Scientific Reason Why Minced Garlic Tastes Stronger

What's the difference between whole, crushed and minced garlic? We've got the scoop on why these cuts matter and how they can change your cooking.

Woman chopping garlic on wooden board for cookingShutterstock / Buppha Wut
Shutterstock / Buppha Wut

Have you ever wondered why one recipe calls for minced garlic over crushed or a paste over whole cloves? It’s all the same ingredient, after all, and taking the time to finely chop those cloves can be a tedious (and smelly) job. It turns out, though, that prepping your garlic as instructed really affects the flavor of the dish.

According to Food Science

Garlic contains a specific enzyme, alliinase, that’s activated when a clove’s inner flesh is exposed to air. This sulfuric compound is responsible for that signature garlic smell and much of its taste. The more you slice (or dice or mince) garlic, the more of this enzyme gets released, creating a stronger, more pungent flavor. The smell tends to stick to our breath and even our hands. Unless you know this hack for how to get the garlic smell off your hands.

This means dishes that rely on that bold garlic flavors, such as these honey-garlic glazed meatballs, often call for minced garlic. By comparison, whole cloves are great for imparting subtle and even sweet flavors, such as those found in our favorite roasted winter vegetables.

Customize to Your Liking

This bit of science can help you tailor your dishes to family taste preferences. If you’re looking for a more mellow flavor, consider replacing garlic paste or minced garlic with a few slightly crushed cloves. On the other hand, if you’re a real garlic lover, mince your garlic as finely as possible for maximum impact.

Ready to experiment? Work your way through our 22 favorite garlic recipes. And follow these tips for how to get that smell off your hands once the prep is complete.

Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is a former Taste of Home editor and passionate baker. During her tenure, she poured her love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa also dedicated her career here to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products for our Test Kitchen-Preferred program. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.