So you’ve heard of a bulb of garlic, but what is a clove of garlic? They’re the individual teardrop-shaped pieces that make up a whole head. Here, you’ll learn all about where garlic comes from, conversions from fresh to powdered, and all of the things you can do in cooking with this versatile aromatic!
What is garlic?
Garlic is a plant in the Allium family, closely related to onions, leeks, and shallots. It is a bulbous plant that grows up to 24 inches in height and supplies small white or pink flowers.
Most commonly, the bulb of the plant—also known as the head—is used for cooking. It is made up of many individual segments called cloves that are covered in thin layers of papery skin.
Garlic Clove vs. Garlic Bulb
A garlic bulb is the same as saying a head of garlic. Once cracked open, it contains a number of cloves—anywhere from 8-20, depending on the size. The garlic bulb is shaped like a ridged onion, while a clove is more teardrop-shaped.
Why is garlic a popular ingredient?
Garlic is such a pantry staple because it is so versatile. Whether it’s minced, mashed, or whole, it adds a strong aroma and delicious taste to dishes, from sauces to garnishes. It also has incredible health benefits!
Garlic History 101
The earliest mentions of garlic occurred about 5,000 years ago in Egyptian, Asian, and Indian cultures, and its uses were more than just culinary. In Asia, they believed garlic helped people suffering with depression. In India, they incorporated it into a tonic called roborants that cured skin disease, hemorrhoids, and fatigue. Egyptians ate it to be more productive.
Health Benefits of Garlic Cloves
Garlic is rich in manganese, selenium, fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin B. Because of these nutrients, garlic has many health benefits, including:
- Boosting the immune system
- Reducing cholesterol levels
- Reducing high blood pressure
- Preventing cancer development
- Assisting in detoxification
Each of these properties can help the heart stay consistent and stable and clear out toxins that shouldn’t be in the body.
How long do fresh garlic cloves last?
A whole garlic bulb can last up to 6 months unpeeled. An unpeeled garlic clove can last up to 3 weeks, but that’s pushing it. Use it within a week for the best results.
How to Store Garlic
Generally, whole, unpeeled garlic bulbs are best stored in dry, dark places at room temperature with good air circulation.
However, there are many ways you can store garlic, from room temperature to your refrigerator and freezer. It all depends on what form you garlic is in! Learn more in How to Freeze Garlic and How to Store Garlic.
How much is a clove of garlic?
A clove of garlic is one of the individual lobes that makes up a garlic bulb. If a recipe calls for five cloves of garlic, you would use five of these individual pieces (and definitely not five whole heads!).
Within a head, cloves of garlic range in size, so you can choose to go smaller or larger depending on how strong you want the taste to be; the bigger the clove, the more garlic you’ll use, the stronger the flavor.
In terms of amount, a medium-sized clove generally yields about 1 teaspoon of minced garlic.
How much minced garlic is in a clove?
A medium clove is about 1 teaspoon of minced garlic. It’s helpful to know how to convert from cloves to teaspoons when minced, because some recipes refer to number of cloves, while others use measurements.
Whether you’re using fresh or pre-minced garlic you store in the fridge, here are some standards you can use:
- 1 small garlic clove = ½ teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 medium garlic clove = 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 large garlic clove = ½ tablespoon minced garlic
When equating cloves with teaspoons of pre-minced garlic, it’s best to start with a smaller amount, because the size of a single clove can vary.
If you’re not using pre-minced garlic, using a garlic press or a sharp knife with a cutting board are the best ways to get the exact right consistency. (Here’s more on how to mince garlic.)
How much garlic powder is in a clove?
Generally speaking, ¼-½ teaspoon of garlic powder equates to one medium garlic clove. Why use a smaller amount? Garlic powder is dehydrated garlic, which concentrates the flavor significantly.
Why use garlic powder over fresh, raw garlic?
Some people prefer garlic powder or garlic salt over fresh raw garlic because it’s less pungent and messy. With the powdered stuff, you don’t have to deal with stinky fingers and cutting boards! At the same time, you miss out on the depth and complexity of flavor that fresh garlic has. If you do use garlic powder, make sure to adjust the amount so that it roughly equates to the the raw version.
What are different ways to use garlic cloves?
Garlic can be used in a variety of ways in cooking, from an entire bulb to individual cloves. Some of these include:
- Minced: This is the most common way to cook with garlic. It takes just 30 seconds to bring out an aroma that will shine through as you layer more seasonings.
- Roasted: Roasted garlic has become more popular via social media platforms. All you do is cut your whole garlic bulb in half, cover in olive oil, wrap in tin foil, and bake in the oven. You’ll know when it’s ready when you can squeeze the garlic cloves easily out of the whole garlic bulb.
- Powder: Aside from minced, garlic powder is also common because you can pull it out of your spice drawer and immediately add it to your dish if you aren’t getting enough of that garlic flavor.
- Olive Oil-Infused: Believe it or not, but there are olive oils out there that are infused with garlic. They make an excellent two-in-one combination, especially for zesty salad dressings or drizzling on a bowl of pasta.
- Salt: Garlic salt is another common pantry staple. Salt is a handy vehicle for garlic because we use both in our cooking so much. A little goes a LONG way, so make sure to taste as you go!
- Paste: Like mashed garlic, you can purchase this in a jar, or you can make your own Homemade Garlic Paste!
Garlic Cloves Expert Tips & Tricks
- Resist the stick. Rinsing your knife under cold water BEFORE mincing garlic prevents the garlic from sticking to your knife.
- Ready, aim, fire. If you poke your knife into a clove that’s still attached to the bulb, you’ll be able to pull the clove our clean without having to peel it! (But use caution when doing this!)
- Easy peel. Shaking your garlic cloves in a metal bowl gets the papery outer layer right off. Soaking garlic cloves in water also helps release that outer layer.
Frequently Asked Questions about Cloves of Garlic
A large clove of garlic equals about one tablespoon.
Two large garlic cloves are about two tablespoons of garlic.
One medium clove of garlic is usually equal to roughly 1 teaspoon of garlic.
Minced garlic tastes stronger because it’s fresh. While garlic powder is technically more concentrated, it loses its potency over time.
It can be, but the flavor won’t be as strong as fresh minced garlic the longer it ages.
Garlic comes in so many forms, the recipe options are practically endless!