This traditional Lebanese garlic sauce (or "toum") is packed full of garlicky flavor and spreads as easily as softened butter. Commonly served with shish tawook or even just as a dip for pita bread, if you love garlic this is for you!
Today, I continue my love letter to Middle Eastern food! I teased this recipe when I posted the Perfect Pillowy Pita Bread recipe a few weeks ago, and I am HERE TO DELIVER!
This Lebanese garlic sauce, sometimes called "toum," was another delicious item that I discovered for the first time the summer I worked at a Middle Eastern restaurant. To be completely honest, I didn't know a whole lot about Middle Eastern food when I applied there. I remember the manager asking me which foods I liked to eat from the restaurant during my interview and all I could come up with was the crushed lentil soup...which in his eyes was probably only a slight step up from the kids chicken fingers.
But omg I am so happy that I got that job. Working there opened up my eyes to so many amazing foods, like hummus, fattoosh, falafel, grapeleaves, shawarma, ghallaba, garlic sauce, baklava...I could go on and on.
I got hooked on this garlic sauce right from the beginning (it certainly assisted in my habit of eating 12+ pieces of pita bread per shift), and I was flabbergasted when the manager told me it was made of just garlic, lemon juice, salt and oil. Say, what now? I thought for sure there was mayo or yogurt or something like that in there...it just didn't make sense! But it's TRUE!
The key to making this magical sauce is to add the oil and lemon juice very slowly to create an emulsion. The oil needs time to get broken up by the food processor blades and mingle with the other ingredients - if you add oil too quickly, the oil droplets will all just join back together and your sauce will be oily & chunky instead of creamy & homogenous.
I used to hoard my little to-go containers of garlic sauce whenever I got takeout, so I was SO HAPPY when I figured out I could make it at home! I love eating this just as a dip with pita bread (like with Perfect Pillowy Pita Bread...duh!). It's also great spread on sandwiches (I use rotisserie chicken to make my own little homemade chicken pita!), on meat (kebobs, grilled chicken or steak, etc.) but I also love to use it for roasting vegetables. I've even put it in salad dressings like the Garlicky Red Wine Vinaigrette! You can use it in tons of recipes that call for minced garlic, it's great because it adds the flavor of garlic but without the chunks of garlic cloves.
One warning: I wouldn't recommend eating this before a date, because it is STRONG. Like - you'll be breathing garlic fire for a little while afterward.
Or maybe you and your date can both eat it and then it won't matter because you'll both be garlicky, win-win!
Trust me, you need this garlic in your life. Yummy noises await you!
This traditional Lebanese garlic sauce (or "toum") is packed full of garlicky flavor and spreads as easy as softened butter. Commonly served with shish tawook or even just as a dip for pita bread, if you love garlic this is for you!
- 1 cup fresh garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 3 cups canola or vegetable oil
- juice of 1 lemon (about 2-3 Tbsp)
Add the garlic cloves and salt to the bowl of a large food processor. Process for about 10 seconds. Stop, scrape down the sides and run for another 10 seconds or so until all the garlic cloves are nicely minced.
Turn the food processor back on. Through feed tube, start adding 1/2 cup of oil VERY slowly in a thin stream.
It's crucial to add everything very slowly so that the ingredients emulsify into the right texture. If you go too fast, the mixture can break and the oil & garlic wont properly combine.
After adding the first half cup of oil, slowly add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice. If you feel you need to, you can stop the food processor and scrape down the sides to make sure everything is getting combined. Repeat, alternating remaining oil in 1/2 cup increments and lemon juice in 2 teaspoon increments until all ingredients have been incorporated.
The end product should be thick and creamy looking like mayonnaise or softened butter. Transfer mixture to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. Eat with pita bread, spread on sandwiches, on meat, use for roasting vegetables, the possibilities are endless!
The garlic flavor in this is very strong, and it's supposed to be! Some recipes call for up to 4 or 5 cups of oil to the same amount of other ingredients, but I find that makes it greasy and not as garlicky. If you want to cut the garlic flavor a little, in a separate bowl mix some of the garlic sauce with a little bit of mayo, greek yogurt or sour cream.
Use a flavorless oil for this recipe. I would not recommend extra virgin olive oil because the taste is too strong, and if olive oil is in the food processor for an extended period of time it gets bitter.
Adapted from Mama's Lebanese Kitchen