How To Make Lebanese Garlic Sauce (Toum)

5 from 176 votes
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This Lebanese garlic sauce (Toum) is thick, creamy, absolutely packed with garlic flavor, and ready to eat with everything! Plus, this toum recipe is naturally gluten-free and vegan, and similar to garlic aioli!

A small bowl with garlic sauce on a wooden surface

This Lebanese garlic sauce has been long requested on Instagram, so I thought I’d finally share one of my favorite sauces from my childhood – toum sauce.

I’ve been slowly introducing you to some of my favorite Lebanese recipes over the last couple of years. I’ve shared Traditional Tabbouleh Salad (Tabouli Salad), Simple Stuffed Makdous Recipe (cured eggplant), and Creamy Lebanese Cucumber Yogurt Salad (Kh’yar bi laban) already. Now it’s the turn of this Lebanese garlic sauce (aka Toum sauce).

A jar filled with with garlic sauce

Toum is like the ultimate condiment for anyone who loves garlic and creamy sauces similar to mayonnaise. All you need are just 4 ingredients, a  food processor, and a bit of patience. 

What Is Garlic Aioli vs. Toum Sauce?

Garlic aioli and Toum are both types of creamy garlic sauce – so what exactly are the similarities and differences?

Both aioli sauce and Toum sauce were named after their star ingredient. Aioli means ‘garlic’ and ‘oil’ in Catalan/Valencian and Provençal and is popular within Mediterranean and European cuisine (mainly Spain, France, and Italy). In comparison, Toum (also called toumya/salsat toum) is from the Arabic word for garlic ‘thoum’ and is known as a Lebanese garlic sauce.

Top view of an open jar filled with garlic sauce

Both are made with a base of garlic, salt, and oil (often olive oil though vegetable oil is also used), though aioli sauce can sometimes contain egg too as a stabilizer. In contrast, toum relies solely on the garlic as the stabilizer.

Traditionally, the toum recipe was made by crushing the ingredients with a mortar and pestle. However, this recipe (and many modern recipes) use an emulsification process (like mayonnaise) by a food processor.

In fact, the significant difference between the two now is how much garlic is used (with Toum sauce being like an intense vegan garlic aioli if you want to compare). Toum is definitely more heavy on the garlic – which also means it can be tricky to emulsify – but follow my tips, and hopefully, you won’t fail!

Fun Fact: In many restaurants now, you’ll see people adding even more ingredients to their toum to stabilize it easier: potatoes, corn starch, mayonnaise, etc. While this may work – it’s definitely not traditional!

The Ingredients

Ingredients for garlic sauce
  • Garlic: avoid pre-peeled cloves and old garlic heads that are sprouting (which will be bitter). You want firm heads with no signs of spoilage, bruising, or sprouting – younger garlic will taste better overall! Elephant garlic is more mellow than other types. 
  • Oil: olive oil is the traditional choice for this recipe (if you want the authentic flavor). However, it can also be a bit too strong in flavor and create a denser dip. I prefer to use a neutral-tasting vegetable oil like canola or sunflower oil. Avocado oil could work but may affect the color and turn it green, it’s also not super neutral.
  • Lemon: use fresh lemons, not concentrated lemon juice. Not only does it taste better, but the bottled versions may ruin the emulsification process since it acts as a binder in the recipe.
  • Salt
  • (Optional) Mint leaves: fresh mint is a popular addition to toum sauce. Chop it finely and add it at the end of the blending process once the mix has already emulsified. 

How To Make Toum

Before we jump right into it, let’s get one thing sorted; this isn’t a recipe I’d describe as ‘easy.’ The truth is, any time there is emulsification involved, there is a chance of something going wrong, and this Toum is trickier than mayonnaise to emulsify.

However, hopefully, following my tips and tricks, we can get you making this delicious Lebanese garlic dip right the first time round!

Step 1: Make a garlic paste

First, peel the garlic and, optionally, remove the ‘germ’ (green sprout) from each clove’s center (which is bitter).

I’ve used several garlic peeling hacks, but at the moment, I’m enjoying just smashing down on the clove with the flat side of a knife and my fist – it’s easy and doesn’t take much effort.

Peeled garlic on a wooden chopping board

Add the garlic and salt to the food processor (or a bowl if you’re using an immersion blender). Process well until you obtain a smooth garlic puree/paste, stopping to scrape down the sides of the jug if necessary.

Garlic and salt in a food processor

Step 2: Start to add the oil and lemon juice

Once you have a puree, it’s time to start adding the oil. If you have a steady hand, you can drizzle it in from the bottle – otherwise, use a tablespoon measuring spoon.

Slowly adding one spoonful at a time, allowing the machine to run throughout this time. Leave plenty of time between each spoonful for it to fully incorporate.

After you’ve added the first few tablespoons of oil, then start to alternate, adding a little oil and then a little lemon juice (around 1 tsp at a time) – while the machine runs. 

If your food processor starts to get warm, then give it a rest and pause the process. The heat can otherwise cause the toum emulsification to break. 

Continue to alternate between adding oil and lemon juice slowly (this took me between 7-9 minutes) until the mixture emulsifies and thickens and you have a thick, creamy garlic sauce.

Garlic sauce toum in a food processor

I suggest allowing it to marinate for at least 2-3 hours in the fridge before using it.

How To Store

Store the Lebanese garlic sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 months.

Many people only keep it for up to one month, but I’ve found that it’s OK for up to 3 months – so if you want to err on the side of caution, aim to use it within a month. 

Food processor with garlic sauce and an empty jar

You can also freeze leftovers for up to 6 months, though the texture can be affected upon thawing, so I usually use this within sauces and cooked dishes straight from frozen (in place of fresh garlic). 

How To Use

If you love garlic as much as I do, you can use this Lebanese garlic sauce in pretty much anything. However, here are a few of my top favorite ways to use this Toum. 

Garlic sauce on a spatula

FAQs

How To Fix Toum When It Breaks?

Sometimes, no matter how much you think you’re doing everything right, the emulsification doesn’t seem to want to happen. But don’t worry, there are still ways you can ‘save’ this garlic soup mixture. 

The best way to fix this is to add another type of ‘binder’ to encourage the emulsification.

  1. Add potatoes: I’ve heard that adding 1/4-1/2 cup of mashed floury white potatoes to the food processor (slowly) will encourage emulsification. This isn’t something I’ve tried. However, if it works, then the shelf life will be reduced to 7-9 days. 
  2. Add an egg yolk: I try to keep eggs away from this naturally vegan recipe. However, many sources online describe how an egg yolk can fix broken emulsions. To do this, whisk the egg yolk in a large bowl and add a tiny amount of the broken toum until emulsification forms. From then, continue to add the broken mixture bit by bit, whisking constantly. 

Alternatively, you can add the ‘garlic soup’ to some butter or yogurt for an alternative butter/dip to be used immediately, and try another batch of toum at another time.

A small bowl with garlic sauce and some garlic around it

Can I Make The Toum Less Bitter?

There are several methods I’ve used previously for mellowing out the harsh flavor of raw garlic. Here are a couple of tips for this Lebanese garlic sauce:

1: Soak the garlic cloves in ice water for at least 30 minutes before preparing the toum. Usually, I’d do this with lemon juice, though I’m not sure if it would have an effect on the emulsion, and you’d need A LOT. Either way, make sure to carefully dry the garlic before you mix the paste.
2. Leave the toum to mellow: I know this may not be what you want to hear, but the garlic will actually begin to mellow after a few days in the fridge. So, if you can be patient, then try it again a few days later (and learn to make it in advance!)
3. It’s worth noting that elephant garlic is more mellow than other types.
4. Make sure to remove the garlic ‘germ’, which is the oldest part of the garlic and very bitter. 

Other Recipe Notes & Top Tips!

  • DON’T RUSH THE PROCESS – that’s the biggest tip I can give you. The key is adding the oil and lemon juice in a slow and steady manner – otherwise, the emulsification will fail/ break. 
  • This toum sauce is strong! It uses A LOT of raw garlic, so it can be ‘spicy’ and intense. When it’s freshly made, it’s best to use it in small amounts as part of a meal (i.e., in wraps). Then once it mellows in the fridge, you’re usually able to enjoy larger quantities of it.
  • Make sure to give your food processor a break if it starts to get warm – the heat can cause the sauce to separate.

Other Lebanese Recipes

If you try this Lebanese garlic sauce recipe, then let me know your thoughts and questions in the comments. I’d also really appreciate a recipe rating and would love to see your recreations – just tag @AlphaFoodie.

Lebanese Garlic Sauce (Toum Sauce)

5 from 176 votes
By: Samira
This Lebanese garlic sauce (Toum) is thick, creamy, absolutely packed with garlic flavor, and ready to eat with everything! Plus, this toum recipe is naturally gluten-free and vegan, and similar to garlic aioli!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 48 Tablespoons

Ingredients 
 

  • 1 cup garlic cloves peeled (about 3-4 heads young garlic)
  • 2 cups vegetable oil any neutral oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice fresh (NOT from a bottle)
  • 1 tsp salt

These yield about 3 cups of garlic sauce

    Instructions 

    Step 1: Make a garlic paste

    • Peel the garlic and, optionally, remove the 'germ' (green sprout) from each clove's center (which is bitter).
      I've used several garlic peeling hacks, but at the moment, I'm enjoying just smashing down on the clove with the flat side of a knife and my fist – it's easy and doesn't take much effort.
    • Add the garlic and salt to the food processor (or a bowl if you're using an immersion blender). Process well until you obtain a smooth garlic puree/paste, stopping to scrape down the sides of the jug if necessary.

    Step 2: Start to add the oil and lemon juice

    • Once you have a puree, it's time to start adding the oil. If you have a steady hand, you can drizzle it in from the measuring jug – otherwise, use a tablespoon measuring spoon.
      Slowly adding one spoonful at a time, allowing the machine to run throughout this time. Leave plenty of time between each spoonful for it to fully incorporate.
    • After you've added the first few tablespoons of oil, then start to alternate, adding a little oil and then a little lemon juice (around 1 tsp at a time) – while the machine runs.
      If your food processor starts to get warm, then give it a rest and pause the process. The heat can otherwise cause the toum emulsification to break.
      Continue to alternate between adding oil and lemon juice slowly (this took me between 7-9 minutes) until the mixture emulsifies and thickens and you have a thick, creamy garlic sauce.
    • I suggest allowing it to marinate and 'set' for at least 2-3 hours in the fridge before using it.

    Alternative: The Traditional Method

    • When making it with a mortar and pestle, you have to crush the garlic down into a paste, add 1 tsp oil, and mix it until the garlic absorbs it completely. Continue to add oil one tablespoon at a time, mixing until it's absorbed entirely. After you've done this with several spoonfuls of oil, add a few drops of lemon juice in-between spoonfuls of oil.
      Continue to do this until you have a creamy, thick paste.

    Video

    Notes

    Ingredient Notes:
    • Garlic: avoid pre-peeled cloves and old garlic heads that are sprouting (which will be bitter!). You want firm heads with no signs of spoilage, bruising, or sprouting- younger garlic will taste better overall! Elephant garlic is more mellow than other types. 
    • Oil: olive oil is the traditional choice for this recipe (if you want the authentic flavor). However, it can also be a bit too strong in flavor and create a denser dip. I prefer to use a neutral-tasting vegetable oil like canola or sunflower oil. Avocado oil could work but may affect the color and turn it green, it’s also not super neutral.
    • Lemon: use FRESH lemons, not concentrated lemon juice. Not only does it taste better, but the bottled versions may ruin the emulsification process since it acts as a binder in the recipe.
    • (Optional) Mint leaves: fresh mint is a popular addition to toum sauce. Chop it finely and add it at the end of the blending process once the mix has already emulsified. 

    Other Notes:
    • DON’T RUSH THE PROCESS – that’s the biggest tip I can give you. The key is adding the oil and lemon juice in slow and steady – otherwise, the emulsification will fail/ break. 
    • This toum sauce is strong! It uses A LOT of raw garlic, so it can be ‘spicy’ and intense. When it’s freshly made, it’s best to use it in small amounts as part of a meal (i.e., in wraps). Then once it mellows in the fridge, you’re usually able to enjoy larger quantities of it.
    • Make sure to give your food processor a break if it starts to get warm- the heat can cause the sauce to separate.
    PLEASE read the post above for more tips and FAQs (how to make the sauce more mellow and fix a broken emulsion)!
    Course: Condiment
    Cuisine: Lebanese, Middle Eastern
    Freezer friendly: 6 Months
    Shelf life: 3 Months

    Nutrition

    Serving: 1Tbsp, Calories: 83kcal, Carbohydrates: 1g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 9g, Saturated Fat: 7g, Sodium: 49mg, Potassium: 13mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 1IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 5mg, Iron: 1mg

    Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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    Recipe Rating




    218 Comments

    1. I have not made this yet! But i am going to do this my friend next door is Lebanese, and ive made falafel , he said i did a great job for the first time. I madebthem again last night. Fantastic, He never told me about this recipe . But im going to make it. Wish me luck, thank you for sharing. Susan

    2. Do you think ghee would work in liquid form? as the full oil replacement or a portion? Just wondering as I’d like to try it.

      1. Hi Lee,
        I’ve never tried it with ghee and am actually not sure if it will work. I’d recommend sticking to the oils I mentioned in the recipe for the best results. Have you tried it yet? Let me know if you tried making it with ghee and how it came out 🙂

      2. This recipe was great! I have tried to make toum 3 times and it never worked. Your recipe finally did the trick! I recommend buying 4-5 heads of garlic because by the time I discarded bruised ones, I had enough from about 3.5 bulbs. The size of your food processor compared to the amount of garlic makes a big difference too. There needs to be enough garlic to move within the food processor.

        1. Thank you so much for your comment, Jean! And thanks for the tips!

    3. 5 stars
      Soon guut! Made this yesterday and did a small taste test. My eyelashes fell out.

      Tasted again this morning. Mmmmm! Perfect. Better than any store bought.

      Kind regards,
      Nick

    4. Stunning recipe! I made this in my thermomix today and was amazing! Had to remove the lid and scrape down a bit but worth it. Suggest keeping the speed around 3 to start and gradually work up to 5. Will need to be scraped down regularly but worth it. Delicious!!!!

    5. 5 stars
      It came out beautifully! I used grape seed oil due to dietary restrictions… I’ll know in 2 hours if it tastes ok:)

        1. I also used (grapeseed oil – 3/4c with 1/4c light olive oil). It gives it the faintest green tint but is very neutral flavored so all I get is the garlic – delicious!

          Also thank you – this is the first time I’ve made the vegan tour without it splitting, your tips were amazing!

        2. I used to work at a Lebanese restaurant a few years back and they had me in the kitchen helping prep in the morning. I made this every day and their tip for helping it thicken and not break was to refrigerate the oil used before hand. I still do this at home today when I get a craving for this delicious sauce!! Hope this helps someone having that problem.

      1. Hi Arthur,
        You can spread it on a falafel or chawarma wrap, or just on toast. You can use it as a dip for fries or veggies.
        You can mix it into soups or stews. Anything you’d enjoy eating with garlic. There are more serving suggestions in this blog post 🙂

    6. I really want to make this with olive oil but worry that it will get too solid in the refrig. Will this be a problem?

      1. Hi Linda,
        You don’t have to keep it in the fridge if you cover the labneh with olive oil. If you do, it will become a bit thicker but you shouldn’t let that turn you off.

      1. Loooove this recipe!! It worked wonderfully with an emersion blender and avocado oil!! I’m wondering if I can freeze it..

        1. Hi Zeina,
          Glad you like this recipe 🙂
          Yes, you can freeze it for up to 6 months.