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!
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.
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.
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)!