March 30, 2015

Chinese Pickled Garlic 醃蒜頭

Chinese, Pickled Garlic, pickles, 醃蒜頭, recipe, garlic, sweet

Ah, garlic!  That humble culinary bulb, the stinking rose!  People always say that garlic is one of those things where either you love it or you hate it.  For myself, I have found that my personal relationship with garlic fluctuates.  

Sometimes, in some forms, I love it!  And sometimes, in other forms, I can find myself avoiding it.  I can't imagine cooking without it and yet, when I was pregnant and for a long time after, I could not stand raw garlic.  And then I swing back, ruminating on the creamy flavor of garlic after a deep slow long roast...or the flavor layers one smashed bulb can add to a simple stir fry!  

One thing I have always found harder to like is raw uncooked garlic.  Recently we decided to try making Chinese Pickled Garlic, or 醃蒜頭, and I was really, really pleased to find that this sweet vinegary pickled garlic is not only immensely more yummilicious than raw garlic, but also packed with great health benefits and you also end up with the most amazingly garlicky flavored vinegar syrup in the world!

Chinese, Pickled Garlic, pickles, 醃蒜頭, recipe, garlic, sweet

The main reason that we decided to try making pickled garlic was because my little girl developed an abscess on her gums.  I researched information for healing tooth abscesses and garlic came up the most often as a natural remedy.  Garlic has amazing antibiotic properties.  For tooth abscesses the garlic is used raw and rubbed right on the abscess.  Which stings like crazy let me tell you!  

My brave little girl did the best she could with raw garlic in her mouth but the sting was too much for her.  So I thought to let her try eating pickled garlic instead.  No sting and way more delicious!  The best thing of all pickled garlic a day for a couple of months and her abscess is finally gone!  

The whole family is eating a pickled garlic a day.  It's great for so many things, it's like popping a super vitamin!

Chinese, Pickled Garlic, pickles, 醃蒜頭, recipe, garlic, sweet

It's really easy to make Chinese Pickled Garlic.  Get the freshest garlic bulbs you can find, let them soak in cool water, then salt it for a couple of days and then let your cloves swim in a vinegar sugar mix for a long sweet bath.  

Wait it out for at least a month and a half to let the garlic transform itself into a mild, slightly sweet, creamy yet crunchy pickle.  And best of all the stink is almost all gone!  I wouldn't eat it right before going out but one garlic pickle in the evening is perfect.   

Just brush your teeth and the smell of garlic is pretty much gone!  Not like raw garlic which smells up your breath all through the next day.

garlic,chinese,pickles,醃蒜頭,Pickled Garlic,recipe,sweet
Soaking the garlic
garlic,chinese,pickles,醃蒜頭,Pickled Garlic,recipe,sweet
Salting the garlic

Don't be alarmed if your lovely pickled garlic cloves turn a bit blue green.  This is perfectly natural and you can eat the beautiful blue green ones same as the white ones!  (They look like mermaid food!)  This coloration is the result of the garlic's reaction to different substances it is in touch with.  

If you want to discourage the color change use distilled water, non iodine salt and non reactionary bowls and utensils (glass, porcelain, wood) throughout the process.

Chinese, Pickled Garlic, pickles, 醃蒜頭, recipe, garlic, sweet

One unexpected delight from pickling these lovely garlics was that you end up with an amazing heavenly garlic infused vinegary syrup.  It's OH MY GOD so good (seriously, I mean this) that I've been sneaking yummilicious spoonful after spoonful and...woohoo!  It's just finger lickin good!  

I am so excited to have this delicious new condiment available in our kitchen!  It is just perfect for drizzling on Chinese cold dishes like Chinese Cucumber Salad 拍黃瓜 or Chinese Steamed Eggplant 蒜蓉蒸茄子.  

Delicious garlic pickles and heavenly garlic infused vinegar syrup...what more can one ask for?

Chinese, Pickled Garlic, pickles, 醃蒜頭, recipe, garlic, sweet
Chinese Pickled Garlic Recipe
(Prep time: 5 mins  Soak/Salt time: 4 days  Pickling time: 1 1/2 month )



Peel off outer layers of garlic skins until only the skin on the separate garlic cloves are left.  Rinse the cloves well under running water.  Soak in cool distilled water for a day, changing the water a few times.

Remove cloves from water, drip dry, spread out on non reactive dish, sprinkle with salt.  Let sit in a cool spot for 3 days, turning over a couple of times a day.

Drain well and place into a clean dry air-tight glass jar.  Mix the vinegar and sugar well in a bowl until sugar is melted.  Pour into the jar until the garlic cloves are covered.  Use a small porcelain dish to weigh the cloves down so that all the cloves are immersed in liquid.

Close the air tight lid and keep the jar in a dark corner for 1 month and a half.  Remove skins before eating.

Tip: Use clean dry chopsticks to pluck out the garlic cloves to prevent contamination of the jar.

Tip*:  For the most beneficial effects, use a vinegar that has the mother.   See our post on Homemade Rice Vinegar Health Drink  健康米醋飲品 to find out more!



  1. Hi! love your blog :) My parents are from HK but I can't read traditional chinese script, so i was so happy to find a recipe blog that featured recipes that i could see my mom making, but in English!

    Quick question about this post-- after salting the garlic for a few days, you say to "drain well". Do you mean to keep all the salt remaining on it, minus any liquid, or rinse off all the salt and drain after?

    thanks again for the amazing recipes!

    1. Hi Michelle - so glad that you like our blog! About your question, most of the salt will be in the juices at the bottom of the bowl, so just pick out the garlic and leave the juice. Don't rinse in water after salting. Let us know what you think of the garlic pickles! ~ellen

  2. Amazing and delicious , I had to make a batch , it's almost completely gone And I find I eat it in everything 😋 what good recipes can you share for winter melon?

  3. Hi Meiling - I know the feeling, it's just good to have a jar of these lovelies around. And the pickling liquid is so yummy as well! Regarding winter melon...humm...the winter melon soup showcased in the winter melon itself which is something we plan to do, and there is candied winter melon which I've never tried making but love eating. Maybe pickled winter melon? I've been pickling lots of stuff, so maybe can try that. Let me know any ideas you have! ~ellen