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Opinion | Can peeling garlic get easier?

Crowd-sourced ideas on the most effortless ways to peel garlic without giving up

(left) Chilli garlic sauce; and butter garlic ‘dal’. Photographs by Nandita Iyer
(left) Chilli garlic sauce; and butter garlic ‘dal’. Photographs by Nandita Iyer

Every year, there’s at least one garlic peeling hack video that turns into a viral sensation on social media. Last year, it was the “pierce and twist" method—a paring knife is pierced into each clove, twisted and the peeled clove comes off intact—which I promptly tried, using the paring knife I had at home. It was a complete disaster.

Recently, I spent an hour peeling a few heads of garlic. It was one of the most tedious cooking chores I have ever undertaken. I usually peel and chop the required garlic while cooking, bashing it with the side of the knife and picking out the peels. To peel a larger quantity of garlic and save it in the refrigerator, a less violent method is needed.

I put out a message in the cooking group of my residential complex (on WhatsApp), asking if there were any tricks I could use. Soon, I had a list of hacks and advice from my resourceful neighbours. I am listing some of them for you.

1. Soak garlic cloves in a bowl of hot water for an hour. The skins come off easily. Mop dry or leave in an airy place for up to two days and store in a sealed bag in the fridge. This should stay for a couple of weeks.

2. Applying oil and turmeric powder to the separated cloves of garlic and leaving it in the sun makes them very easy to peel.

3. Microwave the separated cloves of garlic for 8-10 seconds. The moisture in the garlic turns to steam. While the steam escapes, it loosens the peels, makes the cloves shrivel up a bit and the peels come off easily. This method also partially cooks the garlic.

4. Separate the cloves of garlic. Put them in a bowl. Cover with another bowl to make a kind of dome. Hold the bowls together and shake it really hard. The violent shaking makes some of the peels come off and the rest can be peeled easily. This method is too much of a workout, with not so exciting returns.

5. Use a garlic press. Put in two-three cloves of garlic at a time and press to get finely minced garlic minus the peel. This method does lead to a fair bit of wastage, as some of the garlic flesh remains stuck to the peels.

6. Use a silicone tube garlic peeler. I saw some YouTube videos on how this works, and this method is laughably slow and unpredictable. You can try it by rubbing the garlic clove between your palms. This method is even slower and makes your hands smell revolting.

Some ways to avoid peeling garlic were also discussed.

1. Don’t peel garlic. Just crush and stir-fry with the skin.

2. Use garlic powder.

3. Don’t use garlic in cooking. (!)

Once you have peeled a handful of garlic cloves, try out these two recipes packed with the flavour punch of garlic.


Makes 200g


30 dried Byadagi red chillies (30g)

25 large cloves garlic (50g)

3-4 tbsp sunflower oil

2 tbsp vinegar (white or malt)

1 tbsp dark soy sauce

1.5 tsp salt


Remove the stems of the chillies. Wash and soak in a bowl of hot water for 30 minutes, weighing it down with a heavy plate so the chillies remain immersed in water. Chop the garlic finely. You can use a food processor for this.

Remove the rehydrated chillies to a mixer jar and blend to a smooth puree. Reserve the soaking water.

Combine the oil and chopped garlic in a pan. Stir to combine and then keep it on low heat. Stir continuously for 5-6 minutes, taking care that the garlic does not burn, until it no longer smells raw.

To this, add the chilli puree and let it come to a simmer. Cook this mixture for 3-4 minutes. It will splutter, so keep partially covered with a lid.

At this point, add the vinegar, soy sauce and salt, along with half a cup of the reserved chilli-soaking water. Simmer this on a low flame for 8-10 minutes until the oil separates.

Once cooled, remove into a clean dry glass jar. It will stay in the refrigerator for 8-10 days.

Note: Use this to make chilli garlic noodles, rice, mushrooms or vegetables.


Serves 6


1 cup tur dal (dry)

2 tbsp chana dal (dry)

Half tsp turmeric powder

2 tbsp butter

2-3 tbsp garlic, finely chopped

1-2 tsp red chilli powder (Kashmiri if you want it mild)

1 small tomato, finely diced

1 tsp salt

For the garnish

1 tbsp butter

2 cloves garlic, sliced

Half tsp red chilli powder

1 tbsp coriander, finely chopped


Wash and soak the dals in a bowl of water for 1 hour. Drain and pressure-cook with a little over 2 cups of water and turmeric for 10 minutes (i.e. after full pressure or first whistle, reduce the flame to sim and cook for 10 minutes). Mash the cooked dal with a ladle and keep aside.

Heat the butter in a heavy bottomed pan on a low flame. Add finely chopped garlic and sauté on low flame for 3-4 minutes, until it no longer smells raw. Stir in red chilli powder (1-2 teaspoons) and fry for a few seconds. Tip in the cooked dal and chopped tomato. Season with salt. Allow this to come a boil. Reduce flame and simmer for 5 minutes.

Remove to a serving bowl.

For the garnish, in a small pan or tadka ladle, heat 1 tablespoon butter. Fry the sliced garlic in it and stir in the red chilli powder. Transfer this over the dal and garnish with chopped coriander.

Serve with rice or naan.

Note: You may cook the soaked dals in a pan on the stove-top. This will take 30-40 minutes.

I used salted Amul butter in this recipe.

Double Tested is a fortnightly column on vegetarian cooking, highlighting a single ingredient prepared two ways. Nandita Iyer is the author of The Everyday Healthy Vegetarian.


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